Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The paleo diet is the best choice in pregnancy

Carl and I are older first-time parents. He just turned 40, and I'll be 39 a couple of weeks after our baby girl is born. I am very, very glad we waited. I'm glad our previous have-a-baby plans (back in 2006) didn't work out, and I'm glad we didn't give in to the social pressure to have kids in the early years of our marriage. I have lots of reasons why I'm glad we waited, and none are insignificant. I could probably write long blog posts about each and every one. Today, though, I'm only going to talk about one: I'm glad we waited until I discovered paleo.

As most people I talk to (and those who read this blog) know, my pregnancy has been smooth sailing. I have no complaints, and I feel great most of the time. I'm not experiencing an onslaught of all the classic pregnancy symptoms I've heard so much about and, even though I am very much looking forward to our daughter's birth, I really don't mind pregnancy at all.

I attribute this 100% to my diet, and I am absolutely convinced that without paleo my pregnancy experience would be a lot different. Of course, I have no way of knowing for sure (and I'm not going to experiment in order to find out!). Maybe I'm just one of those women who have easy pregnancies? Maybe, but I doubt it.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is this is not "luck." We all have choices, and the choices we make impact the outcomes we receive. This is true not just in pregnancy but in all areas of life. Choosing to stick to the paleo diet throughout my pregnancy has (so far) produced a really fantastic outcome for me, and I am so thankful for it. And please believe me when I say this is not a criticism of anyone who is not eating paleo while pregnant (if I had been pregnant at any other time in my life, I certainly wouldn't have been on this diet). Most people don't even know paleo is an option, especially since mainstream media and all the pregnancy books tell us we need to follow a low-fat diet rich in whole grains. But if you are pregnant right now and are dealing with morning sickness, indigestion, constipation, swelling, extreme fatigue, cravings, mood swings, diabetes, etc., please know that you don't have to continue on like this. Try paleo and see what happens, because despite everything we're told, these symptoms (in my opinion) are not "normal." They are the body's response to the wrong kind of fuel (sadly, the very fuel our culture and government encourage us to ingest). I suspect that if we studied pregnancy from an anthropological perspective, we would find that the pregnancy symptoms we've come to accept as standard are actually a fairly recent phenomenon.

Admittedly, I have no scientific evidence for this. I haven't researched pregnancy anthropology. What I do know, though, is I have not heard of one single paleo pregnancy that hasn't been relatively comfortable. Not one (if there is anyone out there who hasn't had a comfortable paleo pregnancy, please speak up!) And for me personally, I can attribute the majority of the minor inconveniences I have experienced to some sort of bad dietary choice (remember my issues with swelling a few of weeks back?).

On the flip side, how many women who follow the Standard American Diet (or even healthier versions of the SAD) during pregnancy can say the same thing? I know there are exceptions, but almost everyone I know (or know of) has experienced morning sickness and cravings (at the very least). And many have even been placed on bed rest and/or have had trouble with gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.

Again, I am not saying this to criticize -- I'm just making an observation. Our bodies are built to bear children. Is it really possible that the process of growing a baby in the womb is meant to be a miserable experience? I don't think so.


  1. I agree with you 100%. I'm approaching 35 weeks now, and I've had no morning sickness (some minor food aversions early on, but nothing else), no cravings, no mood swings, no complications (such as GD, high blood pressure, etc.), and the only times I've experienced edema have been when I've strayed from Paleo and eaten crap. My weight gain has been a healthy, but not excessive, 22 lbs (to date), and the baby is growing very well. I keep waiting for the pregnancy to become uncomfortable, but for the most part it's been an absolute pleasure and I'm enjoying every moment. I definitely can't say the same for my friends who have used their pregnancies as an excuse to be completely inactive and eat whatever they want.

  2. I wholeheartedly agree!!! if it were just one of us having an uneventful pregnancy, that might be the luck of he draw. But when it's every single paleo preggo we know? That can't just be a coincidence :).

    There's also really solid evidence about why Paleo (and other diets that focus on one or another aspect, like zero-sugar or gluten-free) produce consistently awesome results.

    I'm really proud that my kid isn't swimming in a sea of raging insulin/glucose or having to figure out how to metabolize McCrap before he/she has eyelashes ;). And-for more selfish reasons - I'm glad my weight gain has held right to the curve.

    Politically I applaud all efforts to validate the choices of other women, but I EXTRA validate our choices to forego cupcakes and bagels for our health and our bambino/as health without apology!!!

  3. Excellent blog and we as professionals should be advising what we firmly believe to be of benefit for pregnant and all women.
    There is heaps of evidence to support why paleo works but unfortunately we are now advised by groups who make millions of dollars on products that shouldn't even be on the supermarket shelf. Can you imagine how small our supermarkets would be and how much less money these giant companies would make if they reversed what they advised and people stopped buying their products.
    I am so glad you are enjoying your pregnancy, stay healthy well and fit
    Lorraine at http://pregnancyexercise.co.nz

  4. I had two prior pregnancies -- "healthy" by all standards, but SAD-based. I was very sick, I was SO tired, I was a hormonal mess, and I gained more than 40 pounds both times.

    I transitioned to Paleo shortly before (surprise!) becoming pregnant -- I had a symptom-free first trimester, and am on track for a weight gain that is well within the "recommended" guidelines.

    I'm excited about what eating adequate protein and healthy fat is going to do for my breastfeeding experience -- I'm a working mom, and there was a constant struggle between "taking off baby weight" and "tanking my milk supply." I am hopeful that I'll be able to adequately fuel myself to return to a healthy body composition AND produce food for my new little guy!

  5. I have been eating a paleo diet for a few months now, I went GF about a year ago & it was an easy transition from there, now I am pregnant, very early & honestly eating this way has made it very nice. I was pregnant years ago & so sick. I lost the baby but this time totally different. I have a good feeling about eating this way & so far just some gas & a bit tired but that is it. Wish me luck!

  6. I have been eating Paleo for a little over 8 months, I am currently 7 weeks pregnant and I feel awful! I am exhausted and nauseous ALL the time. Any suggestions?

    1. Christine, I'm sorry the Paleo diet hasn't helped your MS as others believed it would. I click on this page not to help with MS but because I'm wondering if there is a healthier diet out there. I haven't had any MS at all (non-Paleo), but I want to raise my child without artificial chemicals, etc. So, I thought it might be best to start now. My only concern is getting enough calcium and folic acid. Any thoughts?

  7. Hi Christine,
    Try a drop of spearmint essential oil on your pillow at night. After two nights, my (mild) nausea was gone.

  8. I completely agree - I've started writing a blog about my own paleo pregnancy experience and have just written a post on this topic as well: http://paleopregnancy.weebly.com/

  9. M -- Congratulations! I will check out your blog!

  10. So far only bananas, toast and crackers have felt okay, but I'll push through the nausea and try vegetables and meat again. Can't make me feel any worse, right?

  11. Sorry to hear you are dealing with nausea -- that is no fun. The food aversions should subside eventually, though.

  12. Thanks for making a site for paleo diet and pregnancy. We're planning to start a family and I've only recently adopted a more paleolithic diet.

  13. I have been intrigued by the paleo diet for weeks and I've been doing some research on it and this article is very convincing... my only concern is will this diet change send my body into shock of some sort? I have had an easy pregnancy as well, no morning sickness or swelling but some typical sympotoms, nothing severe or anything... other than cravings and in the beginning I craved healthy food fruit and veggies mainly but now I crave bacon cheese burgers and pie and stuff that in moderation wouldn't be harmful but definitely not healthy! I want to start this diet I'm just concerned about putting my body through such a change.


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