Health

Bath Bliss: Relaxing & Rejuvinating Recipes for Your Soaking Pleasure

Photo credit: Jennifer Liv of  Twin Cities Birth Photographers  

Photo credit: Jennifer Liv of Twin Cities Birth Photographers 

Soaking in a bath with added herbs, oils and minerals is a wonderful way to relax the mind and body. Did you know it is also excellent for healing and supporting overall health? There are many types of baths that can benefit you.  These simple, natural therapies can be used in the comfort of your own home, all while relaxing in your bath.

The following are a few examples of the different types of baths that can be enjoyed, and some of their health promoting properties that can benefit you. Whether it’s to help your body heal from a condition, or simply support and maintain your overall well-being, I am certain there is one for you to enjoy.

Herbal Baths

Adding herbal preparations to a warm bath can be very effective, as the healing properties of the herbs are delivered through the skin. Here are two ways to make an herbal bath.  

One is to put a handful of each herb you are using in a large pot. Fill the pot with water and heat to almost boiling, keeping a lid on the pot so the essential oils from the herbs don’t evaporate. Take the pot off the heat and let your bath infuse for 20 minutes to a few hours. Then strain the liquid directly into your tub, fill the tub the rest of the way  with water and your bath is ready.  

The other method is to fill a cloth, muslin bag or even a sock with your herbal mixture.  Close the top and toss your herb bundle into a tub filled with the hottest water you have.  Walk away for a while and give your bath time to cool down to a comfortable temperature.  When you come back your bath will have infused right in the tub!  This is a great method for making pre-packed baths to have next to your tub or even to give away as gifts.   

Dr. Amy's Favorite Herbal Bath Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup Rose petals
  • 1/2 cup Lavender flowers
  • 1/4 cup Green Tea leaves (try a rose or jasmine flavored tea)
  • Three drops Rose essential oil
  • Three drops Lavender essential oil
  • One drop Rose Geranium essential oil

This gentle, nourishing herbal bath tea recipe softens your skin and soothes your nerves. Deeply relaxing and healing, antioxidant-rich lavender, rose and green tea help fight the signs of aging. Scented with precious rose essential oil, this yummy aromatherapy bath recipe's sweet, floral scent brings you back to a healthy place of quiet peace.

Aromatherapy Baths

Here is wonderful and simple way to enjoy the healing powers of essential oils. While you enjoy the pleasant scents of the oils, you also allow for their healing properties to be inhaled into the lungs and diffused throughout the body. There are a multitude of beneficial effects available, simply based on the essential oil or blend of oils used in the baths. You may use calming oils to release tension, or soak in a soothing rose infused tub, or perhaps even try a uplifting blend of black pepper and juniper.

Dr. Amy's Favorite Aroma Bath Recipe:

  • 3 cups of epsom salt
  • 4 drops chamomile essential oil
  • 2 drops lavender essential oil.  

This is a wonderful relaxing bath to enjoy before bed.

Salt Baths

Epsom Salt Baths

Use 3-4 cups of epsom salt in a warm bath and soak for 30 minutes.  Epsom salt is wonderful for soothing muscles aches and is relaxing before bedtime.

Sea Salt Baths

Dissolve 5-8 cups of pure sea salt in warm bath water and soak for 15-30 minutes.  Sea salt brings the benefits of ocean water into the comfort of your home. This bath will benefit your circulation, neurological function, skin health, as well as aid in relaxation.

I will leave you with a cool fact: 60% of what you put on your skin is absorbed into your body, so bathing in herbal bath tea really does improve your health. Not only do you get the nourishing effect of the ingredients, but you also de-stress during your time in the tub. 

*Essential oils are not recommended to be used in the first trimeter of pregnancy.  In the second and third trimesters some essential oils are considered safe. It is always best to check with your provider to discuss any safety concerns before starting in pregnancy.

Does What I Eat During Pregnancy Matter?

Pregnancy Nutrition

In honor of March being National Nutrition Month, we thought it was a great opportunity to explore the importance of healthy eating during pregnancy. If you’re currently expecting, you’ve probably heard the expression, “eating for two,” more than once! But does that actually mean you need double the calories? And does what you eat really affect your baby to be? These are great questions and ones you might be contemplating if this is your first pregnancy. Here are 7 reasons it’s crucial to eat a balanced and nutritious diet while you are pregnant. 

  1. When you are pregnant, you need more protein, iron, folic acid, amino acids, calcium and other nutrients to meet your increased needs and the demands of your growing baby. While a prenatal vitamin is a great way to bridge nutritional gaps and should be part of your daily regimen, a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients is a necessary component of a healthy pregnancy.
  2. Although the saying is, “eating for two,” you actually only need an extra 300 nutrient rich calories per day while pregnant, not twice as many. Weight gain should be gradual throughout pregnancy with the majority being gained in the third trimester. 
  3. Your diet during pregnancy can impact major factors such as your baby’s birth weight, overall health and the incidence of disease later in life. For example, a diet rich in folic acid can reduce the risk of serious complications such as Spina Bifida and vitamin D is crucial for the development of your baby’s bones and teeth.
  4. Your weight gain during pregnancy can impact your health and the health of your unborn baby. Excess weight gain during pregnancy can lead to serious complications such as gestational diabetes, hypertension, postpartum hemorrhage and heart disease and type 2 diabetes later in life. Being undernourished during pregnancy can lead to problems for baby such as low birth weight, mental deficiencies and increased risk for chronic conditions such as heart disease.
  5. There is some evidence that suggests that your diet during pregnancy may impact your future child’s food preferences. The flavors in your food can actually alter the flavor of the amniotic fluid which can be detected by your baby. If you eat a diet that is high in sugar and fat, your child may be more likely to prefer these unhealthy foods. And conversely, if you eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and other essentials, your child may be more likely to favor these healthy options.
  6. Eating a fiber-rich diet during pregnancy can help combat the inevitable constipation caused by your increasing hormone levels. Fibrous foods like fruits and vegetables are also dense in essential vitamins and nutrients for your growing babe.
  7. An excessive amount of sugar and fat during pregnancy can put your baby at a higher risk for obesity later in life, mental disorders and impaired social and cognitive abilities. 

Most importantly, remember that what you eat during pregnancy becomes the primary source of nutrition for your baby. If you have questions about your nutritional needs or how much weight you should gain during pregnancy, talking to your care provider is a great place to start. They can advise you on the best prenatal vitamins and any additional supplements that may be needed in addition to helping you devise a healthy diet and exercise plan. For questions about healthy eating during pregnancy or for all inquiries related to natural birth, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. Our goal is to help you and your baby enjoy a healthy and happy pregnancy.

All About Exercise During Pregnancy

Pregnancy Yoga

You may think that pregnancy is a free pass to lie on the couch and indulge your cravings, but the reality is your body needs exercise just like when you’re not pregnant. Exercise during pregnancy has both physical and emotional benefits for mom from reducing the occurrence of backaches and other bodily discomforts to boosting your mood and energy level. Although some considerations must be taken to ensure your exercise regimen is safe for you and baby, in most cases, you can continue with your pre-pregnancy routine with moderation. Even if you weren’t previously an active person before pregnancy, now’s a great time to speak with your care provider about incorporating a healthy amount of exercise into your daily routine. Here are some of the most important things to know about exercise during pregnancy.

The Benefits:

There are many ways that exercise can benefit your mind and body while you are pregnant. Just a few of these benefits include:

  • Improved posture
  • Stress relief
  • Warding off illness
  • Improved sleep
  • Preventing excess weight gain
  • Reduced back pain
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Better mood
  • More energy
  • Less fatigue
  • Reduced chance of developing gestational diabetes
  • Building stamina and endurance for labor
  • Reduced risk of having a baby that is born too large
  • Reduced risk for postpartum depression and anxiety
  • Preventing pregnancy-related high blood pressure

How Much Exercise?

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that pregnant women get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day, most days per week. This recommendation applies to women with healthy normal pregnancies and no known complications that would make exercise dangerous for them or their baby. 

Which Exercises Are Safe?

As a general rule of thumb, you want to exercise at a moderate level in which you feel comfortable, not one in which you are straining yourself. A good gauge for determining if an exercise is too strenuous is to see if you are able to carry on a conversation while doing it. If you are so out of breath that it is difficult or uncomfortable to talk, you are probably pushing yourself too hard. It’s also always important to remember to warm up, cool down and stay hydrated just as you would if you were not pregnant. Some safe and healthy exercises for pregnancy include:

  • Swimming
  • Low impact aerobics
  • Walking briskly
  • Elliptical machines
  • Stationary cycling machines
  • Yoga
  • Tennis and racquetball with caution
  • Jogging in moderation
  • Strength training with light weights

Exercises to Avoid:

  • Any activity that requires considerable balance or coordination
  • Any contact sport (soccer, football, softball, basketball, volleyball, etc.) 
  • Anything that requires you to hold your breath
  • Any activity involving jumping, hopping, bouncing, running intensely, or skipping
  • Anything with the possibility for abdominal trauma such as sports that require quickly changing directions or jarring movements
  • Fall risk sports (riding horses, skiing, snowboarding)
  • Any activity that requires you to lie on your back after the first trimester
  • Exercises that involve waist twists
  • Sit-ups
  • Double leg raises
  • Straight leg toe touches
  • Deep knee bends
  • Any exercise in hot or humid weather
  • Scuba diving
  • Gymnastics
  • Water skiing
  • Surfing
  • Exercise in high altitude

Although most pregnant women can safely engage in a regular exercise routine, there are some circumstances and medical conditions that may prompt your care provider to advise against physical activity. These circumstances may include:

  • Presence of medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, lung disease or diabetes
  • Threatened or recurrent miscarriages
  • Weak cervix
  • Low placenta
  • Previous incidents of premature labor or birth
  • Pregnancy related high blood pressure
  • Carrying multiple babies

You should always speak with your health care provider before incorporating any new exercise into your daily regimen while pregnant. They can best advise you as to whether or not your exercise plans are healthy and beneficial and help you come up with a plan that works for you. It’s also important to remember to listen to your body. If you find yourself feeling dizzy, short of breath, experiencing chest pain or heart palpitations, or if you are having any pregnancy related complications such as bleeding, fluid leakage, contractions or decreased fetal movement, stop exercising immediately and contact your care provider. 

Exercise done safely and in moderation can be a great way to stay healthy, improve your mood and take care of yourself and baby during pregnancy. Simply use caution and good judgment, and you should be able to enjoy a normal physical fitness routine. Health Foundations offers a variety of fitness class opportunities for moms and moms-to-be ranging from Candlelight Yoga to Postpartum Core Training and more. To learn more about these great opportunities to stay mentally and physically fit, click here.

Optimal Nutrition in Pregnancy: A Primer

At Health Foundations, we know that nutrition during pregnancy is paramount.  Overwhelming scientific and anecdotal evidence shows that excellent maternal nutrition almost always results in healthy moms and healthy babies, while poor nutrition leads to complications. Nutrition Primer PostThe pressure of busy lifestyles and weight ideals, plus lack of knowledge about nutrition are major obstacles to optimal health for many women—add to these feelings like nausea, fatigue, and other physical stresses of pregnancy and it can be extra challenging to eat right in pregnancy.  But by educating yourself about nutrition in pregnancy, taking this time to really honor and nurture your body and your baby, and listening to your intuition; you can achieve excellent nutrition during pregnancy—when its more important than ever.

There is much to be said about nutrition during pregnancy—too much for one blog post.  In future posts we’ll explore in greater detail the fundamentals of optimal pregnancy nutrition with special focus on:

  • the essential nutrients (i.e. protein, iron, calcium, vitamins A, D, C, E, and Bs, etc),
  • optimal foods in pregnancy, and
  • the use of supplements.

For this introductory post, we wanted to share some of the top advice we give to pregnant mamas in our practice about pregnancy and nutrition.

1  Don’t “Eat for two”—Eat for optimal health.  While you should listen to your body for what it tells you it needs, it’s important not to give into frequent cravings for junk or processed foods, sweet foods, and other calorie-packed treats.

Strive to eat a wide variety of minimally processed, whole foods.  Limit simple carbohydrates such as dairy and sweets and opt for veggies, meats (or other sources of protein) and a small amount of fruits. Eat organic whenever possible and avoid high mercury fish (such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, walleye or tilefish).  Read more about fish here.

2  In terms of serving sizes and overall caloric intake, pregnant women only need about 200-300 more calories a day in the second and third trimesters—which is the equivalent to an extra small snack a day.

3  Protein, protein, protein.  Protein is so, SO important in pregnancy, and women need a lot of it during this period.  In fact, women should aim to consume about 4-6 servings totaling 80 grams of protein every day.  Women should strive to incorporate some protein into every meal and every snack throughout the day.

4  Frequent meals and snacks will help maintain a healthy blood sugar, which is important in pregnancy.  It can also reduce unpleasant conditions like nausea and fatigue.  Women should strive to eat every few hours, keeping meals smaller and snacks frequent throughout the day.

5  In terms of beverages, it is important to stay hydrated by drinking at least 6-8 cups of water every day.  Pregnant women should limit fruit juices and milk, which are packed with sugar, and reduce or eliminate caffeine.  Besides water, good liquids to consume in pregnancy include nutritive herbal teas (tisanes) such as nettle, raspberry leaf, and chamomile; EmergenC; and POM juice mixed with a little sparkling water.

6  No ice cream!  We know some of our mamas hate this one, especially during a Minnesota summer.  But we say this with good reason (and not to be mean!).  Ice cream is too highly concentrated with fat, sugar, and calories to eat safely on a regular basis during pregnancy.  Truly, we have seen the effects of frequent ice cream consumption on many women in our practice: they often have bigger babies and remarkably more difficult deliveries.    We strongly recommend that women avoid ice cream or strictly limit it to no more than a small serving once a week at the most.

7  While food aversions may keep you away from some foods (including vegetables), do your best to eat healthy despite these limitations.  We can work with you to come up with healthy choices that don’t make you gag at the sound of them.

8  Listen to your body and be kind to yourself.  Your body intuitively knows how to nurture its creations (i.e. your baby)—pay attention to how foods make you feel and to which foods you are drawn.  Practice kindness toward yourself during this time by nourishing your body not only with good foods, but with adequate rest, movement, and relaxation.

9  Enlist support.  Seek help from your partner or other close family/friends in meeting your nutritional needs (i.e. shopping for and making healthy foods).

10   Seek help from your midwives if you have any questions or concerns about healthy eating in pregnancy.

Stay tuned for more articles about nutrition in pregnancy.