Category Archives: Nutrition

Fertility – Sleep may affect sperm quality

Are you trying to conceive? So much attention is focused on a woman’s fertility because our reproductive systems and hormones are more varied and complicated. You might be exercising, eating well, perhaps taking some herbs or acupuncture. You may have also thought about your partner’s sperm quality and it can be improved.  

But have you made sure your partner is getting enough sleep? 

Some new research has just come out linking the length of a man’s sleep to the quality of  his sperm. 

A research project in China has shown that sleeping for less or more than seven hours a night could reduce men’s sperm quality.  

Researchers found that sperm from men who slept for more than nine hours or less than six and a half hours a night had lower volume of and lower total sperm count

Scientists noted that the sperm quality was at its best when men snoozed for seven to seven and a half hours a day.

Fertility Nutrition

Anna, our Nutritional Therapist, can work with you on your diet if you are trying for a baby to get you in the best shape for pregnancy. Sometimes simple dietary changes can improve your hormones, immune system and feelings of wellbeing. 

The best results come from both partners looking at their diet and getting into top pre-conception form, and we can run double appointments if you’d like to come along together.  Contact Anna for a free 15 minute appointment to discuss what you are looking for. Even if you don’t book she may be able to provide some ideas for you to investigate and try at home. 

Anna – 07812010412 or email on info@the-gentle-touch.com 

 

Pregnancy Nutrition

Pregnancy Diabetes – what is it and what to eat?

What is Gestational / Pregnancy Diabetes?

Gestational diabetes means you’ll have too much glucose in your blood. This happens because an increase in pregnancy hormones means you’re less sensitive to insulin, which helps glucose get into the cells where it can be used.

What are the issues with having diabetes in pregnancy?

Complications associated with gestational diabetes are an increased risk of a large birth weight babies, which increase the risk of complicated delivery and caesarean section. There is also links between gestational diabetes and your baby being overweight or developing Type 2 Diabetes in later life.

It’s possible you won’t know you’ve got diabetes when pregnant until your midwife tests your urine. The signs include passing urine more often, increased thirst, and extreme tiredness – but these are common pregnant complaints anyway!

How to manage gestational diabetes

When you’re diagnosed with gestational diabetes, you should be given equipment so that you can regularly test your blood glucose levels at home.

You can significantly reduce your risk of developing gestational diabetes by managing your weight before and during pregnancy, eating healthily and keeping active.

Here are our food tips for managing your diet when pregnant:

  1. Careful with the carbs

Choose complex carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread, e.g. rye, and get your carbohydrates through starchy vegetables (sweet potato, parsnips). Avoid sugary cakes, breakfast cereals, white pasta & bread. Eat nutritious grains such as brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat and millet. Avoid ready meals which are full of sugar and salt. Bulk up your meals with protein and lots of vegetables. 

  1. Focus on nutrient value of food

Carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index (GI) foods help to control blood glucose levels – such as whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, granary bread, all-bran cereals, pulses, beans, lentils, muesli and porridge. Ensure you’re getting lots of healthy plant based fats like avocado, nuts and seeds, as well as oily fish to help boost your body and feed your baby. 

  1. Avoid sugary foods

Aim to reduce the amount of added sugar in your diet. You can do this by:

  • Better snacks – swapping cakes and biscuits for fruit with seeds, rice cakes or oatcakes with marmite / nut butters
  • Make some energy balls with nuts and seeds and dried fruits instead of chocolates and cakes.
  • Add ground seeds and nuts to your porridge for extra protein.
  • Swap juice and squash for water flavoured with fresh lemon, mint or cucumber.
  1. Eat small meals often

Avoiding long gaps in between meals and focus on three main meals a day. This will help you control your appetite and blood glucose levels. Ensure you are including lots of protein (fish, eggs, meat, beans etc) at each meal to keep you fuller for longer. 

  1. Exercise

Physical activity that raises your heart rate also lowers your blood glucose level, so regular exercise such as swimming, brisk walking or yoga can be an effective way to manage gestational diabetes. Aim for 150 minutes a week in 30 minute sessions.

  1. Get your 7 a day (5 vegetables and 2 fruit)

Use veg to bulk up your meals and snack on vegetable sticks instead of sweets, crisps and biscuits. Fibre in the vegetables will help you manage your insulin release. Don’t drink fruit juices and smoothies which are high in natural sugars. Eat no more than 2 pieces of fruit a day and eat with some protein to slow the absorption of sugars.

  1. Support your gut microbiome

Several recent studies have found taking a probiotic during pregnancy can reduce the risk and severity of complications associated with pregnancy diabetes. Consider taking a probiotic or eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi or kefir to support your gut bacteria.

If you’ve found these tips useful why not come along to our pregnancy nutrition seminar on 18th November where we’ll cover all sorts of pregnancy ailments. We also look at the key nutrients you need in pregnancy, and what to eat to meet these targets. http://the-gentle-touch.com/booking/pregnancy-nutrition-workshop/

 

 

pregnancy heartburn

Pregnancy Heartburn

How your body changes during pregnancy

Pregnancy Heartburn or Reflux can be very painful. You don’t have to ignore this and carry on, there are some small changes you can make to reduce the impact of the changes during pregnancy. 

As your pregnancy progresses the stomach is displaced upwards and rising progesterone levels relax the oesophageal sphincter so food and acid is more likely to come through. Also relaxin slows your digestion which means food stays in the stomach for longer.

How to help pregnancy heartburn through your diet

  • Eat less, more often – smaller meals will be easier for your body to digest rather than 3 big meals a day.
  • Avoid foods which make heartburn worse – such as citrus fruits and tomatoes, greasy or fried foods, spicy foods, chocolate, coffee and fizzy drinks and alcohol (some of these you should eliminate anyway!).
  • Liquidise – smoothies, soups and slow cooked stews are easier to digest. Keep up your vegetable intake through a daily smoothie mid-morning, or soup for lunch.
  • Avoid eating before bed or lying down so food doesn’t come up.
  • Peppermint tea also opens the oesophogael sphincter so avoid before bed.

Have you got your free Pregnancy Superfoods eBook yet? Download this from our website today. 

Pregnancy Nutrition Workshop

Join us on the 7th October to meet other expectant mums and learn what makes a healthy pregnancy diet. Find out how to support your body and your growing baby through food during pregnancy. Book online or contact us with any questions. 

Saturday 7th October, 10.30-12.30. 

The Elephant House, 1 Dean St, Southville, BS3 1BG

The workshop will be jammed with information about how you can easily eat healthily during pregnancy, and you can ask any questions to our registered nutritional therapist, Anna (BANT, CNHC). It’s fun, and there is no judgement about your diet, it’s supportive and gives you the tools to make healthy diet choices during pregnancy.  

Hope to see you there! 

 

BLW – Dealing with food waste

How do you deal with food waste in Baby Led Weaning (BLW)?

Baby Led Weaning can lead to some wasted food as your baby explores the motions of eating. For some babies picking up food, putting in their mouth can be rather messy with lots ending up on the floor. How should you deal with this food waste? 
 
If you’re giving your baby finger foods and a lot ends up on the floor how do you feel about it?
 
Some babies throw everything on the floor, it’s a kind of game to them, to see what happens when food gets dropped off the side of the highchair. They can see it as a kind of game and relish the reaction you give, so think about how you react when it happens. 
 
Some things you can consider are:
 
  • Limiting portion sizes so you only give a small amount at a time. When that’s eaten give a bit more.
  • If your baby throws the bowl off the highchair you can get bowls and plates with suction pads on to fix them to the tray.
  • Try a clean plastic floor covering (like a table cloth) under the high chair so food can be picked up and put back on the tray.
  • Remember it’s only a short while and whilst no-one wants to waste food it won’t be forever that your baby is exploring food in this way.
  • Limit meal times to 20 mins max – babies can get bored if left in their chair too long.
How do you deal with any food that gets dropped / thrown? Send us your tips or join our Facebook group (Baby Nutrition & Weaning) where we discuss tips for starting your baby on solid foods. 
 
If you’d like to learn more about Baby Nutrition and Weaning come to our next class or organise one for you and a group of friends at your home. Our bookings page has details of all our classes or email us to ask about organising a 1:1 session or private group class – info@the-gentle-touch.com 
 
 

Pregnancy Nutrition: Constipation

Hormonal changes during pregnancy have a relaxing effect on the digestive tract, which can slow down transit time through your bowels. Pregnancy constipation often occurs mostly in the first trimester, but 4 in 10 women get constipation during pregnancy.

What to eat to help pregnancy constipation

  • Ground flax seeds can help form a soft stool
  • Include prunes, dried figs and raisins
  • Eat fresh fruit and vegetables to increase your fibre
  • Include beans, lentils and pulses in your diet

Flax Seeds

Lifestyle changes

  • Keep moving, walking is excellent exercise and helps regulate the bowels. Aim for 30 mins a day.
  • Drink lots of water or herbal teas.
  • Raise your feet up on a low stool when doing a poo. Squatting is a more natural position and can help the bowels to open.
  • Always go to the toilet when you feel you need to poo, holding onto it interferes with the nerve connection which allows us to let go.
  • Set a certain time of the day when you try to go, perhaps first thing in the morning, and after a meal.
  • Check your iron tablets if you’re taking them. Iron in the form of ferrous sulphate can cause constipation so look for an organic iron if this is a problem.
  • Avoid taking bran which can irritate your gut and inhibit the uptake of iron, calcium, magnesium and other minerals.

 

If you’ve found these tips useful why not come along to our pregnancy nutrition seminar on 7th October where we’ll cover all sorts of pregnancy ailments. We also look at the key nutrients you need in pregnancy, and what to eat to meet these targets. http://the-gentle-touch.com/booking/pregnancy-nutrition-seminar/

 

FREE Pregnancy Suprtfoods eBook – find out which foods can help you boost your nutrient intake during pregnancy to support a healthy pregnancy

 

Baby Weaning: My 6-9 month old baby isn’t interested in food!

It can be stressful if your baby doesn’t seem keen on solid foods. You want the best for your baby, and we all have an innate desire to feed the things we love (just see kids poking grass into a rabbits cage!) 

If your baby isn’t keen on eating as you introduce solid foods there are a couple of things to consider. (These pointers are for babies between 6-9 months in the first few months of weaning) 

  • Some people don’t take to food straight away – allow your baby time to explore food, putting together a picture of the smell, taste and texture of each food. 
  • Babies go through stages of growing, sometimes they eat more than others, so try to look at the trends over a week / month rather than a day.
  • Try not to panic – if your baby is still getting regular milk feeds with wet and dirty nappies he is still getting enough nutrients. At this stage food isn’t a major source of nutrients. The nutrient content of milk (mum’s milk or formula) won’t compare to a bit of carrot and some banana.
  • Offer what you’re having every time you sit down to eat and don’t make it a big deal. Sit down at the table together, put your baby in a highchair and give him the same as you, or offer him bits of your food whist you eat. 
  • If you’ve got to a point where you feel nothing is working and you’re really stressed then take a break for a couple of days.  Go back to milk only, and then start again 

If you’ve got past 9-10 months and your baby still isn’t interested in any food it might be worth getting some additional advice. Anna’s Baby Nutrition consultations are £45 for an hour, held at your home. FREE 15 minute phone consultations are available to see if you’d like to book a full session. 

Contact us for more details about the consultations or with any questions on weaning – info@the-gentle-touch.com. 

Develop healthy gut flora in your child

There is a lot we can do to improve the health of our children. Whilst the microbiome (gut flora) is developing we have an opportunity to improve how the immune system works.

Why is gut health important?

Around 70-80% of the immune system is in the gut and more research is always coming out that shows the link to our mental health, behaviours, insulin management and weight as well as links to hormones.

children holding grapes - The Gentle TouchYour baby’s microbiota is thought to develop in the womb, and more studies are coming out that support this hypothesis. Newborn babies have a complex microbial community within the gut within a few weeks of birth; this tends to fluctuate over the first 3 years of life when it becomes established.

Babies born via a vaginal birth have a more complex bacterial balance, but babies born by c-section gain the same bacterial complexity by 8 weeks of life. A more diverse bacterial mix can take up more room leaving less space for pathogens. Research is still in progress around whether the immune system is altered within this period of time and what we can do about it.

If one of the risk factors for an altered microbiome are present (born by c-section, formula fed baby, premature or significant time in hospital, early antibiotic treatment) then focussing on the diet and environment are particularly important.

How to help develop healthy gut flora for your children

  • Where possible breastfeed your baby for more than 4 months. Babies who were breasfed for more than 4 months show less types of bacteria in the gut.
  • Get a pet – Exposure to pets has been associated with reduced risk of atopic diseases like eczema, asthma and hay fever as well as obesity.
  • Play with the dirt – children growing up on traditional farms have very low rates of asthma, so exposure to animals and earth can help develop a healthy bacterial mix in the gut. More time outside and in nature can help.
  • Wash up by hand! – Allergic diseases are less common than in families who use dishwashers. A small amount of exposure to germs really helps the immune system develop. So you really don’t need to sterilise your baby’s dish and spoon once they start weaning.

Gut Health & Baby Weaning

Diet is an important way to support your baby’s gut health, especially for those babies who already are at risk of an altered microbiome. Here’s how you can help:

  • Fibre is an essential food for our health bacteria. We need fibre to feed the bacteria which produce Short Chain Fatty Acids – these increase serotonin production which improves our nervous system health and immune health. Add a variety of vegetables to your child’s diet every day. Aim for 5 veg a day.
  • Probiotic foods – add sauerkraut or kefir to your diet can help develop your immune health by increasing the beneficial bacteria. Consider a probiotic if not eating any fermented foods. From 6 months babies may take a little kefir (fermented milk or water) or sauerkraut juice in their food.
  • Prebiotic foods such as bananas, onions, garlic, asparagus, and leeks help to feed the ‘good’ bacteria in the gut.
  • Continuing to breastfeed for up to 2 years if possible to provide the ongoing immune support to your baby.

To find out more about how to support a health start to your child’s life get in touch. Anna offers a free 15 minute consultation to see how nutritional therapy can help you and your family.

Book onto our next Baby Nutrition & Weaning Class – or organise a private group class for you and friends at home.

Other blog posts you may enjoy:

What bread is best for my baby?

Baby Nutrition & Weaning – what are our classes in Bristol like? 

5 Reasons you don’t need Baby Rice

Think Zinc – Weaning your baby

 

 

Five Reasons Why You Don’t Need Baby Rice

Baby Weaning: Five Reasons Why You Don't Need Baby Rice

We are sold baby rice as a safe, easy food to start weaning your baby, and many of us were weaned onto this as children, so your family may put pressure on to start with baby rice, it’s the done thing, right?

Well, through research, we now know more about the gut and our microbiome, how childhood eating links to health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease and also nutritional profiles of food.

Here are 5 good reasons why you don’t need baby rice:

  1. White rice turns to glucose quickly

We all know we eat too many processed grains and simple carbohydrates. When we eat carbohydrates our saliva begins to breakdown the food into glucose. By the time baby rice, which is around 94% starch, hits the intestines it will be mostly all glucose. The more processed foods are broken down to glucose quickly, which sets a cascade of insulin release and blood sugar imbalances. It’s easy to see how we begin to get a preference for simple grains.

  1. It’s heavily processed

Baby rice is depleted of nutrients, processed white flour. It’s sometimes fortified with synthetic vitamins which are not as easy for the body to absorb or process as natural food based forms of the nutrients. It’s a kind of filler, which displaces other nutrient rich foods with no real value.

  1. Rice may contain arsenic

Rice is known to be high in arsenic, including in infant rice cereal.  Research last year into babies aged 6-12 months found rice cereal can markedly increase arsenic exposure among US infants relative to breast milk and formula.

  1. It’s outdated

Baby rice was introduced as a low allergen food that is easy to digest (because it’s so processed) which was important when babies were weaned very early on. The NHS advice now strictly advises babies are not fed solids until at least 4 months, with many parents waiting until 6 months to coincide with other physical developments such as sitting up, putting food in their mouth. This means babies are more ready for food at this later stage, and their gut is more developed so they can digest real food.

  1. It’s not real food!

Part of weaning is all about developing associations and experimenting with foods. If your baby is ready for solid foods they are also ready for flavours, textures and smells – there is no need to disguise food as textured milk and mix it with formula or expressed milk.

Want to know more about baby weaning? To find out more about what foods help your baby develop, when and how to introduce solids and ask any questions to our Nutritional Therapist come to one of our classes on Baby Nutrition and Weaning.

Book online or organise a group for you and some friends at your home – just email info@the-gentle-touch.com

 

 

Happy Family Mealtimes – tips for calm meals

Read our tips for calm family mealtimes to help your family eat together from Anna, our Nutritional Therapist working in Bristol.  

We recommend creating family mealtimes with your kids whenever you can. It’s not always possible to all eat together due to work patterns, but eating together can be a lovely routine in your day. It’s just not always easy, right? 

So it’s the end of the day, you’ve been at work, or you’ve had your children with you all day, you’re all tired, and you just want to get them fed, and into bed. But the bickering, shouting, food refusal and crying whilst you’re trying to cook, then feed them can really raise anyone’s stress levels. Especially when your own energy is low too.

Family Mealtimes

Family MealtimesWe’ve been running Baby Weaning classes for a little while now, and we begin by asking attendees to think about their own experiences of mealtime when growing up. What do you want to create in your own family, and what do you want to avoid? Did you have to sit at the table until you were finished, did you get rewarded for finishing vegetables with pudding?

Think about what kind of dinner time you positively want to choose to create with your own little ones. Ask yourself how this differs from what you actually do.

What changes can you make to help you feel calmer? (which don’t involve drinking a large glass of wine!) 🙂

 

 

How to create happy mealtimes

Here are some suggestions to support happy family meals

  • Eat with your children. If you are sitting down to eat as well there is less pressure then you watching them eat and hurrying through the meal.
  • Turn off all distractions like radio, laptops or TV. Make this a time when you concentrate on the food and conversation with your family.
  • Light a candle in the middle of the table – most people normally save candle light for special events, but using it every day can help to create a soft mood that is relaxing and a sense of occasion. Obviously the flame needs to be out of reach of little fingers!
  • Breathing before a meal – when we’re stressed our cortisol levels are high, which slows down our digestion. To help calm you before you start the meal take 3 deep breaths, in and out, to help reduce stress hormones. You can ask your children to join in too – can they make the flame in the middle of the table dance with their out breath?
  • Ask you children to help prepare the meal with you. Can they stir the sauce, or chop some soft foods with a blunt knife? Age dependant obviously, but getting kids involved in food preparation can sometimes help them to eat.
  • Get older children to help set the table and take responsibility for a small job around meal preparation.

Get talking

  • My children are 3 and 7 and we have recently introduced a new routine of asking each other about our day. We ask, ‘what was the best thing that happened today?’. Sometimes we go round again and ask ‘what was the next best thing that happened?’ and it’s a really lovely way to share the good parts of the day.
  • Obviously conversation doesn’t really work two ways with toddlers and babies, but you can still talk to babies about their food: What are they eating? What colour is it? Where does it come from? etc. You can also run through the day with your toddlers, ‘do you remember going to the park? It was fun going down the slide wasn’t it?’

Are you looking for tips on healthy meals for you and your family? Get in touch with Anna to find out how nutritional therapy can help you with your health goals. A free 15 minute health consultation is available on request – info@the-gentle-touch.com or 07812010412 to book yours.

Children holding grapes

 

 

Weaning Snack: Super Simple Banana Flapjacks

These are really lovely little treats you can make for your weaning baby, toddler, or just yourself! Very easy to make, a toddler can help with the stirring if you want to get older children involved. Will keep for a few days in the fridge in an airtight container.

 

Baby Weaning Banana Flapjacks

Ingredients

300g oats
80ml coconut oil (melted)
2 mashed bananas
50g pumpkin seeds (ground in Nutribullet or similar)

Method

Mix together and spread into a tin lined with greaseproof paper. Cook at a moderate heat – around 140C (Gas mark 3 or 4) – for 20 mins or until starting to brown. Let the tray cool and cut up into squares.

 

 

 

Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc which supports a healthy immune system, they contain essential fatty acids Omega 3 and 6 fats and also have and anti-parasitic effect (killing off nasties in our gut). Oats contain betaglucans which also help immune health and bananas are a good source of tryptophan which can help melatonin production, our sleep hormone.

Add other kinds of seeds to mix it up a little if you like. If you don’t have a powerful blender to grind up seeds to a powder, try ground almonds you can buy already powdered.

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