Everyone has an “issue" during pregnancy - that one symptom or side effect that nags at you for ten months. The most common complaints include nausea, unending fatigue, uncomfortable heartburn, or a soul-crushing sluggish colon. As you may have guessed, I experienced the latter….
During pregnancy, digestion slows down, way down. Not only are your intestines being physically displaced, but the increased hormone progesterone acts as a smooth muscle relaxant making regular contracting motions slower and less effective. Thus making it harder to move stool through the colon. Your body does this in order to properly nourish the baby and avoid bypassing his/her needs - pretty cool… for the baby.
My hope is that the tricks I’ve learned will you help you avoid this particular “issue”. If you are already prone to constipation, it is a good idea to brace yourself.
How To Manage Constipation During Pregnancy (or anytime!):
1) Hydration is key. If you are pregnant and constipated, water is your best friend. Water (some believe warm water, specifically) can help kick start a sluggish bowel. If you choose to add fiber to your diet, water becomes even more necessary since you need to increase fluid intake even more with fiber.
2) Two magical words: Stool Softeners. Stool softeners are NOT the same thing as laxatives. They shouldn’t entice your bowels to contract or give you that crampy feeling you get from laxatives. They simply pull water into your colon to help make the stool softer and more efficient as it moves comfortably through your digestive system . I prefer taking the supplement in capsule or tablet form with 1-2 full glasses of water. I recommend 200-300mg per day of the active ingredient - ducosate sodium, look for it on the back label.. Although it is suggested you take it at bedtime, I personally take it around 6 pm. It takes about twelve hours to kick in and you need to drink a lot of water after. Play with timing and you’ll find what works best for you.
3) Eat prunes and other sources of insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber particularly helps with constipation. Try to include at least 2-3 sources a day. Some of my favorite sources: blackberries, beans, bran, bulgur, coconut, cashews, fruit with the skin (apples, pears), figs, lentils, prunes, quinoa, spinach, raisins, and raspberries.
4) Say yes to healthy bacteria! Taking a daily supplement and/or food source containing healthy bacteria will help your digestion and your immune system immensely. As for food sources, include fermented and cultured foods. If you choose to add a supplement, Nutrition Now PB8 (pictured), Jarrow Dophilus EPS, Nature’s Bounty Ultra Probiotic 10, or Ultimate Flora Adult are my go-to recommendations.
5) Don’t just sit there - squat! It’s been proven that squatting on the toilet streamlines defecation (makes it easier for stool to move through your digestive system) and reduces hemorrhoid risk. Check the research for yourself, or better yet, give it a try!
6) Drink hot teas. Gentle teas like peppermint and ginger can be enjoyed on a daily basis, but sometimes laxative teas come in handy. Get Regular by Yogi or Smooth Move by Traditional Medicinals use herbal laxatives that aid in contracting your bowels. Do not use for more than 2-3 days at time.
7) Sometimes you just need a salad. Make sure to buy a variety of dark leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables, and chew well to avoid bloat.
8) Iron Be Gone! Most ,if not all, prenatal vitamins have iron. Unfortunately, iron is constipating, especially in the amount provided during pregnancy, which can be up to three times more than the recommended intake! If you are suffering from constipation, make sure to choose Gentle Iron (usually the active ingredient is Iron Glycinate).
9) Magnesium. This mineral aids in drawing extra water into your bowels stimulating peristalsis (bowel contractions). I didn’t find it very helpful, but some people swear by it. I would suggest starting with 250-300mg.
10) Last resort: avoid grains. Even though some grains have a ton of fiber, they can also be very binding. Avoid grains, breads, and cereals for a bit and only include legumes (beans and lentils) for a few days. Most importantly, listen to your body and how you feel.
It’s the beginning of the New Year and people are talking resolutions. I personally don’t love the word resolution, which is literally defined as a firm decision to do or not to do something, because it implies the constant use of willpower and even though it addresses WHAT you want to change, it never addresses HOW you are going to change. In my book, that is a recipe for failure, and no one wants to start off the year like that! So instead, I want to talk about habits. A habit is an acquired, almost involuntary, behavior pattern. Once you instill some healthy habits into your daily routine, you can reach your goals A LOT easier.
The habits mentioned below help me tremendously. Depending on your goals, your list may look a little different and that’s great! Just remember that in order to build a new habit or break an unhealthy habit, it takes time, about two months more or less, so be patient. The first step is to build awareness of those habits so you know what you need to change. Then you can plan appropriately to make that habit stick.
1. Analyze your plate. I found that by analyzing my plate, I would ensure I had all the essential nutrients I needed and avoided those excess calories. Here’s a quick how-to:
- You want to make sure your plate has A) enough non-starchy veggies (about half the plate or bowl); B) A good source of protein - veggie or animal-based; C) A fistful or less of a whole grain carb; and D) A thumbs worth of a healthy fat. If you constantly analyze what you are eating, you’ll see what you are lacking or overindulging in and be able to positively revamp your plate.
2. Don’t forget, that we eat with our eyes too. One of the most common resolutions is to lose weight. With that goal comes the inevitable portion shrinkage, which can be extremely depressing. Use nutrient dense, low-calorie foods to your advantage to make your plate LOOK like it has more than it really does. Add bulk to your plate by including non-starchy veggies to your salad, think layers of zucchini and squash instead of pasta, more veggies and beans instead of potatoes or grains, and drinking naturally low-calorie drinks. Satiate your eyes as well as your stomach.
3. Fix it at the next meal. Accidents happen, and so do cupcakes, happy hour cocktails and skipping the gym. The goal is not to expect perfection, but to avoid berating yourself when slip-ups happen. Feelings of guilt can quickly spiral into a complete shutdown of your healthy lifestyle changes. My advice is to savor the treat and then hit the reset button. Don’t let one slice of pizza lead to the whole pie. By forgiving yourself for your occasional indiscretions and moving on with your healthy living plan, you can vastly increase your chances for permanent success. You can always fix it at the next meal!
4. Read labels. The food industry isn’t as forthcoming as it should be, but they have provided us with the nutrition facts label. Use it! If you learn that your favorite box of cookies has 10 servings in the box and each serving is 340 calories, you may be inclined to have only one portion at time (not three!) or switch indulgences all together. I cannot stress how important it is to read ingredients. If sugar is mentioned in five different ways, it is a clear indicator that the food you are eating is low quality. When it comes to reading food labels, knowledge is definitely power.
5. Be consistent. Like my colleague and friend, Matt Sauerhoff from the LIV Method, stated in his last newsletter, “Consistency is the secret to success. In order to be successful you must realize that it is the small steps taken everyday that add up over a lifetime!” Small changes to your diet and exercise routine have a large impact on your health. Nixing that daily bagel for two pieces of whole wheat bread not only saves you an average of 160 calories a day, but it also eliminates that sugar crash that comes after having too many carbs at once. Walking those extra 15 minutes to the next subway stop burns a few more calories, but it also improves your circulation, energy, and blood sugars for the rest of the day. If you STAY CONSISTENT and build these small changes over time, you will create new long-lasting, healthy habits for life!
6. Hydrate and Sleep. Making dietary changes is hard enough, but when you don’t properly hydrate or get enough sleep it becomes even harder. We are made up mostly of water, we need water for all functions in our body, water improves our skin, bowels, headspace, cravings, appetite, and cleansing power. We also need about 7-9 hours of sleep nightly (or at least quality rest) to help our body rest, our hormones to balance, and, most recent research states, for our weight to stabilize. Two words: hydrate + sleep.
7. Be a little kinder than is necessary. I recently read the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and among the many valuable lessons in the book, this simple one was the most impactful. Be kinder to others but also to yourself. The results you want will come in time, but enjoying the process will only make it that much sweeter.
Happy, healthy 2015!!!
Written by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RDN, CDN. Edited by Tamara Cabrero.
It was estimated in 2012 that the running shoe market is a $3 billion industry. There is no doubt about it; running is popular! Having run a marathon and two half-marathons in the past decade, I am well aware of all the fun gadgets one can accumulate—the latest shoes, heart rate monitor, GPS, Dri-Fit ensemble, iPhone armband, water belt, you name it! But sometimes people forget to ask about the most important equipment of all…food!
In anticipation of NYRR NYC Half-Marathon taking place on March 16th, here is some key nutrition advice to help you enhance your training; it sure helped me along the way.
THE CARBOHYDRATE LOWDOWN
Carbohydrates are incredibly important to runners because they act as our primary fuel source. We store carbs in our muscles and liver by way of glycogen in order to maximize energy while on long-distance runs, like half or full marathons. Distance training enables us to increase our glycogen storage capacity up to 1,500-2,000 calories, on average. Assuming that we burn 100 calories per mile, we can run on stored energy for 15 to 20 miles. That means, for half-marathons, as long as we properly “carbo-load” throughout our training, and especially a few days prior to the race, we will avoid hitting the dreaded “wall.” But just to be on the safe side, I always carry a snack. Easy grab-and-go snacks are granola bars (KIND, Cliff, Luna, Mojo, Larabar), dried fruit, or trail mix.
How many carbs are enough?
To ensure proper carbohydrate intake while training, you want to source about 45-55% of your total daily calories from carbohydrates. Therefore, an average intake of 2,000 calories per day would equate to 900-1,100 calories from carbs. Another general rule of thumb, for a moderate to high activity level, is to consume 3 to 5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight. This is especially important if you are competing at moderate intensity or greater for 90-minutes or more. Translation: jogging on the treadmill for 5 miles does not mean you get to eat a whole plate of pasta after!
Which carbs should you eat?
Starches such as bagels and pasta are staple runner’s foods, but all wholegrain/ unprocessed complex carbohydrates are ideal for training. Integrating these foods into your diet will promote stable energy levels and prevent sugar lows. Tip: I would not recommend experimenting with new foods a week before the race. Stick with what you know works for you.
- Fruits & Vegetables. Eat the skins for added antioxidants and fiber. Sweet potatoes are a great runner’s snack!
- Beans & Lentils. Dry or canned.
- Dairy products. Milk, chocolate milk, cottage cheese, yogurt and Greek yogurt.
- Whole grains. Brown rice, quinoa, millet and buckwheat, to mention a few.
- Whole grain pasta. Try Barilla Plus with added omega-3 and protein!
- Whole grain breads.
- High protein cereals. Try Nature’s Path Optimum Rebound, Back to Nature Flax & Fiber Crunch, or Kashi Go Lean.
DON’T NEGLECT YOUR PROTEIN INTAKE
While training, your body will also need adequate protein for repairing and rebuilding muscle tissue, especially after workouts lasting longer than 1 hour. Dairy and legumes are great sources of protein, but be sure to include others such as lean meats (chicken, fish, low sodium turkey-jerky), eggs, cheese and seeds with each meal to compliment your carbohydrate choices.
REFUEL & REPLENISH: POST-RUN SNACKS
Recent research suggests that a post-run snack or meal should be consumed within 30-45 minutes of working out to avoid muscle fatigue, as well as injuries like tendonitis. A strong combination of protein and carbohydrates are recommended to help your muscles recover faster.
Smart and delicious post-race snacks include:
- 6 ounces of Greek yogurt with 1 cup of fruit
- 1 cup of protein-rich cereal with 1 cup of milk
- 1 cup of chocolate milk
- 1 piece of toast with 1 teaspoon of almond butter & half a mashed banana
- 1 small sweet potato with ½ cup of cottage cheese
- A serving of whole wheat crackers with 2 ounces of tuna
- Smoothie: 1 cup of milk with ½ cup of fruit + 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds
- ½ cup of cooked quinoa with ¼ cup of crushed pistachios and dried fruit
HYDRATION, HYDRATION, HYDRATION
Runners should always carry a water bottle, period. Calculating fluids lost while exercising can be tricky, but a quick tip is to monitor the color of your urine; you want to maintain a pale yellow color. Another tip, especially before your long runs, is to weigh yourself immediately before and after exercising. One pound lost is essentially 16 ounces (2 cups) of water. When you need to replenish significantly, make sure to drink from electrolyte-rich drinks such as coconut water.
Are you training for a race? I want to hear about it!
Written by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD, CDN
Picture by Rob Zand.
Clark, N. Active. Carbo-loading: Tips for endurance athletes.
What are my carb needs half training. Runners World.
Edited by Tamara Cabrero & NYHRC Team
I love New York, but it can be hard to appreciate the amazing allure of the city at this time of year when it’s cold, dreary, and just plain slushy. The subway echoes with the sounds of sniffling, coughing and sneezing, and the common cold seems to lurk around every corner. A cold, like the flu, is viral and therefore resistant to antibiotics. But unlike the flu, which is a much more serious concern, the common cold is usually pretty mild, lasting between 7 to 10 days. That said, it shouldn’t be trivialized because it is the leading cause of doctor’s visits, sick days, and can put a real damper on your quality of life.
Since we are still at the peak of the cold and flu season (I know, I know, will it never end?), it’s a perfect time to talk about ways to prevent the common cold from occurring in the first place.
#1. Get your zzzzz time. Back in April, the Bushwick Nutrition blog looked into sleep for weight control. Not surprisingly, sleep has even more benefits as people who do not get enough sleep (less than 7 hours), are 3 to 5 times more likely to develop a cold. This makes total sense since sleep is an important predictor of immunity. So make sure to put sleep as your number one priority during these cold months!
#2. Eat more fresh garlic. Garlic is a popular folk remedy but recent studies have shown that eating garlic can boost the number of T-cells in the bloodstream, which play a vital role in strengthening the immune system and fighting viruses like the common cold. Tip: Garlic must be fresh. as the active ingredient is destroyed within an hour or so after smashing. Compress, smash, or juice/blend the garlic to maximize benefits. Try Raquel’s, owner of Pitanga Juice, remedy of fresh garlic, raw honey, cayenne pepper, and lemon (see pic). Talk about a serious immune boost! Tip: For easier digestion, mix the above with a little aloe vera juice.
#3. Hydrate! Not only do liquids prevent dehydration, but hot liquids relieve nasal congestion, soothe inflammation in the nose and throat area, and keep the gut moving. You want to aid your immune system by helping it work better especially during these dry months, and water forms a part of every cell in the body! Try elderberry or herbal teas with honey and lime.
#4. Get your green on. Juicing or blending can be a great way to incorporate amazing greens like kale, bok choy, and arugula (to name a few) into your diet. They are naturally high in vitamins A and C that help keep your immune system strong, while also aiding with inflammation. Note: Taking large doses of vitamin C has NOT proven to help combat a cold. That said, it is beneficial to meet your daily needs – about 75 to 90mg a day (a little different than the 1000mg megadoses!).
#5. Keep your gut healthy with pro/prebiotic rich food sources. The gut plays a huge role in keeping your immune system strong. After all, 70% of immune cells are found in the gut! Therefore, eating foods like Greek yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, and sourdough bread, which all have “good bacteria”, as well as prebiotic food sources that feed the healthy bacteria, like whole grains, bananas, artichokes, onions and leeks, will only make you stronger.
#6. Mushrooms are the immune system cheerleaders. Mushrooms are antiviral and antibacterial. They also encourage your immune cells to multiply. Reishi mushrooms are particularly beneficial for respiratory conditions, so eat up!
#7. Work it out. Chronic stress suppresses the immune cells and exercise is a great de-stressor. By exercising regularly you are not only helping your heart, your metabolism and your digestion, but you are also helping your immune system do a better job! A study in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise showed that people who engaged in regular to moderate activity lowered their risk of flu by 33%! That said- if you are already feeling sick, skip the workout and save your energy.
How do you keep the common cold at bay?
Written by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD, CDN
Photographed by Pitanga Juice.
Edited by Tamara Cabrero & NYHRC Team