The Benefits of the Superfood Maca

By Carol Blair, BA, DiHom, CNC

Raw Maca PowderMaca is both adaptogenic and restorative in that it helps the body to adapt to stress and can help to recalibrate the body’s hormones. Maca has an incredible nutritional profile of potent phytonutrients that include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fiber, and fatty acids. This amazing plant can nutritionally fuel the endocrine system so that it is able to produce hormones regularly. Maca does not actually increase levels of any hormones, but encourages the body to produce them on its own. This is accomplished through maca’s targeted nourishment of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands (master glands of the body). These glands in turn regulate other glands, bringing balance to the adrenal, thyroid, pancreas, ovarian, and testicular glands. This can move the body toward a more optimal balance of estrogen and progesterone levels potentially reducing the severity and occurrence of migraine headaches.

Here are some additional bullets, reviewing the varying specific benefits of maca:

  • Great for menopause. Maca helps adrenals to naturally produce more estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone, as well as DHEA. Because maca works on the hypothalamus/pituitary axis, it is often helpful for hot flashes. The pituitary gets messages from the hypothalamus; the hypothalamus controls body temperature. Maca works quickly in helping reduce hot flash symptoms – often in 4-7 days.
  • Helps relieve hormonal depression.
  • Helpful for male impotence and erectile dysfunction; improves semen and motility.
  • Restores vaginal lubrication, libido, and endurance.
  • Helps with ovarian cysts, small uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and fertility whether because of low sperm or lack of ovulation.
  • Used in Peru to carry pregnancies to full-term (raises progesterone). Considered a nutritive tonic and adaptogen.

Dosage is difficult; more is not better. Men may need less than women. For women in menopause, start with one capsule. You may need to go up to 3-4 capsules.  If symptoms get worse, reduce dosage.

Don’t use maca with ginseng; it can over-stimulate and cause jitters or may elevate the cortisol levels.

Breastfeeding: You and Your Baby

By Laurel Sterling Prisco, MS, RD, CDN

It has been discovered through decades of research that breast milk is really the best for mom and baby! Many experts like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend that women breastfeed for one year or longer. If you are unable to breastfeed this long, try to breastfeed for at least the first month to ensure your baby reaps all the benefits from colostrum. There are many wonderful aspects and rewards from breastfeeding for both mother and child. It is nature’s most complete food for babies, and contains a perfect balance of nutrients needed for the child as they are growing and developing. Studies show that breastfed babies:

• Have a lower incidence of SIDS

• Receive mom’s antibodies to help develop a strong immune system

• Have a lower risk of allergies, asthma, and respiratory infections • Get fewer ear infections and are less likely to have diarrhea

• Reduce risk of childhood leukemia, juvenile-onset diabetes, and obesity in childhood and adolescence

Breastfeeding has many benefits for the mom as well such as:

• Convenience and cost

• Increases metabolism for faster weight loss

• Helps uterus to contract back to normal size

• Reduces risk of osteoporosis, Type-2 diabetes, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer

Mom should make sure to eat as nutritious and organic as possible. Also for her health and recovery and for nutritious breast milk, a post-natal multivitamin/mineral should be included. Look for one with 800 mcg of folic acid, and one that also includes zinc and iodine. Additional B vitamins are important as well for assisting with post-partum and the stress of delivery. They aid in the production of certain neurotransmitters that regulate mood (GABA, serotonin, and dopamine). Be sure that it contains calcium (citrate, malate), magnesium (citrate, malate, glycinate), and vitamin D3 for bone building, immunity, and relaxation in both mom and baby.

Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA in particular, which makes up approximately 20% of the human brain and nervous system) are crucial as well. Research from the National Institute of Health revealed that women with low DHA levels are more likely to suffer from postpartum depression. A woman’s demand for DHA increases dramatically during pregnancy, and will remain low for 9-12 months after delivery unless she supplements with it. Experts recommend a minimum of 300 mg of DHA per day. High levels of DHA are associated with children’s reduced incidence of allergies and diabetes. Also research has shown that children of women who took DHA during pregnancy and while lactating had higher IQs at age 4 than those whose mothers had taken a placebo.

Probiotics (beneficial bacteria) like lactobacillus reuteri, which was originally discovered in human breast milk, have a tremendous amount of benefits for the mother and child’s bowel health (colic) and immunity. Also don’t forget to try adding back in some exercise when you can. Exercise is a natural mood elevator. It releases those feel-good endorphins. Try walking with the baby in a stroller or carrier, or check out “mom & baby” yoga tapes. This counts as extra time bonding as well!

A Healthy Pregnancy

By Laurel Sterling Prisco, MS, RD, CDN

Congratulations…you are pregnant! Having a baby is one of life’s greatest miracles.

It is essential to look for a prenatal multivitamin that is safe, gentle, easily absorbable, and high-quality without dangerous mega doses. Things to look for in the multi would include:

(citrate or glycinate forms): Take 300-500 mg or more because the body’s demand increases during pregnancy (***watch for bowel tolerance)

If not able to tolerate this amount at one time, supplement in divided doses of 250 mg two times a day.

Pre-eclampsia, premature labor, and poor fetal growth are all tied to magnesium deficiency.

Natural Folate (a food source versus synthetic folic acid): Take 800 mcg/day to prevent neural tube defects.

The need for folate more than doubles during pregnancy.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that supplementing with folic acid the first 28 days of pregnancy reduced risk of NTD by 85 percent.

Insufficient folate is linked to low birth weight.

Calcium Citrate: Take 500 mg two times a day in addition to food sources high in calcium.

There is a link between low calcium levels and pregnancy-related hypertension.

Low levels of calcium cause more minerals to be leached from the bones, which is harmful to mother and child.

Vitamin D3 (1,000 IU): Current research shows that pregnant women with higher D levels have babies with stronger bones.

Iron (glycinate or gluconate): Take 20-30 mg a day or more.

Low levels of iron are associated with poor concentration, fatigue, increased infection, and postpartum depression for mothers.

A lack of iron may negatively affect interactions and bonding with baby.

Insufficient iron can cause low birth weight babies, and iron deficiency in infants.

(from kelp source or an added greens drink):

Iodine is needed for maintaining pregnancy.

A lack of iodine can lead to mental retardation, a learning disability, and poor physical development.

Zinc: Take 10-15mg a day.

Mom can become zinc deficient if supplementing with greater than 30 mg of iron.

Deficiency in mom may result in poor brain formation, learning problems, and low immunity.

Zinc deficiency is also associated with preterm babies.

Vitamin E (mixed tocopherol): Take 200-400 IU a day to help prevent miscarriages.

****NOTE- Discontinue 1-2 weeks before delivery due to a mild blood-thinning effect.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Take 1-2 grams per day from fish oil or high lignan flax oil.

This is critical for proper brain, eye, and nervous system development in utero. Moms pass large amounts to their babies during this time, and deficiencies for her can lead to postpartum depression. Also, any reserve she has is continuously depleted with each child born.

Especially needed the last trimester and 12 weeks after birth. This is when DHA demands are high for proper brain development.

Omega-3 fatty acids increases a child’s immune system and reduces risk of allergies in infants.

Choline: Take 200-500 mg a day to support neurological health and fetal brain development.

Probiotics: Take 1 billion CFU or more. Studies found that women who supplement with Lactobacillus GG during pregnancy and while breast-feeding can lower the risk of the child developing eczema.

Vitamin B6: Taking 10- 25 mg three times a day can help relieve nausea and vomiting. Women taking birth control during months prior to pregnancy may be at risk of B6 deficiency.

Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids: Take 500-1,000 mg a day.

Low intakes of vitamin C before and during pregnancy increase the risk of preeclampsia.

Low levels of bioflavonoids are implicated in recurrent miscarriages.

Vitamin C helps with vein and capillary strength, strengthens blood vessels of uterine wall, and tones skin elasticity.

Other considerations:

Herbs: A variety of herbs can be used for numerous issues one may encounter during pregnancy. Make sure the herbs are “class 1” (safe for use during pregnancy) according to the Botanical Safety Handbook of the American Herbal Products Association. Also some herbs have the potential for causing miscarriages or other serious problems; therefore, one should consult with an experienced and knowledgeable practitioner for their proper usage. A safe example is taking ginger for nausea.

Homeopathic remedies:
These will vary depending on the issue. An example is taking Ipecac, Nux vomica, or Nat mur for morning sickness.

Aromatherapy: certain essential oils are safe topically. Safe examples are lavender and chamomile for nausea or fennel and anise for heartburn.

Light yoga
or Pilates

***Please be sure to consult with a qualified practitioner (Ob-Gyn or midwife) who will work with you to set up an appropriate individualized plan pertaining to your specific challenges and health concerns.


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