bone broth for fertility, pregnancy, & postpartum healing +how to make it

Pregnancy or the desire to become pregnant can be great inspiration for many men and women to clean up their diets and lifestyle choices. It is an opportunity for a woman to connect with life on a deeper level, and to embrace the primal need to nourish the womb that will give her baby the best foundation for a healthy life.

Fertility, pregnancy, and healing after birth require specific nutrients, like fat soluble vitamins A, D, E & K, to ensure the optimal development of the womb, the baby, and ease of maternal discomforts. However, if you have weak digestion and an unhealthy gut, you can’t properly absorb nutrients, even if you have the healthiest diet.

Make every good choice count! We can never heal deeply without going to the root cause, so let’s go there!

 

It all begins in the gut.

 

Until recently, the importance of our gut health was underestimated. Now we know that the gut microbiome is the center of our immune system: 80% percent of our immune cells live in our gut! It contains trillions of bacteria (more than the number of cells in the rest of the body!!) that play a vital role in helping the body assimilate essential nutrients from food, directly impacting the digestive system, the immune system, and even brain function.

The overuse of antibiotics in our food and water supply, doctors over-medicating their patients, and toxins in our environment, have weakened our bodies’ ability to function properly.

 

Leaky Gut Syndrome -when the mucosal lining of the digestive tract is weak, allowing undigested food, toxins, and bacteria to leak into the bloodstream, causing inflammation, illness, and skin eruptions, like eczema.

This condition is becoming increasingly common since the advent of sugary & acidic processed foods, harsh medications, and antibiotics. Chronic inflammation has been linked to Endometriosis, PCOS, uterine fibroids, painful menstruation, and autoimmune conditions- today’s most common sources of infertility. We live in an acidic environment, but have no fear! When we heal the source, we can heal the whole body.

 

What makes this healing food perfect for mamas and mamas-to-be?

 

  • Collagen & Gelatin

Essential for the formation and repair of cartilage and bone- in other words, it helps build your baby!

It also helps in soft tissue and wound healing, and aids in digestion and the assimilation of proteins (the building blocks of life!) by coating the mucus membranes of the gut.

  •  Glycine

Essential amino acid that is vital to the production of heme, the part of the blood that carries oxygen. This of course is important during pregnancy, as your blood carries nutrients to your baby; more oxygen=more nutrients delivered to the baby!

Two sources of discomfort during the postpartum shift, slow digestion and wound healing, can also be relieved and supported by this amino acid.

 

  • Proline

Another very important amino acid that is essential to the formation of collagen, and therefore necessary for healthy bones, skin, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage.

It has even been shown to have a positive effect on preventing depression. Postpartum depression has unfortunately become quite common with the lack of physical and emotional support for new moms, as they feel rushed to return to what was once “normal” for them and their partner. Without this support, a healthy diet is especially important and the most accessible place to start in order to heal deeply.

 

  • Bone Marrow

An important source of immune support factors, such as myeloid and lymphoid stem cells. Myeloid stem cells form red blood cells, which carry oxygen and nutrients to other cells in the body, and to your baby during pregnancy.

Lymphoid stem cells form white blood cells, which are essential for a strong immune system.

Bone marrow is also a great addition to your baby’s diet when starting solid foods, as it is a wonderful source of healthy fat and has been shown to benefit brain development.

 

  • Minerals

Minerals are essential for overall wellness. Many people in the U.S. are deficient in most minerals- a reflection of our soil’s deficiency after many years of farming one crop in one area, an unsustainable practice of industrial agriculture called monoculture. Just as the Earth needs variety, our bodies need variety.

Bone broth is an excellent source of absorbable calcium and phosphorus, as well as magnesium, sodium, and potassium.

Pregnant and nursing mothers are especially prone to deficiencies, so mineral-rich broth in a digestible form is a quick and easy way to replenish nutrients.

 

How to make good broth

 

Making bone broth might seem intimidating when you only focus on the long cooking time, but it’s actually hands-off for the most part and quite easy. It seems like a lot of instructions, but after you make it once, you will be a pro!

  1.  Source your ingredients: If you don’t already visit your local farmers market on the regular, this is a great reason to start! It is also empowering to ask questions and know where your food is grown/raised. For good broth, you want bones from healthy, pastured animals. You can find a local market at localharvest.org. A trusted supermarket or butcher is another place to look. I have found that a buyers club organized by a local farm offers the best quality for the best price. If possible, have your bones chopped into smaller pieces, which will yield more gelatin and minerals into your broth.
  2. The amount of bones you need depends on the size of your pot. I have a 12 quart stainless steel pot (never use aluminum to avoid leaching toxic metal into your food), so I use 5-7 lbs of bones, a combination of knuckle bones, ribs, soup/boney bones, marrow bones…the more variety, the more flavorful and array of nutrients you will have in your broth. For chicken, use carcasses, drumsticks, necks, backs, wings, and especially feet! For pork, throw in some trotters! They are great for skin health and wrinkle prevention, and lactation if you are nursing a baby! ***A slow cooker is also great to have, as it will use less energy than the stove and you can set the timer if you worry about burning down your home while the broth cooks as you sleep! My pot retains heat really well, so I actually turn off the heat late at night and it’s still very warm when I turn it back on in the early morning. This way you also don’t have to worry about your broth boiling and breaking down the delicate collagen.
  3. Rinse your bones. For beef and lamb broth with a deeper flavor, roast your bones first @ 400(F) for 40-60 minutes. Place your bones in the pot, covering just above with cold water with ¼ cup apple cider vinegar (Braggs is the best). Allow the bones to rest for an hour before turning on the heat. This is a very important step, as the vinegar will help draw minerals out of the bones and into your broth.Turn on your heat source, bring the pot to a gentle boil, and reduce the heat to barely simmering- the lowest setting possible is best because high heat will break down the collagen and your broth won’t gel as well.
  4. With a small mesh strainer or slotted spoon, skim off any foam that floats to the top of your broth. These impurities can make broth taste funky, so skimming it off at the beginning will result in a cleaner tasting broth. When you have skimmed your broth, now you can add veggies and herbs of your choice. I keep it simple with onion (you can add a whole onion or just peels you have saved from other recipes); other options are carrot and celery, black peppercorns, bay leaf, garlic, etc.  
  5. The length of cooking time depends on what kind of bones you are using. The larger the bones, the longer the cooking time. For beef and lamb- 30-48 hours, for pork- 24 hours, for chicken- 20-24 hours, and for fish (use only non-oily fish heads, like snapper)- 6 hours.
  6. To add iron to your broth, add a bunch of parsley during the last 15 minutes of cooking. This is especially good for those who are anemic and for postpartum healing, especially for cesarean births in which women lose more blood and are more prone to anemia.
  7. Your broth is done cooking, you made it! Now it’s time to strain your broth. I prefer storing my hot broth in glass to avoid chemicals in plastic containers leaching into the broth. If you choose to store it in plastic, make sure it is BPA- and BPS-free, and pour it into these containers only after your broth has cooled. I use a fine mesh strainer fitted with a nut milk bag to strain broth, as it filters out all little pieces and scum, resulting in a cleaner tasting broth. Instead of a nut milk bag, you can also use cheese cloth or a reusable coffee filter. If freezing in glass, leave plenty of head space, as the liquid expands and broken glass isn’t fun to clean up!
  8. Pick off any meat that is floating in your broth to save for stews or stir-frys. I usually give the tendons and cartilage to my dog since I haven’t found a use for it, although I’m sure there are many. Throw away your spent bones and vegetable scraps.
  9. Allow your broth to cool before placing in the refrigerator, and when it has chilled completely in the refrigerator you can transfer to the freezer if you choose. A layer of fat will form at the top. You can take this off and save for cooking, and keep a little in the broth for added flavor and healthy fat.
  10. Your broth will last for 7 days in the refrigerator, or 6 months in the freezer. Use it as the base in soups, stews, sauces, cooking grains & legumes…or just warm it up, salt to taste, and drink it straight! Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Brownies for hormone health

I am the queen of making excuses to eat chocolate. It’s one of the better traits inherited from my big sister.

This brownie does not disappoint; it crumbs like a baked brownie, but is raw, gluten free, and loaded with nutrition.

Not all chocolate is of equal value, the majority of it loaded with refined sugar, zero nutrition, and contributes to poor wages and treatment of cacao farmers. Organic, fair-trade cacao is an amazing food, rich in antioxidants and iron (which helps prevent anemia).

In this brownie recipe, we combine it with sprouted almonds and herbs that help balance hormones. For this reason, it’s a wonderful snack to satisfy cravings while simultaneously enhancing fertility or balancing postpartum hormones.

 

Maca – a root-like cruciferous vegetable native to Peru. The soil in which it grows is rich in volcanic minerals and phytonutrients, making it a nourishing food for the pituitary, adrenal, and thyroid glands, all of which play key roles in balancing hormones. In men and women, maca helps lower estrogen; high levels of estrogen in women make it difficult to sustain a pregnancy, so in this case maca promotes progesterone, and in men, high estrogen levels lead to erectile dysfunction, lack of libido, and low sperm count.

 

He Shou Wu (FoTi) – a plant used extensively in Traditional Chinese Medicine, known to prevent premature aging by tonifying the liver and kidneys. Like maca, it is nourishing to the endocrine glands, which help balance hormones, making this a great herb for fertility and during the postpartum hormone shift. Many women experience hair loss during the postpartum period because of hormone fluctuations. It is widely used in Asia to maintain youth and prevent graying and loss of hair. It is said to increase sperm count in men and ova in women.

 

The recipe – makes 10 brownies

 

1 cup sprouted almonds

1 cup organic raw cacao powder

1/2 cup gluten-free rolled oats

1 1/2 cup pitted dates (I used 10 medjool)

1/4 cup maca powder

1 tablespoon He Shou Wu powder

5 tablespoons melted extra virgin coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon pink himalayan salt

to make:

  • in a food processor, process the almonds for a couple minutes; just enough that they are a coarse powder but not yet like almond butter.
  • add the maca, he shou wu, oats, cacao, salt. process until thoroughly combined.
  • while the food processor is running, add the dates one at a time. next, add the vanilla, then the coconut oil, in a slow stream. When you have reached a consistency in which you can form a ball and it holds its shape, it’s done (think larabar consistency).
  • line a 4×8 pan with plastic wrap, so the edges are long enough cover the brownie mixture once you press it flat in the pan.
  • after you have pressed it in the pan and covered it with plastic wrap, place it in the refrigerator to set. If you are impatient and you want to enjoy one of these babies as soon as possible, you can place it in the freezer to harden faster.
  • cut into 10 brownies. or 8 if you want them to be bigger. I can’t judge. been there, done that. enjoy! store in the fridge.

Indian spiced carrot & yam soup with cultured cream

Warming spices, like turmeric and ginger, not only strengthen the immune system and gently detox the body, but they also help normalize hormone levels and regulate menstruation. Poor circulation has been linked to weakened fertility because sustaining a pregnancy requires ample oxygen rich-blood flow to the uterus. The antioxidant compounds and anti-inflammatory effects of these spices can also protect egg and sperm quality. Clinical studies have shown that antioxidants can help improve fertility in women with endometriosis and PCOS, the two leading causes of infertility, both of which are negatively impacted by oxidative stress (which causes cell damage).

Because ginger and turmeric promote blood flow and menstruation, it is best to avoid them once you are pregnant, especially in the first trimester when miscarriage is more of a threat. Ginger can be used in moderation to combat nausea, but I would steer clear of turmeric altogether.

This soup is creamy and nourishing to the gut with chicken bone broth as its foundation. You can make it vegetarian by using vegetable broth instead. I have even enjoyed it for breakfast, and because it’s pureed, you can heat it and pour it in a mason jar for a quick spoon-free meal-on-the-go.

If you want to make it a heartier meal, add cooked grain- jasmine rice would be great if you want to keep it Indian inspired- and cooked chicken.

the recipe – makes 1.5 quarts – 4-5 servings

1 quart chicken bone broth (or vegetable broth)

2 large or 3 small yams, peeled and chopped (3 full cups)

4 carrots, peeled and chopped (1.5 cups)

1 onion, diced (1 cup)

3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 Tablespoons ghee or unsalted butter

3/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste if needed

creme fraiche (cultured cream) – optional – add 1-2 Tablespoons per bowl

  • In a soup pot, melt the butter/ghee over medium high heat, add the onion, stir to coat, and reduce heat to medium. cover with a lid and cook for 5 minutes.
  • add the garlic, stir, cover, and cook a few more minutes.
  • add the spices, stir to enhance their depth of flavor
  • add the broth, yam, and carrot; increase the heat to high; bring to a boil and then lower heat to medium-low.
  • cover and let simmer 30 minutes, or until yam and carrots are soft and easily pierced with a fork.
  • allow to cool 10 minutes or so; add to a blender in batches and blend until smooth, or use an immersion blender in the soup pot to blend all at once.
  • pour into bowls, top with cultured cream and gently stir. Serve!

Summer Herb Coconut Fish Stew

“Fish broth will cure anything” is a South American proverb. It has been revered for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine for its anti-aging properties, especially in the case of helping women cope with hormonal changes like menopause and postpartum recovery. It is also known to boost cognitive health. Fish broth is one of the most affordable ways to add deep healing to your diet. With 7 hours of cooking time, it is also the quickest to make of any bone broth.

In addition to gelatin, which is present in all bone broths and is especially healing for gut health, fish broth also helps balance hormones, which contributes to fertility wellness. This is because the thyroid gland is in a fish’s head, and as your broth cooks, the gland disintegrates and becomes part of your broth. The thyroid is responsible for regulating hormones and metabolism.

With toxic overload in our environment, many of us, men and women, have estrogen dominance due to estrogen-producing chemicals in plastics, the overabundance of soy in processed food and in the feed given to livestock, and in our water supply. This alone is a big contributor to infertility and miscarriage, since getting pregnant and maintaining a pregnancy requires the rise AND fall of estrogen, which is in a constant dance with other sex hormones, especially progesterone.

If you suffer from hypothyroidism, an increasingly common autoimmune condition in which the thyroid is weak, drinking fish broth a few times a week is an easy and affordable way to deepen your healing and nourish the thyroid with natural iodine.

This recipe comes together super quick. This would also be a great herbal alternative to classic chicken soup, in which case you can use chicken broth and pulled, cooked chicken instead of fish.


The Recipe

1 quart fish broth (or vegetable broth, or if you want to make this stew with chicken, use chicken broth)

1 pound white fish (cod, halibut; wild, not farm-raised), cubed- about 1-inch pieces

2 (5 oz) cans coconut cream (or half of 1 (16 oz) can full fat coconut milk if you can’t find just the cream)

2 cups fresh basil

2 cups fresh cilantro

1/2 cup fresh mint

5 cloves garlic, peeled

1 onion, diced

juice of 1 lemon

juice of 1 lime

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2 Tablespoons coconut oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 Tablespoons organic white miso

  • add coconut oil to a soup pot to melt over medium-high heat; when hot, add the onions. Lower heat to medium, cover, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring half way through.
  • add cumin and coriander and stir well until fragrant.
  • add broth and salt, raise heat to high and bring to a slow boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and add cubed fish. Cover and cook for 10 minutes. You want the fish to be flaky but not mushy, so avoid overcooking.
  • as the fish cooks, combine the remaining ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  • when the fish is done cooking, turn off the heat and stir in the herb cream. taste for salt and add if needed.

*this soup is very brothy and light; perfect for summer. For a heartier meal, cook rice separately (i love jasmine rice with this) and add to each bowl. don’t store the rice and soup together, as the rice will soak up the soup over time.

Enjoy!

Superfoods for Fertility- Lentils

The humble lentil is incredibly nutrient dense, especially in the case of fertility. They come in several varieties, and their ease of preparation and versatility can prevent boredom in the kitchen, which is always a must to stay motivated on a healthy diet!

The months prior to conception, ideally six months before, is the best time to start preparing your body for carrying and nourishing a baby. This will ensure that you have enough stored nutrients in your body to nourish both you and the optimal development of your baby, while preventing deficiencies that can cause discomforts during pregnancy. Childbearing isn’t supposed to be a time of discomfort! As women, it is an opportunity to connect with the deepest, most beautiful parts of ourselves; the fiery mama bear, but also the gentle nurturer. Of course, many pregnancies are unplanned, as was mine, which is all the more reason to eat a nutrient dense diet as often as possible.

Dr. Weston A. Price, a dentist in the 1930’s who was appalled by the poor standards of health resulting from the industrialization of our food system, sought answers to why infertility and dental decay were on the rise in America. He studied isolated groups of people, those who maintained their native diets and prepared their food in ways that reap the greatest nutritional benefits; these preparation techniques highlighted fermenting, soaking, and/or sprouting. Many of these cultures also wouldn’t allow couples to marry until both man and woman had eaten sacred foods for at least six months to ensure healthy sperm and eggs.

Where was I?! Ah yes, LENTILS…

 

What can lentils do for your fertility?

  • excellent source of many B vitamins- the star player being Folate, which boosts the immune system and is a key nutrient for baby’s brain and spinal cord development. One cup of cooked lentils supplies 90% of your daily need!
  • one cup provides 37% of your daily need for Iron, which enriches the blood and can prevent anemia.
  • with a whopping 18 g of protein and 16 g of fiber per cooked cup, these little guys are sure to keep you full and can combat spikes in blood sugar.
  • stabilizing blood sugar also plays a role in balancing hormones, which of course is essential for optimal fertility.

 

When preparing lentils (or any bean, grain, legume,nuts, and seeds), remember to soak in clean water at least 8 hours/ overnight, and add a couple tablespoons of an acidic medium (whey, vinegar, lemon juice, yogurt). This will help break down the antinutrients and ease digestion and absorption of nutrients in your body.

 

Now go and gobble down a nice bowl of lentil soup!…my recipe will be up very soon.

Cheers!

photo credit: bbc.co.uk

Superfoods for Fertility- Pastured Eggs

eggbasket-300x200 Pastured eggs, especially the yolks, are an amazing addition to anyone’s  diet. You really can’t pack more nutrition into such a small package.  Would you believe me if I told you this is the food that ultimately saved  my fertility and my overall wellness?

For many years, I flip flopped between veganism and vegetarianism, and  of course I was shocked when my period completely disappeared. But  why? Wasn’t I healthy and in good shape? I ate so many dark leafy greens,  it wouldn’t be long before my blood turned into chlorophyll. My energy was great, my skin was clear, and I’m pretty sure at some point my skin had an orange hue from drinking so much carrot juice. Truth is, I never knew what optimal health felt like for my body. Basically overnight, I decided to go from eating junk to vegan- I experienced both ends of the spectrum, but never in between. I am grateful for the experience, as I have an appreciation and love for my body that I never thought I could have. And now I finally know how balance feels in my body and mind. I went for months at a time without a period, and I knew my body had the potential to be more complete. SO i started adding eggs into my diet, and after about a month of this one small change, my period returned. The power of small steps!

 

What can pastured eggs do for your fertility?

  • they are the most inexpensive, complete source of protein, containing all nine essential amino acids
  • contain trace amounts of more than 15 vitamins and minerals
  • a rich source of choline, a critical nutrient for heart and brain function, and for the health of cell membranes
  • contain 2/3 more vitamin A, a fat soluble nutrient essential for fertility, and 7 times more beta carotene than conventional eggs
  • 2 times more omega 3 fatty acids than conventional eggs
  • 3 times more vitamin E, another fat soluble nutrient essential for fertility, than conventional eggs
  • a good source of HDL cholesterol (aka the healthy kind), which ensures proper functioning of the thyroid (where your body makes hormones)

All of these nutrient stores will be reflected in the growth of your baby in the womb. It’s never too early to start a nutrient dense diet, so your body can provide for both you and your baby, and you can enjoy your pregnancy free of physical discomforts associated with nutrient deficiencies, like leg cramps and morning sickness.

Eat your yolks raw as much as possible!

Yes, I remember going to my first prenatal appointment and seeing the nutritionist, and leaving bewildered at the information she told me. Of course, most of the information is a step up from the Standard American Diet, but telling me that ice cream can be my serving of calcium for the day? I don’t think so. She also urged me to eat my eggs cooked completely. This is because of the salmonella scare. But according to a USDA study (Risk Analysis, April 2002, 22(2):203-218), only about .03 percent of the 69 billion eggs produced annually are contaminated at all. And if you source your eggs from a trusted farmer who raises hens on pasture, the risk is basically zero. Also, any contaminants are typically carried in the white of the egg, not the yolk. Eating them raw ensures that all of these wonderful nutrients stay alive, and are easier assimilated by your body. 

The Weston A. Price Foundation recommends two or more eggs daily.

My favorite way to eat raw yolks: mixed in whole milk yogurt with honey, cinnamon, oats, almonds, and coconut oil; and in smoothies (a great way to feed to our little ones!)

If you prefer your eggs cooked, quiches and frittatas are easy, convenient,  and a great way to add veggies to the mix.

 

photo credit: lunafieldfarm.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Foods for Fertility Series

African_Baby_Bag

Welcome to my fertility SUPERfoods primer, where we will demystify all the nutritional jargon about what foods can increase your chances of conception and guarantee a vibrant pregnancy.

Rather than highlighting trendy fruits and powders with exotic names, we will focus on foods that you can find in any market; foods that you have probably already eaten at least once in your lifetime!

What sets these apart from other common foods is their concentration of nutrients and proper preparation, which will enhance your ability to digest and absorb all of the fabulous nutrients. You will notice that most of these foods are rich in healthy fats. This is because the most important vitamins essential for fertility (A,D,E, & K) are all fat-soluble, which means they are best absorbed in the presence of fat. These foods are also mostly animal based, as your thyroid requires cholesterol to function properly and create hormones, which of course are essential for fertility and maintaining pregnancy.

Let’s get started!

In the following weeks, I will highlight each of these foods. Maybe I can even convince you to eat liver if you don’t already have a taste for it!

 

  1. Pastured Eggs (especially the yolks!)
  2. Lentils
  3. Wild-caught oily fish
  4. Liver
  5. Avocados
  6. Fermented cod liver oil
  7. Butter and Full-fat dairy
  8. Bone Broth
  9. Lacto-fermented vegetables
  10. Seaweed