As someone who developed and has managed living with an autoimmune disease years after having children, I can only imagine what it would be like to go through pregnancy with an autoimmune condition. I'm grateful to have holistic health and life coach Dafne Wiswell on Inspired Birth Pro to share some tips that birth pros can share with their clients and students who live with a chronic or autoimmune disease.
For most women, pregnancy is a very exciting time. The expectancy of a child brings hope and joy into their hearts and minds as they wait with great anticipation for the day they will welcome the sweet new face of their little one into the world.
For the woman with chronic or autoimmune disease, however, pregnancy can be a time filled with a difficult emotional mix of joy and anxiety. They wonder how their disease may affect their unborn child. They fear that stopping certain medications may make carrying the child to term extremely difficult or excruciatingly painful. They worry that the disease will flare or become worse during pregnancy because of the storm of hormones and changes occurring in their body as the child grows and develops.
Women such as this need the support and understanding of a professional who will listen and care. They need to know that they are heard and that someone in their corner is going to make sure they have access to every resource they need to feel strong and healthy during their pregnancy, and to deliver a strong and healthy child. There are several ways you can support and educate clients facing these special circumstances by talking with them about:
Drinking plenty of water is key for nourishing the cells and balancing the pH level in the body which can reduce inflammation at the cellular level. Encourage clients who might get bored with water to add some natural flavor by squeezing fresh lemon, lime or orange into their glass. A BPA free infuser bottle is also a great option to encourage them to increase their intake.
Encourage your client to get as much rest as possible. Our bodies repair themselves while we sleep so 7 hours or more each night is ideal. Creating a daily routine for rest is also important for keeping stress levels low which will help support healthy adrenal function. Activities such as listening to calming music, relaxing in the tub, reading a good book or enjoying some time in nature are all good ways to induce calm in the body and promote a sense of rest each day. Encourage your client to ask for help from their spouse, family or friends if there are other children who need to be cared for so they can successfully create at least 30 minutes of space in their daily routine for a restful activity they enjoy.
Supporting the adrenal glands
The adrenal glands are the "fight or flight" glands and they play an active role in regulating blood pressure and blood glucose balance. It's important to support the healthy function of these glands, especially in a client with autoimmune disease. To naturally boost the health of these glands, encourage your client to:
Talk to your client about ways to manage or reduce stress they may be
– help them set healthy boundaries.
– help them strategize ways to delegate or streamline tasks
– how can they simplify things like housekeeping, laundry, groceries, etc? Do they need to order groceries online, drop the laundry off at a wash-n-fold service? Help them think through ways to eliminate or delegate simple tasks that may be causing them to over-exert themselves and deplete their energy as things this small can potentially lead to a flare-up with their autoimmune disease.
Although exercise is beneficial, overdoing it can tax the adrenal glands. Gentle exercises such as walking, swimming, yoga and pilates are easy on the body while still providing excellent benefits.
Reduce sugar, artificial sweeteners and processed foods
Teach your client to read food labels and avoid ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, glucose, fructose, aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, mannitol, polydextrose and other artificial sweeteners. Natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup and stevia are best. Processed and packaged foods contain many artificial ingredients that are difficult for the body to process and digest and should be avoided as well. The outer aisles of the grocery store are the "safest" places for your client to find good, nutritious foods that will support healthy adrenal function.
Encourage your client to speak with their physician or nutritionist about the safety and benefit of adding adrenal support supplements to their daily routine. Good supplements to consider would be:
- Fish oil
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- B-complex vitamins
- Adaptogenic herbs such as rhodiola rosea, holy basil and ashwagandha
Be aware that there is no one-size-fits-all plan when it comes to nutrition and autoimmune disease. One client may reduce inflammation by removing gluten and dairy from the diet, another may need to cut out animal protein, another might see improvement in symptoms when they remove grains and legumes. Encourage your client to be their own detective and pay attention to their body's signals when they eat certain foods. A food journal can help them connect the dots and find a pattern that correlates certain foods to when they are experiencing symptoms such as pain, severe fatigue, brain fog, or any other symptoms that are exacerbated in their particular condition.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to reducing inflammation, and seeing improvement in the symptoms of almost any autoimmune condition, is to follow these basic guidelines:
Increase foods high in omega 3 fatty acids:
- Egg yolks
- Grass-fed beef
- Chia seeds
- Fish oil
Increase foods high in antioxidants:
- Goji berries
- Kidney beans
Choose low glycemic veggies and legumes:
- Leafy greens
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
- Bean sprouts
Add more flavor to foods (and boost the immune system) by cooking with these herbs and spices:
Consider reducing animal protein and adding more plant-based protein:
- Nutritional yeast
When a sweet craving strikes, opt for the healthy-ish versions:
- Dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
- Raw cacao
- Nut butters
- Frozen bananas or berries pureed into "ice cream"
A Calm Mind
Last but certainly not least, talk with your client about calming their mind. Encourage them to create daily affirmations or phrases that encourage and give them hope. Our mind is a powerful tool and what we believe has a huge impact on our health and well-being! Inspire them to focus on believing that a healthy pregnancy that ends with the birth of a strong and healthy baby are absolutely possible despite their chronic or autoimmune condition!
Dafne Wiswell is a Holistic Health + Life Coach passionate about helping women impacted by autoimmune disease find hope, healing and happiness. She helps clients conquer the overwhelm when it comes to living an abundantly healthy lifestyle because it's not just about what goes on your plate, rather, it's about putting together all the pieces of the puzzle that create a healthy life – food, movement, relationships, career and spirituality. Dafne's superpower is supporting women as they work to put those pieces together so they can achieve the picture of abundantly healthy living they've been dreaming of. You can find her a www.dafnewiswell.com and request her free Quick-Start Guide to Your Abundantly Healthy Life at bit.ly/foodcheats.