A good friend of mine recently went Paleo about 4 months ago.. Since then, she has become pregnant. She is getting morning sickness fairly bad, and all of the conventional wisdom "cures" happen to be non-paleo. Any advice I can give her?
Morning sickness has long been a puzzle: Why should a woman undergoing the already difficult process of bringing a child to term be saddled with nausea as well? Can nature really be that cruel? Perhaps not. The onset of nausea coincides closely with the period of rapid tissue differentiation of the fetus, when development is most vulnerable to interference by toxins. Nauseated women tend to restrict their intake of strong-tasting, potentially harmful substances. This has led researchers to speculate that the nausea of morning sickness is an evolved adaptation which protects the fetus from exposure to toxins. As it turns out, studies have shown that women with more nausea are also less likely to suffer miscarriages. Although this does not prove that the proposed explanation is correct, it is nonetheless highly suggestive. It also suggests that blocking nausea with drugs could result in higher miscarriage rates or more birth defects.
The nausea of pregnancy not only coincides with the time of greatest tissue differentiation in the fetus, but also with the greatest increase in progesterone, in support of the stability of the pregnancy. As many women on birth control can attest, progesterone elevation tends to lead to increased nausea and food cravings.
As a midwife, I have tended to recommend to my moms that they stick to a highly-nutritious, high-protein diet, and make sure to have a protein snack available to them in the middle of the night. Fluctuations and dips in blood sugar tend to severely aggravate morning sickness in pregnant women -- hence the "conventional wisdom" suggestions of dry saltines or toast upon rising. However, I've found in my own work with expectant moms that starting the day with a carbohydrate spike actually just MOVES the morning sickness from first thing up to later in the day -- and if, at each occurrence, the woman resorts to saltines/toast, the morning sickness can seem like it is hanging about for the entire day.
Instead, I recommend at least 80 g of protein per day in the first trimester (or an increase of 30% over current protein intake if one is bodybuilding), split evenly into four meals, and spread throughout the day, with ONE of those protein meals taking place between 10pm and 4am. While this will not END morning sickness (once the body adapts to the change in hormones, around the 4th month or so, it ends on its own), it DOES reduce the intensity and makes it more bearable. Protein consumption recommendations increase as the baby grows, as well, with a minimum protein intake of 100g per day in an average, healthy woman at term (these recommendations are ONLY for normal, low-risk pregnant women, as midwives in the States do not supervise high-risk pregnancies).
Use whatever form of protein is palatable -- eggs, leftover meat, fish, even whey protein powder, if that's what it takes. Try to add a good bit of fat for calories, rather than using carbohydrates, since excessive fluctuations in blood sugar tend to aggravate morning sickness. Red clover tea is a good beverage option. Avoid excesses of ginger tea and mint tea, though, even though they're sometimes recommended by well-meaning herbalists and friends. Ginger has hormonal implications for pregnant women and an excess can cause problems with the pregnancy, and mint tends to aggravate morning sickness, hyperpytalism (too much saliva), and other discomforts associated with those early months.
Tell her to survive as best she can til it passes. I had been strict paleo for about a year prior to pregnancy and even before that, gluten and dairy free. Once I was pregnant, I was SO sick. This was my 3rd child and nothing new. I just did the best I could. With me, nothing sounded good. So, any good fats and protein I was able to stomach and keep down was a bonus. For what it's worth, by about 6 months pregnant my morning sickness passes. At that point I was able to eat a much more rounded diet again. Survival is really the name of the game in the beginning :)
Oh, how I remember it! I can suggest what helped me: protein. All I wanted was something bland and crackery, but, if I just made myself eat some thing with some protein, and some complex carbs like a sweet potato, then I would feel better. Also ~ What about nibbling on ginger root, would that be okay?
My mother once told me that there is a strong possibility that morning sickness is tied in to being low in zinc. That doesn't seem super likely to me on a paleo diet, but pregnancy does tend to use up your nutritional stores. Mom is an LPN, and also proofread medical journals for 19 years- but she's also just very interested in health and nutrition, so I'm not sure where she dug that bit of info up.
And I'm with L.S.- Ginger takes care of most nausea for almost every one I know, though I don't personally know anyone who's used it specifically for morning sickness.
Another thing that I've often heard is that if you can eat a bit of something before rolling out of bed, that helps to settle the nausea before it starts. I do think that my mother told me she did that, but I'm also sure that I've read it numerous places elsewhere.
Every pregnancy is different. I have 3 boys and my wife's morning sickness was worst with the first. We couldn't even make it to her OB appointments without stopping at least twice. She had cravings for Mexican food and that helped settle the stomach. We also got this stuff from Whole Foods market called Ginger Wonder and crystallized ginger that helped. However with he other two ginger did not help at all. She just has to experiment and see what works for this pregnancy.
Morning sickness is present in most studied hunter-gatherer cultures. Most also practice protein-restriction. This points to this morning sickness being somehow protective and there being a reason women are sometimes nauseated by meat.
Cordain just did a blog post on this: http://thepaleodiet.blogspot.com/2010/07/protein-intake-for-pregnant-women.html recommending that women eat mostly fat and carbs.
Support her liver through metabolizing excessive amounts of hormones...
Greens, especially dandelion, remembering that our hunter gatherer ancestors were not foraging collards, you know? Use LOTS of fresh herbs in salads and seasonings. Dandelion, watercress, yellow dock leaves, basils, rosemary, thyme, etc.
Dandelion root tincture Red raspberry leaf tea/infusion Ginger...grated into a smidge of honey is delicious
Yeah, could try some healthier carbs like potato or fruit. Maybe something bland like banana or pumpkin. Bland can sometimes really sooth the stomach. There is no law against carbs in paleo. YOu just want to eat healthy carbs instead of garbage carbs. The first thing I do when my stomach or intestines are off is go for the bland food. That is why crackers are often suggested by non paleos, cuz they are bland. If I felt really sick, I'd even consider a bit of plain white rice, which is also very bland. WHite rice seems to be one of the least evil grains.