Refuelling on essential nutrients for health and development

Pregnancy is really wonderful... Imagine that in 9 month’s time, starting from a simple cell, an entire human being is created! It’s almost as impressive as the building site for a family home...

But exactly like that building site, building plants (here, your DNA) just aren’t enough.. you’ll also need plenty of good quality building materials (nutrients) and to make sure that these are delivered exactly when your baby needs them!

Consequences of nutrient deficiencies

Deficits can negatively impact a baby’s development and sometimes have irreversible consequences...

1. Premature delivery

2. Stunted growth

3. Defects/deformities

4. Sight problems

5. Brain/behavioural abnormalities

6. Food intolerances, allergies, increased vulnerability to infections.

So, it’s important to prevent these as much as possible, starting even before pregnancy! Around 20-30% of women able to conceive already have a deficit before falling pregnant which will only get worse unless it is taken care of.

Essential nutrients for a baby’s healthy development


Iron: Iron deficiency can cause growth delay, premature delivery, increased susceptibility to infections and hyperactivity.

Iodine: Iodine deficiency can lead to miscarriages and premature delivery. There has previously been a particularly serious iodine deficit found in the Alpine valleys, leading to dwarfism and significant mental retardation.

Zinc: Zinc deficiency is also responsible for premature delivery and growth delay.

Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids: Fatty acids contribute to the creation of cell membranes. This means that an omega-3 deficiency can have an impact on each and every cell... this deficiency which also reduce utero-placental circulation and will therefore interfere with the transfer of nutrients from the mother to her baby.

A lack of long chain fatty acids can cause irreversible lesions in the brain: mental retardation, vision and auditory problems, growth delay.

It can also lead to long-term consequences in the future child and even the future adult: neurological problems, memory and concentration problems, depression, vision problems, cardiovascular illness, metabolic illness, obesity and immunity problems...

Future generations can also be negatively affected by the bias of poor genetic programming.

Something to keep in mind: The integration of pre-formed long chain fatty acids (EPA and DHA) in the foetal brain is ten times faster than the synthesis using precursors!

Vitamin D: This is essential for strong bone structure: a lack of Vitamin D can lead to rickets and neonatal hypocalcemia.

Magnesium: A magnesium deficit during pregnancy increases hypersensitivity to stress which can become lifelong. It also increases chances of hyperactivity and autism.

Vitamin B9: This is necessary for proper cell division. A lack of Vitamin B9 can be responsible for neural tube defects (spinabifida, cleft lip).

How can I get the right nutrients?

Avoid ‘empty’ foods such as processed sugars, refined flours, soda drinks...

Opt instead for ‘superfoods’, rich in nutrients: liver, wheatgerm, beer yeast, dried vegetables, eggs...

Vary your protein intake:
- Organic eggs: Vitamin D, Omega 3, Vitamin B12
- Nuts and grains: Omega 3, Zinc, Vitamin E
- Organic meats: Omega 3, Iron, Vitamin B12
- Fish and shellfish: Vitamin D, Omega 3, Zinc, Selenium, Vitamin B12 - Lentils and beans: Iron, Folic Acid

Increase your intake of vegetables with green leaves (spinach, green cabbage, kale, chard, rocket salad, sorrel...): These are rich in iron, folic acid, Vitamin B6 & E.

Remember that for all of these nutrients to be correctly absorbed, a healthy gut capable of efficient absorption with a healthy gut flora is essential!

References

Lerchbaum E, Obermayer-Pietsch BM, “Vitamin D and fertility – a systematic review”, European Journal of Endocrinology

Sayers A, Tobias JH., “Estimated maternal ultraviolet B exposure levels in pregnancy influence skeletal development of the child”, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2008

• Helland I, Smith L, Saarem K, Saugstad OD and Drevon CA (2003) Maternal supplementation with very long-chain n-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and lactation augments children's IQ at 4 years of age. Pediatrics 111: E39–E44.