As I discussed last week, since becoming pregnant I have been assiduously listening to, and following, the cues that my body has been giving me. And since becoming pregnant, I have been hungry for cultured dairy products. I liked the occasional piece of cheese or bowl of (plain, unsweetened, organic) Greek yogurt even before pregnancy, but now I seem to be hungry for these items on a daily basis. And I am listening to my hunger. I have even been thinking about organic whole milk lately, and I have not been drinking milk for years. It is a very strange phenomenon, and it got me to thinking.
The paleo diet is sometimes the target of criticism because it lacks calcium-rich dairy products, but because it also eliminates gut-irritating grains and their anti-nutrients, and is rich in dietary magnesium (from fish, nuts, and vegetables), calcium absorption is markedly higher and intake requirements are thus reduced. During pregnancy, however, a woman’s need for calcium increases dramatically; it takes a lot of calcium to build that baby’s skeleton, and in the absence of adequate quantities of dietary calcium, mother will leach calcium from her own bones to provide for the child; this can possibly lead to brittle bones and osteoporosis later in life, two things that I would very much like to avoid. So I wonder if my increased desire for dairy products is a sign that my body currently requires more calcium. Whatever the case may be, I am indulging this new desire. I have plain organic yogurt and two types of cheese (hard of course – have to avoid the possibility of listeria!) in the fridge as I write. I have cheese in my omelets, on my chili, just for a snack, and I blend yogurt into fruit smoothies or eat it with nuts and berries.
Another wonderful benefit of yogurt is that it contains probiotics, which help to stave off two common pregnancy symptoms: gas and yeast infections. Luckily, I have not had to deal with either. Probiotics also have the added benefit of decreasing the risk of Group B Strep flare-ups during pregnancy. Check out this study at PubMed. A woman who is positive for GBS when she delivers is at risk for transmitting the infection to her child (for whom it could possibly be fatal) and must take high-dose antibiotics before and during labor to prevent transmission. I would just as soon avoid pumping myself and my child full of antibiotics; they can stay in the human system for quite a long time, frequent use encourages antibiotic resistant bacterial infections, they kill off beneficial gut flora, and like any drug, they come with the risk of negative side effects.
For women who are diagnosed with GBS and must take antibiotics, however, a great remedy for restoring the body to health after labor is, again, probiotics. Because antibiotics kill off good bacteria as well as bad, it might be advisable to take probiotics to replace them. They may help to avoid some of the problems that can arise post-partum such as thrush, a yeast infection that can cause difficulties breastfeeding: sore nipples for the mother and a painful mouth for the baby.