Best Diet for Pregnancy, Over-Dosing on Turmeric, How to Reduce Inflammation & My Favorite Travel Hacks — Q&A
DISCLAIMER: Readers should not be interpret anything in this article as medical advice. Please consult your doctor before beginning any new dietary strategy and/or supplement regimen.
Q: How to adjust Keto / Macros for a breast-feeding mother?
This could be one of the most important questions I have received. The nutritional needs of a nursing mother needs are not so different from those of a person looking to become pregnant. Yet, you’ll see are far from the normative nutritional practices of the general public. It may come as a surprise that in 2018 fertility rate in the United States reached an all-time low, and represented the lowest birthrate in more than 30 years, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control. Not surprisingly, in vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures are at an all-time high, and are expected to become a near $40 billion industry in just the next 5-7 years.
While there may be no single “smoking gun” as to the cause of this decline in fertility, if you believe Darwin, it’s not a good sign. In fact, being maximally fertile was the original definition of the term “fitness”, implying that individuals within a species with the most supreme biology are granted the most supreme fertility. This is Mother Nature’s way of blessing the species with the greatest number of biologically-rich offspring and improve the species’ likelihood of long-term survival. Declining the rate of fertility is Mother Nature’s single most powerful means of self-preservation. Individuals not able to reproduce halts proliferation of harmful gene expressions that could threaten the future of a species. A modest inquisition into the rates of unsuccessful in vitro fertilizations will help calibrate anyone’s perspective on the literal Man vs. God arm wrestling match that we are in right now.
So back to the essence of the question what is the optimal pregnancy/post-partum diet? Well, to me, it’s less about getting your macros right and more about maximizing the nutrient density.
Human breast milk is approximately 60% fat, 30% carbs, and 10% protein. So if we were going to recommend a “macro” strategy for pregnancy, that’s probably not a bad place to begin.
Nearly half of the fat in a mother’s milk is saturated — akin to butter fat, coconut oil, and egg yolks — and nearly all of the rest is monounsaturated, similar to what may be found in olive oil and avocados. The one fat left is the polyunsaturated fat, specifically in the form of DHA from omega-3, which is vital for optimal brain development. The DHA content of mother’s milk varies based on the levels found in the mother’s diet.
I would suggest any expecting or new mother’s diet should be rich in the following fats, in order of importance: Pastured Egg Yolks, Unrefined Organic Coconut Oil, Grass-Fed Butter, DHA-rich Wild Fish Oils, Cold-Pressed Olive Oils, and Avocados. If tolerated, mothers may also choose to include full-fat/raw dairy products such as kefir, yogurt, cream, and milk.
MAKE IT NUTRIENT DENSE
Optimal development of a fetus depends on a few major micro-nutrients; fat-soluble vitamins (A, D & K), choline, and folate. Deficiency in choline or folate are very clearly associated with a high risk of birth defects and mental issues in children. Just about any mainstream medical doctor and any pre-natal vitamin will tend to push these nutrients for a healthy pregnancy. Keep in mind, whole food and quality sources are just as important as reducing a deficiency. Fat soluble vitamins are equally vital to having a maximally healthy baby. Mothers should begin enriching their diets with all of these nutrients pre-conception, during pregnancy, and after-birth — especially when breast feeding.
The following foods and supplements contain vitamins A, D, K, choline, and folate: Pasture Raised Beef Liver and Egg Yolks, Wild-Caught Salmon, Leafy Greens and Cruciferous Vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. Additionally, if I were a pregnant woman, I would be consuming quite a bit of cod liver oil and vitamin D3/K2 drops. And if you hate the idea of eating liver, these are your best bet.
MINIMALLY INFLAMMATORY & UNPROCESSED
Unless this is your first time reading one of my articles, this goes without saying. No good can really come from a steady diet of “comfort foods”. That being said, the more high-level objective of minimally inflammatory and unprocessed may may come in many different forms, from high-carb plant-based to no-carb carnivore. Given the information above, it’s likely obvious that I do not advise an animal-product-free diet for pregnancy, although I do not necessarily believe “keto” is the solve either.
One of the most vital components to a healthy baby is a healthy gut. Whole foods, such as sweet potatoes, beets, and even a little white rice can help to support a very diverse microbiota and therefore a healthy nursing environment. However, foods to avoid during pregnancy include processed grains, gluten, added sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and anything artificial.
The idea of adjusting “keto-macros” is far less important than what’s in those macros.
Q: Is there such a thing as “too much” turmeric? How else can I reduce inflammation?
When it comes to turmeric, the health benefits of speak for themselves. In fact, turmeric may be the world’s oldest medication, with health-focused usage dating back over 5,000 years. More recently, turmeric has been demonstrated to be “at least as effective” as 14 different pharmaceutical drugs and is known to support a variety of different medical conditions from anti-aging and diabetes, to depression and sports recovery.
In terms of its powerful anti-inflammatory and sports-recovery benefits, much of turmeric’s potential has been attributed to a single polyphenol compound within it known as curcumin. Roughly 5% of your typical turmeric root is comprised of curcumin, yet today 95% extracts can be purchased for around $20. In answer to the question, my guess is, if there was an upper limit for turmeric, you’ll find it faster taking a curcumin extract than you would consuming my famous turmeric lattes.
That being said, the question is an important one, as many natural compounds do have upper limits. This includes rosemary, which has been shown to have a “bell-curve” of effectiveness for brain health, and berberine, which has been proven to be as effective at metformin in controlling blood sugar, but stresses the liver in high doses. (You can find the exact turmeric I use, plus the berberine my mom takes, in my dispensary.)
When it comes to curcumin, 1,000mg twice per day is about where you want to be for optimal benefits. However, I often consume up to 2 turmeric drinks per day on top of that — and I am still alive and ticking.
Beyond turmeric, a few of my favorite ways to reduce inflammation include:
Breathwork. Living more “fight or flight” than “rest and digest” causes hyper oxidation, mouth-breathing, and eventually damage to our mitochondria. This damage leads to an increased number of free radicals being produced and an increased number of inflammatory cytokines being put into circulation, impairing the immune system. Through real-time measurements of my own heart rate variability, as well as my heart-brain coherence, I’ve found box breathing to be the most effective way to get myself into a parasympathetic, “rest and digest’ state. Here’s the modified, upgraded box breathing technique I use:
Prior to starting the breath, practice activating your sex organs a few times (as you would if you were trying to stop yourself from urinating) by contracting for 4-seconds, then relaxing for 4-seconds. Repeat this 3-5 times.
Next, inhale slowly and steadily across 6-seconds, expanding the abdomen with air. Then hold the breath in for 4-seconds.
After holding, exhale slowly and steadily across 6-seconds.
Hold your breath “on empty” for 8-20 seconds.
After a few cycles, try activating your sex organs as you inhale and exhale the air out of the nose. You should feel that it allows you to more slowly control the airflow and extend the time spend inhaling and exhaling. Extend your inhale and exhale by 2 seconds at a time as you see fit. Eventually, do not be surprised if you find yourself inhaling/exhaling across 20 or more seconds.
Cold-exposure. Speaking of fight-or-flight, any form of cold immersion is going to clear the slate on your nervous system (and calm your monkey mind!) allowing you to take control of your day. Easiest solve? A simple 3-5-minute cold shower each morning.
When you’re ready to take things to the next level, check out this article.
Meditation. Evolutionarily, we are engineered to react to the world around us. This is how we kept ourselves and our families safe across millennia. The difference is, across time the “outer world” only approached us in ways that demanded a reaction a few times per day. Today, our outer world demands thousands and thousands of reactions to be made each day — not limited to morning traffic, coffee selections, social media and email. If we’re not careful, we ride those waves and life carries us away. We become a ping-pong ball that bounces from home to the office, to Starbucks, back to the office, back to home, mindlessly and reactively “liking” and “commenting” our way through the day.
Meditation is to cut yourself off from this outer world, to connect with your inner world for just minutes each day, with the simple aim of learning to anchor your focus in the moment and bring it back when it gets away from you. Think of meditation as bicep curls for your attention.
CBD. This stuff is magic for inflammation. When I am in tough training blocks, as I am at the time of writing this article, I literally lather my shoulders in this CBD enriched hemp oil after almost every upper body workout which combines hemp with curcumin, plus a whole bunch of other natural anti-inflammatory compounds including ginger and eucalyptus.
Q: What are your go-to travel supplements?
When it comes to travel, supporting the immune system is priority one. Think of airplanes as giant radioactive microwaves filled with recycled air (yuck!). When you finally land, you get off the plane into a land of new pathogens and germs which you have not built immunity to back home. Finally, you may experience gut stress from crummy airport food, poor hydration, and “cheat meals” as the result of busy schedules, unfamiliar restaurants, and being away from your normal routine. So, it’s easy to let this all take a toll on our health…
Before I travel, I ensure that my nutrition and self-care practices are dialed in. For 7-days or so before a trip there are no cheat meals, no late nights, and lots of meditation. If I am going overseas to somewhere like China (as I did twice last summer, only three weeks apart) I may even opt for an glutathione injection or Myers Cocktail and some sort of “cleanse”. I essentially imagine a situation where I know my immune system is going to take a 20% hit — and figure out how to boost it to 120% before I leave.
Once I take off, here’s what I do:
Oregano Oil: A double dose in water pre-flight and single dose every 90 minutes or so in-flight. Plus, a single dose each morning while away.
Activated Charcoal: For flights over 4 hours, I take 2-3 capsules upon landing to absorb any toxins I consumed during the flight. For flights under 4-hours I use chlorella, since it’s a little easier on the system.
Liposomal Gluathione: I like use the single serving packs but capsules are nice too. If I did not get the IV/injection, I’ll often take one serving each morning while away to optimize my body’s natural detox pathways.
Sodium: I travel with small jars of Icelandic Sea Salt. This is packed with electrolytes, plus it’s small and convenient. If you’re low-carb and on the road, lots of salted water is a must.
Magnesium: Some magnesium can help damage control some of the stress associated with travel and calm the nervous system.
Find a sauna. This is a really amazing way to detox that not many people think of. Go to any big box gym or find a spa and sweat it out as often as you can. I’ve often found 3-7 day guest passes or Free Trials at gyms for close to nothing.