Step 2 – Self care for Prenatal Health, Part one

The fronds of the large lead in the image represent both equality and individuality to me. The leaf is made up many individual blades that each are similar in shape but slightly different from each other so they all fit together when evenly spaced so they form the shape of the whole leaf.

A leaf formed of many blades, each equal yet unique.

Each blade collects sunlight so each helps feed the plant but without any one blade the symmetry and completeness of the whole leaf would be disrupted. As long as most of the blades remain healthy the leaf can continue to survive and continue to provide more energy to the plant then it consumes but at some point having too many damaged or missing blades might cause the health of the whole leaf to suffer and if too many leaves are damaged the health of the whole plant might suffer.

Supporting a healthy pregnancy involves many health strategies, some of which might seem common sense and others might be unfamiliar – and to a writer it would be unknown which group a reader might fall into so including all helpful strategies leads to a long list but lists can be helpful reminders or provide new information. The following list is assembled to be inclusive rather than to suggest that each step must be performed in a certain order. Each step may be a blade that helps form the whole leaf, each step may be helping health in it’s own essential way, one might survive without the step but the greater whole might not be quite as effective without it.

Many of these steps would also be helpful for any stage of the lifespan but they are most critical for the developing fetus and some can affect whether the fertilized egg will ever have a chance to successfully implant and continue to develop instead of resulting in a miscarriage.

However an easy way to help protect a developing infant may not involve nutrition at all – skipping the ultrasound of the early developing fetus may help protect the brain and skull from overheating. The sound waves may also be strong enough to disrupt placement of brain cells within the different layers of the brain.

The greatest risk of harm found in research performed in the U.S. was associated with ultrasounds performed during the first trimester. Other research findings suggest the timeline of when the use of ultrasound during prenatal exams increased and when the allowed strength of the ultrasound was increased strongly correlates with the increase in number of children diagnosed with autism. Direct evidence of harm to the development of the fetus was also found in a number of research studies performed in China. A book summarizing the findings is mentioned on the following site which includes a variety of links to research on the topic:

Sound travels in water – the internal amplification of the sound through a watery amniotic fluid environment may be louder than being in a subway with the commuter trains. More frequent ultrasounds may increase risk too but the issue also seems to involve at what stage of the pregnancy the ultrasound is performed. A study done in China found risk to the fetus when ultrasounds were performed transvaginally (internally positioned device) for ten minutes. Least risk to the fetus was found with abdominal (external) ultrasounds performed for three minutes.

Continued from Step 1-Believing is the first step towards change:

So Step 2 towards protecting health at all ages, after believing that a difference in health outcomes can result from the self care actions that are chosen on a daily basis, is to plan pregnancies. Unplanned pregnancies are more associated with autism and other chronic neurological and physical birth conditions from developing in the infant; and having a pregnancy and carrying a baby to term are associated with autoimmune disease developing in women.

Step 2a, 2b, 2c, etc all involve developing healthy lifestyle changes for your individual genetic needs before ever attempting a pregnancy for the woman or before attempting to impregnate a woman for a man – his habits can affect the infant’s risk of autism; and a woman’s health habits are protecting both herself and the baby from the moment of  conception, through successful implantation and carrying of the baby to term and through breastfeeding the infant for several months at least.

2Aif you are a woman in childbearing years it is recommended to take a prenatal vitamin with folic acid in case of a pregnancy occurring at anytime even if you weren’t planning it or to start taking one a few months prior to trying to conceive;

2B – b for bonus effort for women in childbearing years, get a genetic screening done to see if you have any of the methylation cycle defects common to the autism spectrum which make getting a prenatal vitamin with folate a better idea than using the standard supplements that contain the less bioactive form folic acid. The ability to use standard forms of B12 supplements can also be affected by methylation cycle defects. My own screening results with link to the company I used – other services are also available but genetic screening is not yet part of standard health care so it is not something your family doctor is likely to recommend routinely;

2Cdon’t drink alcohol in excess and then have unprotected sex afterwards whether you are a man or a woman – excess alcohol use by either parent can negatively affect the infant if one is conceived. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome has been linked to alcohol use by the father in the days leading up to the conception.  Also related to 2M:

Which leads to a corollary of 2A – should men of childbearing age take a prenatal vitamin/mineral supplement in case they conceive a child? – Zinc deficiency can worsen Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and deficiency of zinc has also been associated with developing autism or worse symptoms of autism. Whether a man’s nutrient status at the time of a child’s conception is important in addition to the woman’s nutrient status for reducing risk of autism and other neurological conditions for the infant is a question for further research. Zinc and autism.

2Da multi vitamin or prenatal supplement with the D3 form of vitamin D may be more bioactive and potentially more helpful than the commonly used D2 form. Adequate sunlight during summer months can help provide vitamin D within the skin from our ability to form it from cholesterol so having a tan from sunlight or tanning booths that use light instead of chemical sprays could also be helping provide vitamin D. It is possible that we find a ‘healthy glow’ attractive because it might suggest adequate vitamin D. However in our modern world containing sunscreen with aluminum and agriculture products with glyphosate adequate sunshine may be less effective than it used to be for vitamin D production, leading to 2E.

Recent research has found a significant association between vitamin D deficiency at a midpoint during gestation and autism developing later in the child. The association was significant for the prenatal level of vitamin D but not for the cord sample level, suggesting that changes that later lead to autism risk were in part due to developmental changes that occurred at some point during the early or midstages of pregnancy. Gestational vitamin D deficiency and autism spectrum disorder  (A.A.E. Vinkhuyzen et al., BJPsych Open. 2017 Mar; 3(2): 85–90.)

2E – To protect your body’s ability to activate vitamin D from the D2 form it is helpful to get adequate sunshine without the addition or interference of sunscreens, especially those containing the metal aluminum. Aluminum is a metal that can interfere with zinc. Zinc is needed in an important type of CYP enzyme, known as eNOS, which controls a cell’s supply of sulfur and its ability to make water thicker like gelatin or thinner like normal water. (The thicker gelatinous form is essential for helping cushion the brain and protect it if there is any head trauma.) So to summarize – we need adequate zinc in the diet without also having excess aluminum to interfere with the zinc; and we need adequate sunshine without excess sunscreen to block the skin’s ability to form cholesterol sulfate, the precursor for vitamin D and which is also our primary way of getting sulfate, the usable form of sulfur; and also we need to limit exposure to glyphosate so the family of CYP enzymes which include the eNOS type are not inhibited, which preliminary theory suggests is happening.

  • Read more here, Dr. Mercola summarizes the eNOS story, “While these issues are clearly complex,” into two take home points:
  • “Get an appropriate amount of sun exposure, without the use of sunscreen, to optimize your vitamin D and sulfate levels.”
  • “Swap out processed foods for organic whole foods to avoid glyphosate exposure.”

My new favorite phrase second only to “needs more research” is now “While these issues are clearly complex…” but “where there’s life, there’s hope,” and complex stuff is interesting.

2E1a: have adequate zinc for your genetic needs in your diet or within your daily supplements. (Pyroluria is a somewhat controversial condition thought to be due to a genetic difference. It can greatly increase a person’s need for zinc above a level readily available in food or in a multi vitamin that is based on the RDA recommendations. I believe I have pyroluria as I feel significantly better when I take the high dose zinc and B6 supplements that are recommended daily for the condition. However I have not been diagnosed as it is not typically screened for within the mainstream medical industry at this time. A few clinics can screen for and guide treatment for the condition. One is mentioned in the following post:  read more about pyroluria.)

2E1b: Zinc is also essential in the early activation of the fertilized egg into an embryo undergoing cellular division. A shift in intracellular calcium to zinc ratio signals the readiness for cellular division (mitosis). Something triggers an influx of calcium and an outflow of zinc.

“Thus this data suggests that lowering of intracellular zinc availability induces the cell cycle transition from meiosis to mitosis – an essential first step in the human MII egg-to-embryo transition or in this case, parthenogenesis.”  

Duncan et. al., The zinc spark is an inorganic signature of human egg activation, (2016)

2E2: Get adequate sunshine and avoid aluminum containing sunscreens, or get the equivalent to sunshine in the form of supplemental vitamin D3 and regular use of Epsom salt baths as a source of usable sulfate.

  • 2E2a: Spend 15 to 30 minutes in direct sunlight several times per week with minimally the face, arms and upper chest exposed.
  • 2E2b: Or use a tanning booth or lightbox designed for Seasonal Affective Disorder.
  • 2E2c: Do not use aluminum containing sunscreens or other aluminum containing products and if concerned about skin cancer use clothing that provides a barrier to sunlight or limit the amount of time spent out during the hours of peak sunshine, noon to 2-3:00PM.
  • 2E2d: If sun exposure is not possible due to work or latitude and season then a vitamin D3 supplement and use of Epsom salt baths for its sulfate content would provide a form of vitamin D that bypasses one of the CYP enzyme steps and provides a usable form of sulfate.
  • 2E2e: Read more about Epsom salt baths here. The link discusses magnesium benefits without going into detail about the health benefits of the sulfate content of Epsom salt (chemically made up of magnesium sulfate).

2E3: Avoid processed foods, as most contain ingredients made from crops on which Roundup was used as an herbicide or as a drying agent. Foods made from ‘organic’ ingredients may also contain residue of glyphosate or Roundup; but screening of food samples has found less glyphosate in organic samples than in commercially grown samples; and individuals who have switched to a diet containing only organically grown food were found to have a drop in the level of glyphosate measured in their specimen samples (blood or urine) that were taken before and after switching to the organic diet for several weeks (posts with more info: glyphosate levels in test samples and subjects; Glyphosate, a consensus statement; Some tips for reducing dietary exposure to glyphosate or to replace nutrients it effects negatively; and an update on the post with dietary tips).

Soy, corn and cottonseed oil all may be sources of increased amounts of glyphosate residue since use of the chemical increased in the late 1990’s with the introduction of crops genetically modified to be resistant to the herbicide Roundup which contains glyphosate and other ingredients which in combination seem to be even more of a health risk than safety tests suggest glyphosate is on its own as a single chemical.

2F: You’re kidding right? What food can I eat? . . . If the idea of not eating any processed foods seems daunting, difficult, and expensive, then you’re right, it is all of those things. You could try to minimize your exposure to glyphosate and Roundup residue by limiting your use of commercial products that contain any form of corn, wheat, oats, and sugarcane, — and — also any animal products made with ingredients from animals fed commercially grown corn, wheat, oats, soybeans, or sugarcane.

— You’re kidding right? What food can I eat? . . . organically grown and fed crops or animal products; commercially grown rice may have arsenic because the plant preferentially takes up arsenic from the soil but rice is less likely to be grown with Roundup; beans and peas and other fruits and vegetables that have a shell, peel, or rind generally contain less chemical residue than leafy vegetables or delicate fruits however the glyphosate in Roundup may be actually incorporated into plant and animal tissue so crops like wheat on which it is used may still contain some residue even though wheat does have a husk covering the wheatberry and corn has a husk covering the ear of corn.

Organic foods have been found to have less pesticide and herbicide content. Less cadmium content may also be a benefit as some phosphorus fertilizers also contain cadmium.

2G: A good place to start is somewhere – yes it’s daunting, but just starting with a few more meals using beans as the protein source can be a place to start.

The DASH or Mediterranean diet plans have been found beneficial for a number of types of patients and weight loss dieters.

To be continued,

This list of ideas for minimizing risks for autism , on the Autism Research Institute’s website, contains tips organized in sections geared towards different stages of life. Health tips can help protect health in general for people across the lifespan — when appropriate for their metabolism. Individualized care and guidance from a health professional is recommended for individual health care purposes.

Tips that support general wellness may also be helpful for protecting against other neurological conditions from developing in young children or other chronic conditions in older children. Childhood is a stage of rapid learning and children benefit from social interaction with adults and limited TV or other electronic screen time. Health involves both good nutrition and other healthy habits.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

Part of a series, continued from: