The Better Baby Book.
I’ve been waiting for The Better Baby Book: How to Have a Healthier, Smarter, Happier Baby, by Lana & Dave Asprey, to come out for some time and have enjoyed reading it, and think it is a welcome addition to the ‘must read’ books for aspiring parents. I’ve been listening to Dave Asprey’s ‘Bulletproof Executive’ podcast for a few months so knew he had some interesting and original ideas on nutrition, stress-reduction and lifestyle approaches and had high hopes for the book. I haven’t been disappointed, and while you may not be ready to implement all their advice, there is a lot you will definitely want to apply.
Before summarizing their overall approach, to highlight just one useful fact in the book, they warn readers that the advice to take folic acid is an error in that it is better to take folate which is the active form of this B vitamin. When taking folic acid only a small percentage of folic acid converts to the active form, which is called folate or folinic acid. It is sometimes marketed as tetrahydrofolate or 5-MTHF. For many couples this one piece of advice alone is worth the price of the book.
The book lays out a road map to a healthy pregnancy organized around four pillars:
- Eat the Right Foods
- Take the Right Supplements
- Detoxify your body before, during and after pregnancy
- Minimize stress.
Eat the Right Foods.
“The Better Baby” diet is essentially a low-carb paleo diet. Paleo, short for paleolithic, diets are great for eating nutrient dense foods and eliminating food toxins. In short, paleo diets recommend that you eat animal products (meat, fish, seafood, eggs) and plants (fruit, vegetables, roots and tubers) whilst avoiding grains (wheat, barley, oats, rye, corn), most dairy (milk, cheese, etc) and legumes (kidney beans, chickpeas, etc). Dave claims to have come up with this version of the paleo diet from the ground up by using his knowledge of biochemistry. Whether a really low carb diet is optimal for pregnancy I’m not sure. If you are overweight, especially if you have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), this strategy could really boost your fertility. But if you are active and not overweight I think eating more safe starches could be a good idea. For a higher carb version of the paleo diet take a look at “The Perfect Health Diet”.
Take the Right Supplements.
I tend to be a lot more conservative about recommending supplements than I used to be, largely because the evidence isn’t always there to recommend this practice. For instance, taking antioxidants has been shown to have largely negative impacts on our health. Vitamin C for example has been shown to block the effects of athletic training. Other supplements, such as vitamin D3, can be crucial to ensure our health.
Dr Terry Wahls has developed ‘a structured paleo diet’ which provides optimal nutrition through food which she used to overcome her Multiple Sclerosis. Eating in this way is surely optimum, but I know that many people would find it very difficult to chomp their way through this many vegetables on a daily basis. There is evidence that fruit and vegetables are less nutritious than they used to be, as modern farming practices tend to deplete the goodness from the soil. So it may be judicious to supplement carefully, especially when we are wanting to optimize nutrition for fertility and pregnancy. This chapter of the book is very well thought out and will help you make the difficult decisions over which supplements you take. Advice is given for both men and women.
Detoxify your body before, during and after pregnancy.
The better baby book goes beyond the usual advice in other paleo diets to avoid toxins in foods and gives great advice on how to avoid environmental toxins. It goes into detail about the harm caused my mycotoxins and how to avoid them. This is advice I haven’t read anywhere else and for me this alone was worth buying the book. To quote from the book:
Perhaps our most surprising topic is a class of toxins called mycotoxins that are produced by molds and are common in human and animal food supplies. Mycotoxins are so toxic to animal embryos that farmers actually test animal feed before giving it to pregnant animals. Many of these toxins closely resemble the primary female hormone estrogen, so they confuse the mother’s and baby’s estrogen receptors, leading to early (precocious) puberty in young girls, impaired fertility in mothers, and low sperm count and shrunken testes in boys and men. Since they’re hormone disrupters, these toxins have an effect at very low concentrations, even those measured in parts per billion. There are no government standards or tests required for some of these toxins, and we believe there is evidence that the current levels of them that are legally permitted in processed foods is far too high for pregnant women to be eating.
Minimizing stress involves thinking positively and managing your emotions. The topic of emotions and stress is something many of us don’t pay much attention to, but it’s essential for a healthy pregnancy.
The better baby book talks about stress and pregnancy, and discusses where stress comes from. After discussing where stress comes from they give some great ideas on reducing stress. From the importance of sleep and how to improve it they go on to the importance of getting enough exercise and of not overtraining. Sections follow on breathing techniques (pranayama), meditation, heart rate variability training and more.