The Scoop on Poop (during Pregnancy)


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.

Good luck!

The Weight Factor In Pregnancy


I’m not going to lie, seeing my body change so drastically throughout my pregnancy has been difficult, even though I know that all these changes are necessary for the development of a healthy baby.

Did you know that about one third of the weight gained during pregnancy is fat? Your body does this on purpose! This storage of fat is most prominent during the first and second semester. Fat is stored opposite the growth rate of your baby, which is rapid during the last half. Stored fat provides a reserve of calories for you and your baby to use during the last few weeks of pregnancy when you may not be able to keep up with the nutritional needs of the baby. As you get bigger, it gets harder to eat large, heavy meals.

Just how much weight are you supposed to gain?

The first step is knowing your pre-pregnancy weight. Based on your weight before the baby-weight gain, you’ll know your projected target range. On average, a person should gain 1 pound every month during the first trimester. During the second and third trimester, you should gain about 3-4 pounds a month.

Pre-pregnancy weight                                          Recommended weight gain

  • Underweight (BMI < 18.5)                          28 to 40 lbs
  • Normal weight (BMI 18.5 to 24.9)              25 to 35 lbs
  • Overweight (BMI 25 to 29.9)                      15 to 25 lbs
  • Obese (BMI 30 or more)                             11 to 20 lbs

Weight Breakdown:

  • Baby 7-8 pounds
  • Placenta 1-2 pounds
  • Amniotic fluid 2-3 pounds
  • Uterus 2 pounds
  • Increased blood supply 3-5 pounds
  • Fluid, fat, breast tissue 10 pounds

Total: 25-30 pounds

How To Manage Your Weight

I found the following suggestions helpful during those growing months.

1.) Cravings are very telling. Pay attention to your body. During my fifth month, I craved dairy like never before! I actually had my first glass of milk in years. That said- choose wisely.  Caramel toffee ice cream does not provide the same nutrition as kefir mixed with berries and a little honey. Select nutrient dense versions of your cravings. Usually it satisfies the craving just fine! 

2.) Stay away from refined grains and added sugars. These are not only going to be empty calories leading to excess weight gain, but they also exacerbate what is called “pregnancy brain.” This fogginess can be worsened by foods that spike and lower our blood sugars.

3.) Enjoy small, relatively frequent meals and snacks. As I mentioned in my previous pregnancy post, you are only supposed to eat 150-200 calories more during the first trimester, and about 300 calories during the second and third. That’s not a lot! It’s equivalent to an additional snack or small meal per day. I know that hardly seems fair, but frequent smaller meals can help you feel like you are having more food that you actually are.

4.) Stay active. I realized around week 22 that my back was achy and my legs would get  wobbly every time I would go up the stairs. This was new and not the norm! I realized that the additional weight was taking a toll on my body. So, I started working out with a prenatally certified trainer, Diane Giresi, CPT. Just one session a week has done the trick! A lot of squats, TRX movements, and planks have helped me with the weight progression. Exercise improves circulation, decreases fatigue, and helps you retain lean muscle - all of these things will help with a healthy delivery and the recuperation of your body post-pregnancy.

Recommendation: Do not start a new exercise routine during pregnancy. Get approval from your doctor on what you can and cannot do. In general, it is recommended to keep some kind of exercise regimen. My goal is to work out 3 times a week (for at least an hour) and walk as much as possible!

5.) Monitor your weight. Even though your doctor will be checking your weight at each visit, I suggest keeping track on your own even if it’s getting on the scale once a week. At the beginning, you are seeing your doctor once a month, and trust me, a lot can happen in just one month of pregnancy!

Stay tuned for the next post: Pregnancy & Digestion. Boy, do I have a lot to say about that!… 

Written by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD, CDN. Edited by Tamara Cabrero. 

Pregnancy and Me & Baby Makes Three


So, big news. I’m preggers! Yup. There is a tiny human growing inside of me. Such a  surreal experience, when you really think about it. My husband and I found out on Father’s Day; indeed a special day for my hubbie to learn that he’s going to be a dad! It was even more significant though because I felt like my own Papito was sending me a message or giving me his blessing, or both. He is deeply missed.

As you have probably guessed, this post is going to cover prenatal nutrition and the joys of pregnancy.

How Much Is Enough 

When you become pregnant, you often hear the expression, “Eat up! You’re eating for two now!” This statement is very deceiving. My doctor quickly put it to rest by clarifying, “Alanna, you are eating for 1.1, not 2.” Which means that even though your appetite may be off the charts with weird cravings and a hunger that tells, nay, screams at you to eat every two seconds, the reality is you should only be eating an additional snack of approximately 150-200 calories during the first trimester. If there is only one baby, the second and third trimester requires about 300 calories more - the size of a small meal a day, not double your food intake.

So what’s the trick to making you feel like you’re eating more without packing on the pounds uncontrollably? Eat throughout the day. I found it helpful to eat at least a little something every 2-3 hours. I went to town on fruits such as cherries, watermelon, and plums. I snacked on yogurt, cottage cheese, and hummus, being mindful of the types of “dippers/sauces” I was consuming. I couldn’t get enough peppers, cucumbers, and celery. And anything with lime and a little sea salt was like a little slice of heaven!  

Taming the Symptoms

I consider myself pretty lucky. I’ve had mild symptoms of nausea, headaches, and fatigue, which are all quite common but nothing overly debilitating. I found that the following tips really help subdue the symptoms significantly:

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
  • Simple carbs
  • Fruit
  • Simple carbs with lean protein
  • Don’t overdo it on fat, especially fried food
  • Yogurt
  • Light smoothies
  • Small meals
  • Breathe

Why the baby-glow?

I personally believe that the famous “baby glow” has more to do with the absence of alcohol (and other “bad habits”) than anything else. Not that I have ever been a big drinker, but I have been known to indulge in an after-work drink now and again; cutting all alcohol from my diet entirely has made a HUGE difference. After all, alcohol is a toxin, regardless of the traces of resveratrol! FYI: Resveratrol is an antioxidant. 

Another culprit of that glow, being pregnant has forced me to listen to my body and get an enormous amount of shuteye. Living in a city like NYC, it’s hard to say no to that cool new art exhibit or even an invitation to just hang out with friends. But when you’re pregnant, the fatigue sinks in and you have nowhere to go but your bed.

Make the glow happen! I’ll keep you updated on any other new awakenings!