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August 18, 2009

Foods to avoid in pregnancy

I'm not too strict about this. Recent research shows that the stress and guilt women feel about drinking alcohol whilst pregnant has MORE effect on the unborn child than the alcohol itself. So chill out and enjoy your food. This is the most important thing.

However it is sensible to avoid certain foods where possible. Avoid anything that is too potent, sharp, pungent, hot or strong. Foods or herbs that cause uterine contractions, have a laxative effect or promote bleed should all be avoided.

I'm about to give you a big list of foods to avoid, but I want to start by saying it doesn't really matter. These foods are mostly fine in moderation. Turmeric in culinary quantities ( a pinch in a family meal) isn't a worry, but medicinal quantities (such as 1/2 teaspoon three times a day) is not such a good idea. My dad's rosemary potatoes are still on the menu but rosemary essential oil is not going in my bath.

I'm not trying to suggest that the foods on this list will cause you to miscarry, that is not the case at all. Actually it's more subtle, for example some of these foods will aggravate the baby and others may increase your pregnancy symptoms.

If you are early in pregnancy you may want to take more care to avoid foods on this list but once your pregnancy is well established you should be able to take them in food quantities, but still avoid medicinal quantities. Especially avoid the if your pregnancy is fragile or complicated.
  • laxatives including triphla and aloe vera
  • emmenagogues
  • neem
  • asafoetida
  • garlic
  • chilli
  • nutmeg
  • fenugreek
  • cloves
  • sage
  • thyme
  • rosemary
  • nigella seeds
  • poppy seeds
  • honey (this is contested, but I prefer to use jaggary which is excellent for pregnancy)
  • licorice root
  • oregano
  • dandelion root (leaves are fine)
  • dill
  • fennel
  • neem
  • sesame
  • ginger (ginger is great for morning sickness, but only in moderation, a pinch of grated fresh ginger in a cup of hot water should suffice)
  • turmeric
  • parsley
Of course if you are pregnant and you have been eating these please don't panic, everything is fine in moderation. You'd have really make an effort to eat enough poppy seeds to affect your pregnancy. It wouldn't happen by accident after eating a piece of multigrain bread. Just try and avoid making these foods your daily, staple diet.

In pregnancy your nausea and super smelling power will guide you to avoid certain foods. Garlic and vinegar both send my stomach reeling these days, your body will tell you what to do!


Lissa said...

One problem I have with ayurvedic dietary rules (e.g., as put forward in Maya Tiwari's books) is that following them would often lead one to eat out-of-season produce. To me, it is far more important to eat healthy, happy vegetables that are grown in season than it is to be sure sure that I am balancing the various tastes properly for my doshic needs. When I experimented iwth this a few years back (briefly, admittedly), I ended up eating things that I did not enjoy (*must* have those yellow squash!), that were not in season, and often were not available organically grown. And this was when I was living alone; I cannot fathom how this is supposed to be managed for a household.

I also got suspicious and worried about the herbal supplements I was advised to take (ashwagandha, and some other things). At the time I was having a liver scare (high enzymes; they thought I had autoimmune liver disease - - but it turns out I am probably fine), and I just stopped taking all supplements, vitamins, etc., of any kind. (Now I take a prenatal vitamin and some extra iron, though.)

Anyway, what are your thoughts on ayurvedic dietary rules? Some principles of ayurveda make a lot of sense to me, but it seems some of this stuff can very quickly get out of hand.

Julia said...

I would only take herbs as advised by a trusted Ayurvedic doctor, and don't recommend self medicating. I went to about four different practitioners (various qualifications) before I found one who I trust. Herbs are very strong and contrary to what some people say they do have very strong side effects if not taken/balanced properly. But they also work.

I love Maya Tiwari's philosophy, but haven't really looked into her dietary advice. I trust Dr Vasant Lad's dietary guidelines above all else.

Having said that, I agree, us westerners tend to be nuerotic enough about diets as it is is. Stressing about what we eat will ruin the good quality of any food!Enjoying food (even chocolate and icecream) will give you good feelings and help raise your ojas, unless you are excessive or you feel guilty. Dr Robert Svoboda (who I also highly recommend) says that the mind is much more important to health than the body, so you are what you think, more than you are what you eat.

Ayurveda does definitely recommends eating local, organic and seasonal foods. Maybe you are reading books written by people who live in different places to you so what is available to them is different to what is available to you.

Try not to think about Ayurveda as rigid rules. It is an art as well as a science. I have eaten at least half of those things the avoid list during my pregnancy, but I don't eat them as part of my staple diet, or take them in high concentrates, for example medicinally.

It's easier to think of your needs in terms of balancing the elements, rather than specific food items. I'm an airy person so I should eat more watery food, in winter I should eat more firey food. Listen to your taste buds and your body and you are eating Ayurvedically-you don't need to read any book!