IT TAKES extraordinary courage to be a mother. We have our moms to thank for everything that we are now, simply because they chose to carry us in their wombs for more or less nine months. We wouldn’t have been the formed being that we are were it not for their decision to make sure we would be borne into this world, into this life.
The journey of motherhood actually begins even before a child is conceived. This is why the nutrition of the would-be mother is crucial prior to conception, otherwise known as the pre-conception phase. Thus, planning for a baby would involve making sure the would-be mother’s health is in optimal condition to create an environment conducive for the baby to thrive and develop normally in all aspects.
As research recently said, intellect is likely inherited from the mother. Besides that, even our immune system depends a great deal on the health of the mother both during pregnancy and lactation (breastfeeding) because antibodies are passed on to the infant through breast milk.
Probably the most commonly known nutrient essential to women of childbearing age is folic acid, also known as folate or Vitamin B9. Its name “folate” is actually derived from the word “foliage”, which gives us a clue of where this is found — dark green leafy vegetables such as malunggay, broccoli, spinach, kale, lettuce and cabbage, as well as in beans. Chickpeas are a great source of folate, too. Supplementation is usually recommended for women but I would also encourage us to obtain nutrients from its natural sources as much as possible.
Since this is one of the water-soluble B vitamins as well, it would be best to take this together with a B-complex vitamin supplement, especially one with B12 or cobalamin. This is actually the power duo to prevent anemia, besides being co-factors in DNA formation and hormone production. Couple with vitamin C as this also helps in the absorption of these vitamins and even with the absorption of iron.
Speaking of anemia, iron is another nutrient that women need for childbearing. As women are naturally prone to iron deficiency because of the menstrual period, this need is further heightened during pregnancy because of the increased demand of blood supply for the developing fetus.
As mentioned earlier, the immune system of the child is obtained from the mother. Probiotics is our gut’s best friend and one thing you should know about the immune system is that 80 percent of this is actually rooted in our gut — the health of our digestive tract. The gut is where metabolism and absorption of nutrients take place and that is why it is vital to protect the integrity of our gut. Most of us may not be protecting our gut with the way we eat, so most likely, we all need to restore the health of our gut, and this is achieved through the probiotic intake. This may be supplemented, but natural probiotic sources can be found in fermented products such as kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha. Yes to Korean food!
Fat is definitely not our enemy. There are fats we actually need, which we call essential fats. These are omega-3 and omega-6. However, omega-6 is something we don’t have to worry about getting because we get more than enough of this from our regular diet that includes vegetable oils and meats. In fact, we tend to eat too much omega-6 that the ideal ratio with omega-3 tends to be imbalanced. When omega-6 fatty acids are too abundant in our system, this causes inflammation in the body, which leads to the chronic diseases we know such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and even cancer. Hence, it is important to achieve balance in our essential fat intake by making sure to have fatty fish, nuts and seeds regularly. The most common sources of omega-3 known that is being marketed too much to the public are tuna and salmon. However, these are big deep-sea fish that tend to be high in mercury as well, which is toxic in the body when consumed too often. So, limit your intake of tuna and salmon to twice a week and choose safer choices of omega-3 more often such as sardines, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds and sesame seeds.
I hope you now have a better grasp of how nutrition of the mother is so crucial from pre-conception until childbirth, because it greatly contributes to the long-term health of the child. For one, a diabetic mother can put the child at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and obesity. As always, when it comes to dietary supplementation, always seek the advice of a doctor and don’t self-prescribe.
So, remember, becoming a mother involves responsibility even before one conceives. Make sure to eat adequate amounts of these nutrients for at least six months to a year before having a baby, to make sure you have prepared the right environment for your baby to grow.
Salute to all the mothers! Happy Mother’s Day!