Pregnant Mom’s: Eat Your Water

Water

Article by Alisha Guthery-Morse. Image by Dominique Seller.

May I speak frankly? I am eighth months pregnant now and I can deal with being bigger, after all there is a baby in my belly; I can even deal with all of the hormone changes and the fact that I cry while watching American Idol; I, however, cannot deal with, and insist on drawing the line at, feeling constipated all of the time.

Anyone that knows me knows that this is a subject that I do not shy away from. I talk, and complain about this injustice often enough to annoy even the most tolerant of friends (I am somewhat sorry about this). So the other day, amid a much-needed haircut, it wasn’t completely out of the ordinary that when asked about my pregnancy my response was simply, “So far so good, expect for the fact that I’ve felt constipated for the past week”. My stylist, thankfully, didn’t flinch and concurred that this was an unfair cruelty that mothers-to-be must endure.

But must we? I mean, with all that is already uncomfortable about pregnancy is it really necessary to have to deal with this unpleasantness as well?

Many of us understand that one well-known combatant to constipation is drinking more water. I don’t think I need to point out that this can be difficult for us pregnant ladies, as our bladders are already taxed by the frequent bladder-baby-kicks (POW!) and the trillion daily bathroom runs. With this in mind, I would like to propose a different approach – getting more water through your food

I am not talking about eating a head of iceberg lettuce a day, although this wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world, but rather I would like to suggest a two-punch approach: 1. Choose foods that have a high water content naturally, and 2. Vary your cooking methods to include more opportunity to obtain abundant water through your food.

While studying Macrobiotics at The Natural Epicurean in Austin, Texas, I learned that constipation is sometimes best understood as having either an “excessive” or “deficient” condition.

Having an excessive condition is much like what it implies: the body has too much and is having a difficult time ridding itself of the waste. Usually mixtures of herbs and/or home-remedies are an easy fix for this. Sadly, this fix isn’t recommended for pregnancy, particularly during the first and third trimesters when these types of remedies can be too stimulating.

Conversely, having a deficient condition can be defined as having too little fluid and/or blood in the body. However, unlike those who experience excess, soothing a deficiency isn’t as easy as whipping up a home-remedy, and bouncing back from this can take time and a fair amount of persistence.

It is my contention that pregnant women who feel constipated have a tendency toward one extreme or the other. Meaning, they have either an excessive or deficient condition. Looking closely at my own condition, which has a propensity toward dryness and anemia, I believe myself to be well within the realm of deficiency.

Luckily, the first rule (above) tells us that choosing foods that are naturally high in water is a good thing. Even more encouraging is the fact that these foods can be a fix for both excessive and deficient conditions, as they help to lubricate the intestines.

According to Paul Pitchford, in “Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition”, some foods that are both high in water and that help promote movement include: cabbage, papaya, asparagus, spinach, banana, sesame seeds, honey, pear, prune, peach, apple, apricot, walnut, pine nut, almond, carrot, cauliflower, beet, sea vegetables. (Note: Pitchford recommends that these foods not be eaten exclusively, but rather should be supplemented in a balanced diet consisting of whole vegetables, grains, and beans.)

Furthermore, foods that should be avoided for both excessive and deficient conditions are: all products with baking soda and baking powder, alcohol, tea, yeasted bread, and all refined “white” foods, such as sugar and flour.

The second suggestion that may help add more water to your diet, and one that is quite often overlooked is to vary your cooking methods and include more water. This rule can be best understood by simply recognizing how water content is used in cooking. For example, a bowl of oatmeal has more available water than a bagel, based on the simple fact that oatmeal is wet and a bagel is dry. Pre-soaked and boiled beans and grains placed in a soup or eaten by themselves contain more water than those same grains and beans baked in a loaf, as the loaf dries out in the oven while cooking. Likewise, quickly blanching, boiling, or steaming your greens bring more water content to the vegetable than roasting or stir-frying with oil.

Soaking, boiling, steaming, and blanching are all phenomenal cooking methods to add to your diet. But again, there is no need to be exclusive. Utilizing at least one method per meal should prove beneficial.

I would like to interject here to address those of you who are concerned about using more water in your cooking, as the current school of thought is that much of the foods’ vitamins and minerals are lost in water cooking. While I agree that boiling carrots until they are as soft as baby food isn’t very nutrient-rich, and I am certainly not advocating this, what I am suggesting is that you process your food in a way that facilitates digestion.

Macrobiotics, and likewise those that have studied healing cooking traditions, know that soaking beans and rice prior to cooking doesn’t just reduce overall time, and steaming kale isn’t just a delicious way to eat kale, but rather, when your body is “off”, these methods are much more intentional: they bring water to your intestines to increase digestibility. Think about when your baby is nearly a year old and you introduce him or her to solid food. You aren’t going to simply place a few carrot sticks on a plate. Instead, you are going to soften them in water, and then blend them. Why? You guessed it – to make them more digestible.

As a pregnant woman, I understand that it is nearly impossible to eat perfectly all of the time. (I often find myself craving a deliciously frosted cake donut, which is like glue for the intestines but I still give in occasionally). So for those times that you can’t (or won’t) be the “better angel of your nature”, to quote our 16th president Abraham Lincoln, you can help optimize your digestion by chewing your food really, really well. Heck, in the name of constipated pregnant women everywhere, let’s do this all of the time anyway – okay?

Another tip to help cure constipation and promote better digestion, pregnant or not, is to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. I like to do this first thing in the morning. I get up, get outside, breathe in some good air, and stroll for good “movement”.

I am well aware that some people will read this and think to themselves,  “constipation while pregnant – really? That wasn’t my experience at all.” Still, others will completely relate to my experience. I have learned that, as with everything in life, one size does not fit all, and what one experiences in their body could be totally different from another, even when the two people share the same condition. This is okay with me, as it is not my intention to be one-sided, but rather to advise, and be reverent of all beliefs and experiences. In other words, take all of this advice for what it is worth; just know that it worked for me.  Thank goodness.

 

9 Comments

  1. Ruth says:

    Much appreciated for the information and share!

    Reply
  2. “Love is the flower you’ve got to let grow.” ~ John Lennon

    Reply
    • Keisha says:

      A million thanks for posting this information. I’ve been suffering from headaches and this totally answered my questions! Love it.

      Reply
  3. Natalie R. says:

    Good article!! thank you! I just signed up to your blog.

    Reply
  4. Lori H. says:

    Great blog site.. Appreciate all the work you do to help us stay healthy and have a healthy pregnancy :)

    Reply
  5. Malia says:

    Thanks for the cool health tips. I will definitely use it for my next baby :)

    Reply
  6. Glynis G says:

    I like this blog. Enjoyed this article and am hoping for more posts soon. Thanks for making your information accessible and free to our community.

    Reply
  7. Marylin G says:

    Love the read. I’m currently pregnant and always looking for resources. This hit home, thanks so much. Please print more articles geared toward pregnancy!

    Reply
  8. Lara says:

    Well written – thank you for putting in time and effort to create wonderful articles.

    Reply

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