The Case for Chocolate in Pregnancy

The case for chocolate in pregnancy

Ever wonder what foods you should be eating when morning sickness doesn’t have your down?  Are those cravings telling you something?  Is that midnight cheeseburger bathing in ketchup good for you?  What about all those banana splits?

The truth is that pregnancy is a very important time to eat well.  After all, a healthy mom means a healthy baby.  There are some foods you should absolutely avoid, like unpasteurized cheese and foods high in mercury like swordfish.  The verdict is still out on coffee.  But what about chocolate?

As a Gastroenterologist, I have a keen interest in my patient’s diets and nutrition.  A question I often get is, “Can I eat chocolate when I’m pregnant?”

Wanting to provide an educated answer rooted in science, I decided to research the subject myself.  What I found is quite interesting.  Yes, it appears that chocolate can actually be beneficial to you and baby during pregnancy.

Pressure Release?

Eating chocolate can help reduce the risk of the serious pregnancy complication called preeclampsia.

As a brief overview, preeclampsia can be a deadly condition where mom’s blood pressure shoots up super high and her kidneys, liver, and circulatory system can collapse.  Not fun at all.  In the May 2008 issue of Epidemiology, Yale researchers demonstrated that mothers who ate more chocolate had a lower risk of preeclampsia.  This was also confirmed by a study from the University of Iowa published in the August 2010 issue of the Annals of Epidemiology

Good for the liver and the waist

At the University of Perugia, Italian researchers performed a trial published in the October 2012 issue of Journal of Maternal and Fetal Neonatology Medicine.  In this study, some pregnant mommies received a moderate amount of 70% cocoa dark chocolate and others did not.  The lucky moms who received the chocolate had healthier liver, blood sugar, and blood pressure tests.  Even more, they didn’t weigh any more than the moms who didn’t receive the chocolate. 

Pregnancy Chocolate
Pregnancy Chocolate

Happy Babies

My personal favorite is a study out of University of Helsinki published in the February 2004 issue of the Early Human Development.  In this study, researchers followed 305 mothers from pregnancy to 6 months after baby was born.  The conclusion, moms who ate daily chocolate had the happiest babies.  Sadly, stressed-out moms had babies with a more negative temperament.  There is a silver lining though.  Babies born to stressed-out moms who ate chocolate had a pleasant temperament. 

Anything Bad?

A medical literature research on the bad effects of chocolate on mom and baby didn’t turn up anything convincing.  Sure, lab animals fed large amounts of chocolate in pregnancy did have some problems, but this did not hold true for humans.  In fact, in 2011, the New York State Department of Health Congenital Malformations Registry reported that there was no association between maternal caffeine intake (yes, chocolate has some caffeine) and birth defects.

Well, there you have it.  Medical studies actually show some benefits to eating chocolate during pregnancy.  Of course, this isn’t an excuse to make chocolate the center of your pregnancy cuisine.  As with all health issues, be sure to talk to your doctor before making any pregnancy health decisions.

Thank you again for reading and be sure to share with all of your friends, you never know who you’ll help.

Dustin G. James, MD

Board-Certified Gastroenterologist

the tummydoc

The material in this site is intended to be of general informational use and is not intended to constitute medical advice, medical diagnosis, or medical treatment.  You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or question.  As with all supplements and functional foods, be sure to discuss these products with your physician before using.

Girl Brain Power, Berry Style! (or the tummydoc's garden week 3: the raspberry)

The Raspberry
The Raspberry

I always love to talk to my patients about their diet.  What is good, what is bad, and what is downright ugly. 

We all feel better when we eat certain foods.   Eat a large meal late at night and chances are you’ll sleep poorly.  Not only that, your digestive system will remind you with waves of upset and nausea that a pizza at midnight is not a good choice.  Eat an early dinner with fresh fruits, veggies and fish and, wow, you feel great!

While some of the problem has to do with conditions like acid reflux brought on by eating fatty meals late at night, the nutrients from the foods also play a role.

That brings us to our next tummydoc garden selection, the raspberry.  Medical studies are popping up that show how the antioxidants inherent to colorful berries can improve brain function.

Before we get into those, let’s talk about raspberries.  They are a delicious and wonderful perennial addition to your garden.  With a slightly acidic soil, they will thrive.  In fact, they are so vigorous, they may start taking over nearby space. 

Fiber Up

The fruit itself is made up of tiny lobules called aggregates.  This translates to raspberries having more surface area per weight than many other fruits.  From a nutrition perspective, this makes raspberries a great source of fiber. 

Vitamins & Minerals

Raspberries are also a good source of Vitamin C and manganese, which is important for your body’s normally functioning, especially bone health.

women's brain health
women's brain health

So why Raspberries?

Now, let’s talk about how eating raspberries on a regular basis may be good for the mind.  Researchers know that the normal wear and tear on the brain eventually takes its toll.  For some, it may just be that you aren’t as quick to recall a word.  For others, the consequences are more severe, like in Alzheimer’s disease. 

Antioxidants

It turns out that certain people are better able to protect against this normal brain stress.  For many, diet plays an essential role.  Diets rich in fruits and vegetables are also very rich in substances called antioxidants.  Much of the physical damage to cells that causes everything from the brain slowing down to wrinkles occurs through a process called oxidative stress.  As the names imply, antioxidants can help counteract this damage.

Polyphenols

It turns out the same substances that give berries their rich and vibrant colors are also antioxidants.  In general, these substances are called polyphenols.  Of the polyphenols, a subtype, called flavonoids, has gained positive press recently.  Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants also found in foods normally regarded as treats, such as chocolate.  In berries, certain flavonoids, called anthocyanidins, are particularly effective.  To read more on this, visit the free article at http://www.expert-reviews.com/doi/pdf/10.1586/ern.12.86.

Concord Grape Juice and for the Mind

In a recent review in the Journal of Nutrition, the authors identified berries, Concord grapes, and walnuts as particularly beneficial to keep the brain healthy.  One study demonstrated that older adults who drank Concord grape juice daily for 12 weeks had significant benefits for their brain health.  In another by the same group, adults who ate berries for 12 weeks improved their memory and behavior compared to those who did not.  To learn more about these studies, get a free copy of the article at http://jn.nutrition.org/content/139/9/1813S.long.

Girl Brain Power

Finally, a recent article in the Annals of Neurology showed that the brain benefits of eating berries on a regular basis was especially applicable to women.  In the study, 16,010 women over the age of 70 were were tested for brain function.  Women who ate more berries had brains which were functioning 2.5 years “younger” than those who did not enjoy these delicious fruits. 

As always, thanks for reading and I look forward to sharing more, both on this blog and on the tummydoc channel.  I don’t know about you, but I’m in the mood for a big bowl of berries. 

-Dustin G. James, MD

Board-Certified Gastroenterologist

the tummydoc

The material in this site is intended to be of general informational use and is not intended to constitute medical advice, medical diagnosis, or medical treatment.  You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or question.  As with all supplements and functional foods, be sure to discuss these products with your physician before using.

the tummydoc's garden week 2: swiss chard

tummydoc's garden week 2

This week we continue our adventure with that great and much under-utilized green leafy vegetable, swiss chard

Surprisingly easy to grow (and quite bountiful throughout the whole season I might add), swiss chard is a quite versatile addition to your culinary arsenal, and is a great accompaniment to so many dishes.  It's also a very pretty vegetable!

Ever wonder why swiss chard looks a lot like a beet?  Here's some interesting history.  Swiss chard had its beginnings as a beet.  At some point in history, people starting selecting some beets for their colorful and flavorful leaves as opposed to their root.   Over time, the beet-like root qualities were all but gone, but the leaves remained, better than ever.  If you have any inkling to do an experiment, let both a beet and swiss chard bolt.  Check out the seeds, they look the same!

The medical benefits of swiss chard include...

  • Antioxidants galore!  As is the case with many vibrant green, yellow, and red vegetables, swiss chard is loaded with vitamin A, a natural antioxidant.  It turns out that all carotenoids (rich natural sources of vitamin A) are pigments.  This means that the compounds that give a plant its color and the nutrients are one and the same.  Blueberries are another great example of this phenomenon.  

  • Rich in nutrients.  The vegetable is also a great source of vitamin K, protein, and fiber.  If you take a medicine called coumadin, be sure to talk with your health care provider before a meal with swiss chard, as it may counteract the blood-thinning properties of the medicine.

 

As always, thanks for reading and I look forward to sharing more, both on this blog and on the tummydoc channel.

-Dustin G. James, MD

Board-Certified Gastroenterologist

the tummydoc

The material in this site is intended to be of general informational use and is not intended to constitute medical advice, medical diagnosis, or medical treatment.  You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or question.  As with all supplements and functional foods, be sure to discuss these products with your physician before using.

the tummydoc's garden week 1: chillin' with lavender!

Alte Schiefertafel aus der Schule

When choosing which plants to grow in your garden, don't leave out herbs.  Many are perennials which come back more robust each year.  They also give your food that special kick to take your cuisine up to the next level.  I especially love herbs, as many have healing properties.

Despite what wee may think, before the days of modern medicine, people were still smart.  They got sick and wanted to feel better. Chemical medications weren't an option, but Mother Nature was.  Many home remedies used today stemmed from these times.

As a physician, I feel the overwhelming pressure of the medical field  to approach "natural remedies" with great skepticism.  But, I feel that by not embracing the healing potential of many botanicals, I would be doing my patients a disservice.  Many botanicals don't have the side effects common t0 prescription drugs, and can produce results as good as or even better than one I would write on a prescription pad.  Fortunately, the field of medicine is changing and starting to embrace the natural world.  Clinical trials are proving what people knew all along...there is power in Mother Nature!

This brings us to one of my favorite herbs, the star of week 1 of the tummydoc's garden:  lavender.  Lavender is a fantastic perennial herb that not only smells fantastic, it looks great too when the distinctive purple flowers bloom.  It doesn't require much care, and that's always a bonus in today's chaotic age.  My friend,  fantastic Italian chef Fabrizio Schenardi, loves lavender.  He loves to add it to dishes with fish, and says it makes a mean cookie as well.

As for the medical benefits, there are many...

  • Sleep.  Lavender has long been used as a sleep aid.  You can put some drops of lavender oil on a towel near your bed or drink some lavender tea an hour before bedtime to help catch some Zzzz's.
  • Lessen Anxiety.  Our world is full of stress.  Many people rely on medications that are potentially sedating and addictive to cope.  Lavender is a great natural alternative.  Medical studies have proven that eating lavender can take the edge off of mild anxiety.  In fact, in one study, people were shown super stressful movie clips to induce anxiety.  Those who took lavender didn't stress out nearly as much.  This was a placebo controlled (sugar pill) study too, which means that no one, including the research subjects and investigators, knew who was getting which.
  • Assist Digestion.  Lavender has carminative properties, which means it can help relax the intestines and help combat gas and bloating.  By virtue of its relaxation properties, it also holds great promise for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), where stress and anxiety cause worse symptoms.  Hmm...what about lavender tummydrops
  • Wound healing.  Honey by itself can assist with wound healing.  When it's lavender honey, it's even better.

 

As always, thanks for reading and I look forward to sharing more, both on this blog and on the tummydoc channel.

-Dustin G. James, MD

Board-Certified Gastroenterologist

the tummydoc

The material in this site is intended to be of general informational use and is not intended to constitute medical advice, medical diagnosis, or medical treatment.  You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or question.  As with all supplements and functional foods, be sure to discuss these products with your physician before using.

It's Tomato Time! The Health Benefits of Tomatoes.

Healthy Tomato 

One of the pleasant consolations of a hot summer is the tomato.  Not only does it taste great by itself and in many of our favorite foods, it is a nutrient powerhouse that should be part of your diet.  For most of us, fresh tomato season doesn’t last long enough, so be sure to take advantage of this amazing fruit. 

Here are some of the health benefits of tomatoes.

 

Can you say potassium?

 

Potassium is considered the good “salt”.  Many medical studies have shown that people who consume foods that are potassium rich have less high blood pressure.  Some of the best dietary sources of potassium without sodium (the bad salt), tomatoes and orange juice! 

 

Healthy Weight Loss

 

Yes, you can eat tasty foods and still lose weight.  Medical studies show that by eating foods rich in water and fiber, you can lose weight and not have to sacrifice taste.  The idea is that fiber and water help to fill your stomach.  This sends signals back to your brain that make you full, so you eat less.  In medicine, we call this sensation satiety.  Yes, you guessed, it!  Tomatoes are a great source of water and fiber, and are low-calorie to boot.

 

Eat Your Sunscreen?

 

Tomatoes are a great source of antioxidants, including lycopene.  It is such a great antioxidant that medical studies have shown that eating tomatoes on a regular basis helps prevent sunburn.  It has also been shown to be useful for brain health.  Lycopene gets into your body better when it is heated with oil.  Go with olive oil, the healthy fat.  My personal preference is to enjoy the variety that tomatoes offer.  My family enjoys some fresh, some as a caprese salad, and some as a tomato sauce to name a few.  Be sure to tune in to the TummyDoc Channel, as we will feature the amazing Italian Chef Fabrizio Schenardi as he discusses the culinary aspects of the Mediterranean diet!

 

 As they say in Italy, Buon Appetito!

 

 Dustin James MD

 

The Tummy Doc

 

Board-Certified Gastroenterologist

 

Author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide® to Digestive Health

 

 

 

 

 

Reading, sharing, or other utilization of this article does not establish a doctor patient relationship with the article’s author.  As always, be sure to consult with your physician regarding your health related issues before initiating or changing any medicines.  

Why Does Morning Sickness Happen and When Does it Start?

I’ll always remember a young woman who came into my office complaining of a sudden onset of bloating and feeling sick to her stomach. I asked her, “Is there any chance that you’re pregnant?” to which she responded, “No, I don’t think so”.

Later that day, I shared the great news with her and her husband that they were expecting.

This scenario is not uncommon. Many women experience some symptoms of pregnancy before they realize that they missed their period.

In this post, I’d like to share some highlights of when morning sickness starts and why it happens in the first place.

First things First

  1. +Morning sickness is incredibly common, affecting nearly 50-90% of women.
  2. +Severe morning sickness is uncommon. Only about 1-2% of women will have symptoms requiring hosptilization.
  3. +Younger women are more likely to get morning sickness than older women who are pregnant.

 

The More the Better?

  1. +Women with twins and multiple gestations have a higher risk of morning sickness.
  2. +Supertasters are much more likely to get morning sickness.
  3. +Women with acid reflux are more likely to suffer from morning sickness
  4. +Women with motion sickness are more likely to get morning sickness.

Girl Power

  1. +Women pregnant with baby girls are more likely to have a severe form of morning sickness called hyperemesis gravidarum.

But Why Me?

  1. +One of the leading thoughts on why women get morning sickness is hormones. The same hormone that tells you you’re pregnant, hCG, is a common culprit.
  2. +The other female hormone, progesterone, is also implicated. It has a tendency to slow down your intestines and lead to all sorts of not-so-fun things like acid reflux, bloating, and constipation-all of which can make morning sickness worse.
  3. Interestingly, recent studies suggest that women who have the stomach infection Helicobacter pylori are at much higher risk of morning sickness.
    HCG may be a leading cause of morning sickness

When Did It All Start?

  1. +Morning sickness can start as early as five weeks into your pregnancy. It often lasts for up to 18 weeks.
  2. +The worst time for most women with morning sickness is around nine weeks of gestation.
  3. +About 1 in 20 women will have morning sickness all the way to delivery.

It’s Not Morning and I’m Sick!

  1. +Morning sickness is a misnomer. Most women with morning sickness have symptoms throughout the day.

Is it All Bad?

  1. +Of course not, your little bundle of joy is on their way!
  2. +Also, take comfort in knowing that women with morning sickness are less likely to have a miscarriage.

 

I hope this list of morning sickness highlights proves helpful. For more on treatments of morning sickness, be sure to check out http://tummydrops.com/blog/when-does-morning-sickness-start/.

 

Congratulations on your new baby!

 

Dustin James MD

The Tummy Doc

Board-Certified Gastroenterologist

Author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide® to Digestive Health

www.tummydrops.com

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Reading, sharing, or other utilization of this article does not establish a doctor patient relationship with the article’s author. As always, be sure to consult with your physician regarding your health related issues before initiating or changing any medicines.