Lactogenic Breakfast Cookies

Updated September 26th 2021

Who doesn’t love cookies for breakfast? Or snack, or anytime really. The reason these cookies are great for anytime is that they are full of nutrient dense ingredients and free of refined sugars. They are made with oats and flax to help nourish your body and support milk supply but can be enjoyed as an after day-care snack as they are great for kids too.

When I was making these cookies I wanted to keep them egg-free so that the recipe could be made vegan. The cookies overall are very allergen friendly as they are:

  • Egg free
  • Gluten free
  • Nut free
  • Dairy free* (if strictly coconut oil is used)
  • Sesame free
  • Peanut free
  • Soy free

They remain soft and chewy after baking and will keep this texture once they are refrigerated. They can also be frozen and thawed out the day prior to eating.

Not the prettiest picture but this is what the dough will look like once everything is mixed

Some of the nutrient dense ingredients used in these cookies include:

Chia seeds: very good source of omega 3s, iron and fibre. Essential nutrients when you are recovering postpartum and lactating.

Pumpkin seeds: source of magnesium, protein and other trace minerals.

Oats: oats are a source of fibre called beta-glucans that can help support healthy cholesterol levels. They are also thought to boost milk production; acting as a galactagogue (increasing milk supply)

Banana: rich in potassium, fibre and a source of vitamins and minerals. The banana also helps naturally sweeten the cookies while boosting the nutrition

How to make them:

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp ground flax seeds (also known as flaxmeal)
  • 1/2 cup ghee (ghee is lactose free but not vegan as it is derived from butter. You can use coconut oil in place of this to keep it dairy free)
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups gluten free oats
  • 1 banana
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, unsalted
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup dairy free chocolate chips

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  • Combine water and ground flax. Set aside for 5 minutes. This will create a flax egg. 
  • In a larger bowl mash the banana (using a fork is fine). Add the ghee (or coconut oil) coconut sugar and vanilla. Whisk together. Add in the flax egg. Whisk until combined.
  • Combine oats, cinnamon, salt, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds. Stir. Add to wet ingredients. Fold everything together. Add in chocolate chips. Fold again just until combined.
  • Use a 1/8 cup measuring cup to scoop cookies. Alternatively you can use a small ice cream scoop or place 2 tbsp of dough at a time into your hands and manually form the cookies. Place on lined baking sheets and flatten slightly. 
  • Cookies will not expand or spread out so don’t worry too much if they are close together.
  • Bake 12 mins. Allow to cool on pans and refrigerate after they are cool. 
  • Yields 16-17 cookies. 
The cookies will look very similar to this after baking as their shape will not change

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Navigating the Holidays with a Newborn

How to manage a newborn and breastfeeding during the holidays

Updated November 12th 2021

I’m going to start with a little story. I had a 4 week old at Christmas back in 2019. I was a first time mom, newly postpartum and I was having a very difficult time breastfeeding. I was exhausted and stressed.

I reluctantly agreed to have some family over for Christmas. Because we live far away from family, they were also ALL staying in my home. Making the decision to have multiple people staying in my home for Christmas added to the stress I was experiencing. It didn’t help that I asked half of them to book a hotel and they flat out refused. You can bet I’ll be taking about boundaries later on.

There is SO MUCH going on when you have a brand new baby and the holidays can bring added stress and challenges. I’m going to provide you some tips for making your life easier and still focusing on yourself and your baby during this time.

How do you manage newborn life during the holidays

Watch Your Baby

What I mean by this is actually look at your baby to see what’s happening and how they are feeling. It’s important to know babies can become overstimulated. Newborns do not have the ability to shut out external stimuli and can easily become overwhelmed. They will express this overwhelm by crying, fussing and becoming irritable. Bringing them to a quiet, dark space will help. This helps to shut out the distractions and will be very helpful when nursing them. You may also find they want to nurse more. This is because the act of suckling helps regulate their nervous system.

Watch them for feeding cues as well. Catching those early hunger cues which include stirring, their mouth opening, turning their head side-to-side and rooting around can be missed if your baby is with another family member. When a baby escalates those hunger cues to stretching, bringing their hands to mouth and moving around more, a family member may try to shush them in the hopes of soothing them or pop a pacifier into their mouth. This will then start to spread out feedings which can put you at an increased risk of plugged ducts.

When these early cues and escalations are missed, babies start to cry, turn red and get very agitated. This may be the point that Aunt Doris says “let’s get you to mommy” for a feeding but at this point, your baby is going to need to be calmed by you before they will feed.

When a baby is crying because they are hungry, this is more of a distress signal than a true hunger cue so rocking, bouncing, singing, cuddling – any number of these things may need to happen before your baby is in a calm enough space to latch on and feed.

>> For more tips around breastfeeding a newborn in the first two weeks, check out my post ’14 tips for breastfeeding in the first 14 days’

person covering infant with swaddling blanket
Photo by Isaac Taylor on Pexels.com

Take a Time Out

The holidays bring their own special kind of stress. Stress hormones can interfere with oxytocin and your let-down. They can also impact your overall production (noticing a dip in your supply).This can make breastfeeding feel more stressful. Supporting milk production by reducing stress is about reducing your stress hormones and increasing oxytocin.

Taking time away in a quiet dark room with your baby can help. Watching videos or looking at pictures of your baby while you’re pumping can help support your let-down. Smelling something of your baby’s can also help.

It’s about finding ways to calm and relax yourself. When your stress hormones are low, your body can optimize oxytocin and prolactin. Maybe this means listening to music you enjoy while feeding your baby. Or maybe it’s using an essential oil you love while in the shower. Maybe you can find 5 minutes to sit still and deep breathe. All of these activities can naturally reduce stress hormones in your body and help to increase your milk production.

If it’s feeling like it’s too much, tell your company you need to feed the baby and take a time out. Go into the bedroom or nursery and spend 30-45 minutes alone with your baby skin to skin. Skin to skin releases oxytocin which is a feel-good hormone that relaxes both of you. Your baby should be in just a diaper and you undressed from the waist up. Your baby can breastfeed during this time if they want to but they can also just rest or sleep. This will help calm the both of you and give you much needed time alone.

>> if you’re wondering what else might be affecting your supply, grab my free video here

Set Boundaries

You are in charge of who is allowed to come over and for how long. It can be very difficult as a new parent to tell family you don’t want them over for an extended period of time but if the people visiting are close enough to be spending time with your new baby, you should be able to set some rules with them.

Set boundaries and stick to them and say NO whenever you need to. They don’t have to hold your baby. You do not have to justify your decisions, whatever they may be. You are the expert of your own baby.

When you’re navigating questions from family like “why don’t you use a bottle?” or “why are you giving him a pacifier?” or unsolicited advice like “just let her cry” you can simply respond with “because this is what works for us”.

Put Your Guests to Work

Having someone else hold your baby is not what you need. Ask them to:

  • Rake leaves
  • Shovel the driveway
  • Take out the garbage
  • Pick up groceries
  • Do some of the cooking or bring some food
  • Do a load of laundry
  • Fold laundry
  • Vacuum
  • Set the table

You get the idea…you are not there to wait on them. You just brought another person into this world and your body needs time to rest and recover. Tell your guests ahead of time if they intend to come, you’ll expect them to help support you.

Your body will tell you if you’re doing too much. Your bleeding (called lochia) can increase the more you’re physically doing. So be sure to take time to rest.

Make Sure You Eat

When you are lactating your energy needs are higher than when you were pregnant. Make sure you’re eating enough. Don’t worry so much about what you’re eating but that you’re eating. It’s so busy being a new mom and if you have company over, even moreso.

The holidays are filled with foods that will support your postpartum recovery and milk supply. Protein is very important when it comes to your body healing and your energy levels. It also has a role in milk production because it helps balance your blood sugar. Turkey and ham are great holiday sources of protein. So is roast beef which is also a great source of iron, a mineral needed for milk production. Nuts are also a great snack filled with protein, fat and fibre to support you postpartum.

Other holiday themed foods that can support milk production include oats, dates, molasses, apricots, fennel, sweet potato, almonds and dark leafy greens to name a few.

Your breastmilk will always be the most nutritious milk for your baby no matter what you’re consuming. Your body will always prioritize the milk and your baby. No one’s diet is perfect.

>> You can learn more about foods that support milk supply and other ways to help your body maximize your milk production inside the Milk Supply Masterclass.

sliced orange fruit in clear drinking glass
Photo by Olenka Sergienko on Pexels.com

What About Alcohol?

Of course I had to include this one as it’s a question on the mind of many. I’ll start by saying, no you do not need to pump and dump. You can consume alcohol while breastfeeding.

When you drink alcohol, the alcohol level of your breastmilk matches the alcohol level in your blood. Because of this, the general rule is if you’re sober enough to drive (or parent) you’re sober enough to breastfeed.

How much can I enjoy?

For most women, 1-2 drinks at a time can safely be enjoyed. This means you do not have to worry about the glass of wine you enjoyed with dinner, provided it was around 4oz. The general rule for alcohol consumption is a 4oz glass of wine, 1 oz of hard liquor or 8 oz of beer.

Remember to also drink water as alcohol is dehydrating and preferably enjoy the alcohol with a nutrient dense meal.

What if I’ve had too much?

There’s a few things to keep in mind.

  • If you are not sober, you should have someone else care for your baby.
  • It’s dangerous to care for an infant while intoxicated.
  • You may also want to wait until you are sober to breastfeed.
  • This could be several hours, if you find your breasts starting to feel very full, I would pump and discard that milk (since you were intoxicated)

Helpful info:

  • If you’ve only had 1-2 drinks and you are feeding your baby, you may find your breasts feel very full. This could actually be due to reduced transfer of milk.
  • The feeling of full breasts after drinking alcohol is because the baby is inefficiently transferring milk because it’s been found that alcohol blocks the release of oxytocin which is the hormone responsible for milk let down.
  • Hand express after your baby feeds to ensure the breast is empty and offer your baby the breast frequently.
  • >> here’s a link to how to hand express

To summarize this for you, you are allowed to set boundaries and say no. Continue to feed your baby when they cue they are hungry and take a time out if you need it. Don’t forget to enjoy all the delicious foods and cocktails that come with the season. Being a parent is hard. We’re all just taking it one day at a time.

Have questions? Join my private Facebook Community and connect with other new moms.

Save yourself hours spent on google and connect directly with me and my community. I’d love to have you join us.

Your support helps to continue to fund free content like this

References

Campbell, S.H., Lauwers, J., Mannel, R., & Spencer, B. (2019). Core Curriculum for interdisciplinary lactation care. Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Newman, J. & Pitman, T. (2014). Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding. HarperCollins Publishers Ltd.

Wilson-Clay, B., & Hoover, K. (2017). The breastfeeding atlas (6th ed.). Manchaca, Tex.: LactNews Press.

Shoosha Baby Care the whole family can use

Exceptionally clean and organic baby skin care that is safe and effective

This post contains affiliate links.

Clean beauty and skin care is very important to me. Our skin is our largest organ and anything that goes on it, is quickly absorbed into our bodies. I’ve made a point for quite a long time now to only use clean products on myself, my son and in our home.

I love using Shoosha Baby Organic Sensitive Skin Baby Wash & Shampoo on my son because I trust the brand and their ingredients. First, the ingredients are organic. When using plant based ingredients (such as aloe and calendula like in this product) organic ensures they were grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides. Second, the product is so safe and pure you could eat it! It’s true. It’s actually certified organic food grade. Now, I’m not encouraging you to but as a mom, that makes me feel so good as I don’t need to worry if some gets into my sons mouth.

Shoosha Baby Organic Sensitive Skin Baby Wash & Shampoo is a Canadian product that is synthetic chemical free, synthetic fragrance free, hypo-allergenic, BPA free, alcohol free, vegan, non gmo, and 100% biodegradable. Quite impressive for a product that also works!

You won’t get bubbles with this product and that’s a great thing. For bubbles to form, SLSs (sodium lauryl sulphates) are required which can cause skin irritation and have some controversy over safety. Just another chemical Shoosha Baby is free of.

The Rescue Diaper Balm

A must have in your diaper care routine

Who wants to smear around a whitening zinc diaper cream when you can use a beautiful lavender scented balm instead?

Shoosha Baby Organic Protective Diaper Balm is made with calendula and evening primrose oil. These ingredients help soothe babies bottom and prevent diaper rash.

It is also made with hydrating cocoa butter and lightly scented with lavender essential oil. The vitamin e and rosemary extract in the product not only protect the product from going rancid, but also function as antioxidants.

This diaper balm is certified organic, hypoallergenic and synthetic fragrance free so it’s great for the sensitive skin of the diaper area. It’s very lightweight and a little goes a long way. Honestly, I would feel confident and comfortable using the product to moisturize my baby’s body. You can’t do that with a zinc diaper cream.

I love the feeling of this product and how it glides onto my sons skin. It’s important to point out that this product is safe for use with cloth diapers. You won’t have any staining.

Shoosha creates exceptionally clean organic products right here in Canada that any mother would be proud to use.

Organic Sensitive Skin Face & Body Lotion by Shoosha Baby is an excellent addition to your clean baby care line up.

This fragrance free lotion is made with oatmeal and aloe vera for the ultimate soothing combination. This lotion is hypoallergenic, completely unscented, dries quickly, lightweight and perfect for the whole family.

This lotion will hydrate your baby’s skin and provide relief from itching due to dryness.

It’s a product you can feel confident about as it’s made with ingredients that are safe enough to eat so no worrying if baby gets some in his or her mouth.

I love using this lotion on my son after a bath to hydrate his skin. It’s also a great option with summer almost here, in addition to keeping ourselves safe with sunscreen it’s important to keep our skin hydrated. I’ve also used this lotion myself.

If you’re looking for baby care that is made without any nasty chemicals and really works, buy Shoosha Baby. You won’t be disappointed.

All opinions and images are my own

Natural Ways to Support Your Immune System

So it seems everyone is trying to avoid getting sick by buying all the hand sanitizer (and toilet paper?). The problem with that is, effective hand washing with plain ol’ soap and water is actually MORE effective at removing surface bacteria than hand sanitizer. Using an all purpose castille soap such as Dr. Bronner’s will do the trick.

In addition to practicing proper hand washing, you need to support your immune system to be able to prevent yourself from getting sick. Whether it’s you or your children, someone in your household is likely sick during cold and flu season. How do we prevent getting sick? and if we do get sick, how can we manage the symptoms naturally? I have your answers.

Prevention is key. We want to support our immune system to be strong all year so we don’t catch a cold (or the flu or another virus). Our immune system lies within our gut. This means we can support our immune system from the inside by supporting our gut with probiotic supplements and fermented foods. Fermented foods include kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and brine fermented pickles (not ones soaked in vinegar and sugar). You might be most familiar with yogurt as a probiotic. While it’s true yogurt is fermented with good bacteria, ultimately there’s just not enough bacteria in the final product to support our gut. In fact:

“you would need to consume dozens of canisters of yogurt daily to obtain the amount of beneficial probiotics in a single high-potency probiotic supplement”

Caroline Farquhar, RHN http://www.renewlife.ca/blog/probiotics-yogurt/

In addition, many yogurts contain unnecessary added sugars and sugar actually reduces immune function. Now, most children may not appreciate the tang associated with naturally fermented foods. Good news is, there’s plenty of effective, safe children’s probiotics on the market. Genuine Health and Genestra make high quality supplements kids love.

There are also safe probiotic supplements for moms-to be. Genestra maternity pro is specifically for expectant mothers. For everyone else, I love this brand.

When taking a probiotic it’s important to have enough food for the probitoics so they can flourish. This “food” is referred to as prebiotics and consists of resistant starches (a.k.a fibre) from plant foods. This would include vegetables, legumes and high-fibre fruits (like berries). So you can already see how beneficial eating a variety of foods can be when it comes to your immune system.

Vitamins for Support

Another way to support your immune system is with Vitamin D. Research supports that a vitamin D deficiency is associated with reduced immune function. The very breif description is that vitamin D works with the cells of your immune system to strengthen it. The safe upper limit for vitamin D consumption is considered to be 4,000IU however, more is recommended to correct deficiency. A simple, inexpensive blood test can determine your vitamin D levels and you can work with your naturopath, RHN, or FMD to determine appropriate supplementation. I personally take 6000-8000 IU during cold and flu season and 3000-4000 during the summer months when I have more sun exposure. Here is the link to Health Canada’s recommendations for all ages. Unless otherwise discussed with your primary care provider, you can use these guidelines for babies and small children.

Vitamin C is another vitamin important for immune function because vitamin C helps create white blood cells which fight infection. You can take vitamin C in a supplement form but there are a variety of foods rich in vitamin C such as:

  • Bell peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Papaya
  • Kiwi
  • Oranges
  • Sweet Potato

I would focus on whole food sources especially for children. If you do take a supplement, it’s important to point out that vitamin C is water soluble. This means you pee out the extra your body doesn’t need so it is considered safer for that reason. You can however take too much (just like anything else) and diarrhea is typically a symptom. I take 3000-4000mg of vitamin C (while I was pregnant and while breastfeeding) to support my immune system.

Zinc is a mineral that also plays a role when it comes to immunity. Organ meats are an excellent source of zinc as are oysters. I’ll bet you’re not a huge fan of consuming these foods. Good news is, you can find it in other foods and zinc is available as a supplement. Things get delicate though, when it comes to supplementing with minerals as too much of one can inhibit the absorption of another. I wouldn’t take additional zinc (beyond what’s found in your multi vitamin or a lozenge) unless you’ve discussed this with your naturopath or functional medicine doctor. Additional food sources of zinc include:

  • Black beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Fortified whole grains
  • Almonds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Eggs

Again, demonstrating the benefits of varied diet.

Stress and Immune Function

Did you know stress is a key factor in how strong our immune systems are? When our bodies are under stress, our immune system becomes weakened making us more susceptible to illness. The reason for this is cortisol. Cortisol is one of the hormones released when we are stressed. One of it’s functions is to temporarily supress the immune system. This means over time, chronic stress leads to reduced immune function. So, keeping our stress levels low is important for strong immunity. We can support our body’s response to stress with the use of adaptogens which are herbs that help balance our immune system by nourishing the adrenal glands (small glands that sit above our kidneys and produce stress hormones). Some of these herbs include Rhodiola, Ashwagandha, Siberian Ginseng and Maca. While there are herbs that are considered safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding, there are many herbs that are unsafe during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Discuss with a trained herbalist or naturopath prior to consumption. I would follow this for children as well. It’s naive to assume children don’t experience stress. We know they do. This product helps children with nervousness and anxiety.

A lack of sleep is also a stressor on the body and will weaken your immune system. It’s important to do what you can to get a good night’s rest. This might mean shutting off electronics an hour before bed and finding a different way to wind-down. A note for new moms: trying to get a good night’s rest is an outlandish request, I know. I have been there (and still am). Just sleep when you can and keep reading to find out what you can safely take if you do get sick.

Supporting with Food

In addition to the foods already listed with respect to vitamin C and zinc, you can help support your immune system with other foods you might already be eating. Garlic is an excellent anti-bacterial and great for immune health. Raw honey is full of enzymes and immune supporting compounds (though typically should not be given to children under 2 years).

Reducing the amount of sugar you are eating will benefit your immune system as well. I am referring to refined sugar such as cookies, pastries, pop and packaged foods not the natural sugars found in fruits. Refined sugar weakens the immune system so leaving it out of your diet is helpful. Reducing or eliminating the amount of alcohol you are consuming will also support your immune system. This is because just like sugar, alcohol dampens the immune system.

Natural Health Products to Reduce Symptoms

So what happens if we do get sick? Well, you can help manage the symptoms with the below natural health products. I have used all of these in the past so they are some of my favourites. There are products appropriate for adults, children and even pregnant and lactating women!

  • Echinacea (A. vogel) is a herb that’s long been used to fight infection. I love this brand because it works! It’s anti-bacterial and anti-viral. This brand is also safe for pregnancy and lactation and their research supports safety and efficacy for preventative use for 4 months. This means you can take it as a preventative but if you do get sick, you can take it to manage symptoms. Just follow the dose on the bottle.
  • Elderberry Syrup (Suro) is available for children and adults and is wonderful when it comes to reducing the symptoms of colds and flu. This one is not recommended if you’re pregnant and breastfeeding however.
  • Medicinal Mushrooms such as Shiitake, Maitake, Chaga and Reishi are incredible immune modulators which means they help boost the immune system (Purica, Four Sigmatic) They help fight off bacteria and viruses. These should not be consumed by pregnant and breastfeeding women or young children without first consulting a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor.
  • Oregano oil is an incredible force when it comes to fighting bacteria and viruses. (not for pregnancy or breastfeeding or kiddos) St. Francis Herb Farm offers an excellent oregano product. You can take this at the first sign of infection. A couple drops under the tongue is all you need. Word to the wise, it’s spicy! And quite potent.
  • Deep Immune by St. Francis Herb Farm is a fantastic product that can be used to keep the immune system strong all season. This is safe for adults and there’s a kiddos version. It is not safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you. I hope you found a little comfort in knowing you ARE in control of your immune system and there are other measures that can be taken to support the health of you and your family.

If you found this informative, please share so we can spread the word about natural immune support

#livevibrantly

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes. We do not yet know what cures/treats COVID-19. We do know we need to properly wash our hands and stay away from infected individuals to prevent the spread. If you believe you have the symptoms of COVID-19 do not hesitate to get yourself checked out.

Supplements During Pregnancy

Congratulations! You’re pregnant (or thinking about becoming pregnant). There’s so much whirling through your mind right now and one topic is likley supplements.

If this little one is a surprise, you might not already be taking a prenatal. That’s definitely a key supplement you want to start right away. Ideally, if you are planning for a baby, start a prenatal 3-6 months prior to the actual date you want to conceive. This will just help nutritionally support your body as you ovulate.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase I earn a small commission.

Prenatal

A prenatal should have just about everything your body needs to support a pregnancy. You want to ensure there is iron, B12 and folate. Ideally it will also have trace minerals like iodine and other minerals like calcium and magnesium. It’s also beneficial to take a whole food based prenatal vitamin. This helps enhance absorption of what’s in the vitamin and whole food brands do not have any artificial colours, flavours or additives.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an important vitamin to take during pregnancy for many reasons. Vitamin C is an antioxidant and it helps support your immune system. When you become pregnant, your immune system is weakened slightly and Vitamin C will help support it. Vitamin C is also needed for collagen production. As you know, your body rapidly changes during pregnancy. Your blood volume doubles and your skin stretches. Vitamin C will help keep the walls of your arteries, veins and capillaries strong and keep your skin stretching gracefully. I chose to supplement with 2,000 – 4,000 mg of Vitamin C daily on top of a nutritious diet.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important for your developing baby’s bone health and teeth. It is also an important vitamin when it comes to immune function. Most people in the northern hemisphere are Vitamin D deficient. This is largely due to not getting enough sun (our body can make Vitamin D when exposed to UV rays), covering up in the colder months and sunscreen. I chose to supplement with 4,000 – 5,000 IU daily. This is because the current recommendations are low based upon the safety and efficacy of higher doses of Vitamin D. Always check with your primary care practitioner to have your vitamin D levels tested. This will determine the most appropriate supplementation amount.

Vitamin B12

I was taking additional B12 prior to getting pregnant. In fact, I had been taking it for years. The reason I chose to take additional B12 (even prior to pregnancy) is that I was following a plant based diet. Most B12 found in food, is found in animal foods so diets that are plant based are typically lower in B12. B12 is also needed to maintain high iron levels. It was recommended to me by my naturopath and was a supplement I continued to take.

Omega 3’s (from Fish Oil)

Omega 3’s are important for moisture retention in your skin which also helps with the stretching. In addition they are an excellent anti-inflammatory supplement that also have research to support aiding the developing brain and eyes of the fetus. I am using this brand.

Probiotic

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help us digest our food, produce neurotransmitters and vitamins and protect our immune system. They help reduce gas and bloating, keep yeast counts in our gut in check and reduce inflammation. Your immune system lies within your gut so this will also help support your immune system and keep you regular which is important when those pregnancy hormones have your bowels getting backed up.

Collagen

Collagen is an essential addition to a pregnant woman’s routine. Specifically, powdered collagen from a marine or bovine source. It’s beneficial for your growing uterus and skin especially if you’re over 25 as around this time, our body’s production of collagen starts to decline by 1% per year. Collagen is an important protein that supports the skin’s elasticity and structure. It also helps keep your skin looking plump and youthful. Aura™ Nutrition has a wonderful marine collagen. It’s sourced from Canadian waters and is made from wild caught, deep water Atlantic white fish. Mixes easily into a coffee, an elixir or your smoothie. (It’s linked above to browse and shop) .

Collagen will help support the natural elasticity of the skin through the production of elastin, helping it to stretch. This also important for your growing blood vessels. Collagen is an excellent source of the amino acid glycine. Glycine is also found in gelatin and slow cooked meats (pulled pork, bone broth, chicken soup) due to the breakdown of the animals connective tissue. According to Registered Dietitian and prenatal nutrition educator, Lily Nichols , “the demand for glycine during pregnancy may already exceed the capacity for it’s synthesis, making it conditionally indispensable”.

Glycine is needed for the synthesis of fetal DNA and collagen, among other functions. It’s particularly important…later in pregnancy when your baby is gaining weight rapidly. Your baby’s developing bones, connective tissues, organs, and skin need glycine

Lily Nichols, RDN, Real Food for Pregnancy Chp 3, pg 37

Magnesium

Magnesium is needed for over 300 reactions in our body. It helps relax our muscles which includes the muscle of our GI tract. This is helpful if you’re finding yourself constipated during your pregnancy. Magnesium will also help with those leg cramps you might be getting (especially towards the end of pregnancy) as well as keeping your blood pressure under control. If you find yourself getting headaches during pregnancy, magnesium will also help provide relief.

Liquid Calcium (for heartburn)

This was a supplement I used only when I had heartburn. Early in pregnancy that was a few times a week. I didn’t have much during the second trimester and then it came back a little bit in the end of the third trimester. I used this calcium here I like this brand because it uses a dose of calcium that is well absorbed in a form well tolerated by most people. It is also balanced with vitamin D and magnesium. This is a much better replacement than chewable heartburn tablets as it does not contain any artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners and preservatives.

These are the supplements I chose to take based upon my education and knowledge as well as research I did. As always. speak with your OB or midwife about any supplements you want to take during pregnancy.

Natural Ways to Protect Your Skin This Winter

While it feels like fall just started, the temperature is already dropping. It’s getting much colder and windier and this impacts our skin. While we don’t have much skin exposured during the colder months, the dry air negatively affects our skin. You might be noticing your skin is a little dry, maybe dull. Maybe the skin on your hands is already cracking? If you’ve been moisturizing your skin and it still isn’t coping with the cold temperatures, there is more you can do to ensure your skin stays healthy and soft.

Hydrate

While it’s important to be applying moisturizer to your skin, don’t forget about moisturizing from the inside-out. That might sound a little unusual to you but hear me out. By consuming healthy fats, we’re helping our skin from the inside out. Fats like avocado, nuts and seeds, omega 3s from fish, evening primrose oil and GLA oil are excellent oils for skin. They will help keep your skin hydrated, glowing, plump and clear. You can incorporate the food based fats (avocado, nuts, seeds, fish, ghee, and coconut oil) into your diet via smoothies, salad dressings and meals. The supplemental fats (evening primrose and GLA) can be purchased at your local health food store and taken in the morning or before bed.

Water is also essential for beautiful skin. Keeping your body hydrated will keep your skin hydrated. If water is boring to you, try adding fruits and/or herbs like watermelon, lemon, strawberries, cucumber, ginger or mint to add a fresh twist.

Ditch Your Face Cream and Use an Oil

What you’re applying to your skin will also determine if it’s dry or not. Products with astringent properties typically dry out your skin* but can be very beneficial when combined with an oil. It may sound counter-intuitive to use an oil to moisturize your face (especially if you already have oily skin) but our skin naturally has an oily layer on it called sebum. This means our body naturally makes oils so it makes sense to use something we naturally produce. One cause of oily skin can actually be over-use of cleansers which dries your skin out, causing the sebaceous glands to go into overdrive and produce more oil. If the sebaceous glands remain hydrated, the oil production should level out.

When you use an oil, you can use just a little for a light application or tailor it and use several pumps for a richer, thicker application. When we use an oil, we actually hydrate around our sebaceous glands which helps naturally adjust our skins pH and gives our skin a deeper hydration than a cream. Typically, creams sit topically on the skin and are not well absorbed.

Rosehip oil is excellent for collagen regeneration and is rich in vitamins A and C as well as fatty acids that help reduce inflammation

I moisturize my skin in both the morning and evening. In addition, after a shower, I take the opportunity to moisturize the rest of my body, not just my face. At night I especially love using an oil. My choices include the antioxidant-rich and anti-aging Argan oil which I’ll add 1-2 drops of Lavender essential oil to once it’s in the palm of my hand or Blue Tansy Oil from Acure. I also love using rosehip oil which is a great oil for supporting the elasticity of your skin. When shopping for a skin oil, look for a cold-pressed, certified organic oil that is packaged in glass; ideally an amber or dark coloured glass. St. Francis Herb Farm and Skin Essence Organics make wonderful skin oils. Read my post here about how to select clean beauty products.

*there are several natural essential oils (lavender, rosemary, citrus) with astringent properties that can be every beneficial for your skin especially if combined with a hydrating oil

Supplement for a Healthy Glow

Supplements can also help make a difference. Collagen and antioxidants will keep your skin youthful and glowing. Collagen is really important if you’re over 25 as around this time, our body’s production of collagen starts to decline by 1% per year. Collagen is an important protein that supports the skins elasticity and structure. It also helps keep your skin looking plump and youthful. Aura™ Nutrition has a wonderful marine collagen. It’s sourced from Canadian waters and is made from wild caught, deep water Atlantic white fish. Mixes easily into a coffee, an elixir or your smoothie. (It’s linked above to browse and shop)

Aura™ also offers a delicious collagen creamer which combines collagen protein with MCT powder

In addition, probiotics can help support your skin health especially if acne is of a concern. Check out this post on probiotics to learn more. 

Take Care Long-Term

A final note I will make is about sunscreen. Sunscreen is necessary to protect our skin from the damaging effects of the sun and shouldn’t only be used in summer. Look for physical sunscreens with Zinc Oxide rather than chemical sunscreens as physical suncreens create a barrier on the skin and reflect the UV rays. Chemical suncreens on the other hand, absorb the rays in a chemical reaction and dissipate them as heat. The Environmental Working group has an exceptional list each year of the best natural and clean sunscreens. Here’s the link to see how clean your sunscreen really is. It also offers alternative choices for your family so only the safest products are going on your skin. Using suncreen will help protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun which will also help your skin to continue to look healthy and youthful.

A Quick Summary

  • Hydrate by drinking water and consuming healthy fats
  • Swap your cream for an oil
  • Supplement with collagen for beautiful skin
  • Take long term care by using sunscreen

#livevibrantly

Easy Chia Pudding

Chia seeds are a powerhouse of nutrition. They are rich in plant based omega 3’s, iron, magnesium, calicum, thiamin (B vitamin), manganese and a great source of fibre.

The fibre chia seeds contain is very gentle on the digestive tract and actually helps promote healing. This fibre is mucilaginous which helps soothe an inflamed digestive system the same way alo would soothe a burn. The other ingredients in this pudding are also beneficial for your health.

Collagen powder: amino acids in this powder help heal and repair body tissues including the digestive tract. It is also beneficial for hair, skin, nails and connective tissues. This is a great powdered collagen to add.

Cacao powder: raw, unprocessed cacaco is rich in magnesium and fibre as well as antioxidants.

The Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup whole chia seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups non dairy milk (I like using coconut or oat)
  • 1 tsp of real vanilla extract (I use Simply Organic)
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp collagen powder
  • For a chocolate version, add 1/4 cup raw cacao powder and an additional 1/4 cup of milk

You can top this pudding with berries, seeds, nuts, granola, coconut, hemp, more chia seeds, coconut cream, whatever you’d like! Makes a great option for breakfast or snacktime. It keeps for several days in the fridge.

This pudding also travels well so packing it for yourself or your child(ren’s) lunches is easy. Just make sure your container has a lid that seals well. Small mason jars work best for this as the lids screw on and there’s no risk of spilling. Bonus, they’re glass and you don’t have the nasty chemicals found in plastics.

Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

Who doesn’t love cookies for breakfast? The reason these cookies are great for breakfast is that they are full of nutrient dense ingredients and free of refined sugars. They can be enjoyed as an afternoon or after day-care snack as they are great for kids too. Since they are also nut free, they are school safe.

As an adult, I’ve never really enjoyed very sweet things. This goes for cookies as well. I will always prefer an oatmeal-seedy-chunky cookie over something very sweet.

When I was making these cookies I wanted to keep them egg-free so that the recipe could be vegan. The cookies overall are very allergen friendly as they are:

  • Egg free
  • Gluten free
  • Nut free
  • Dairy free* (if strictly coconut oil is used)
  • Sesame free
  • Peanut free
  • Soy free

They remain soft and chewy after baking and will keep this texture once they are refrigerated. They can also be frozen and thawed out the day prior to eating.

Not the prettiest picture but this is what the dough will look like once everything is mixed

Some of the nutrient dense ingredients used in these cookies include:

Chia seeds: very good source of omega 3s, iron and fibre

Pumpkin seeds: source of magnesium, protein and other trace minerals

Oats: oats are a source of fibre called beta-glucans that can help support healthy cholesterol levels

Banana: rich in potassium, fibre and a source of vitamins and minerals. The banana also helps naturally sweeten the cookies while boosting the nutrition

OK, let’s make them!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp ground flax seeds (also known as flaxmeal)
  • 1/2 cup ghee (ghee is lactose free but not vegan as it is derived from butter. You can use coconut oil in place of this to keep it dairy free)
  • 1/2 cup cococnut sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups gluten free oats (I used One Degree as they are rountinely free from glyphosate a.k.a roundup)
  • 1 banana
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup dairy free chocolate chips (I use this brand so they remain dairy and refined sugar free)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. 
  • Combine water and ground flax. Set aside for 5 minutes. This will create a flax egg. 
  • In a larger bowl mash the banana (using a fork is fine). Add the ghee (or coconut oil) coconut sugar and vanilla. Whisk together. Add in the flax egg. Whisk until combined.
  • Combine oats, cinnamon, salt, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds. Stir. Add to wet ingredients. Fold everything together. Add in chocolate chips. Fold again just until combined.
  • Use a 1/8 cup measuring cup to scoop cookies. Alternatively you can use a small ice cream scoop or place 2 tbsp of dough at a time into your hands and manually form the cookies. Place on lined baking sheets and flatten slightly. 
  • Cookies will not expand or spread out so don’t worry too much if they are close together.
  • Bake 12 mins. Allow to cool on pans and refrigerate after they are cool. 
  • Yields 16-17 cookies. 
The cookies wil look very similar to this after baking as their shape will not change

  ©Vibrancy Health Solutions, 2019

Could you be iron deficient?

Updated May 19th 2021

Are you constantly tired? Do you feel weak? Do you have brittle nails and hair? What about shortness of breath or weak concentration? If you answered yes to any of these, you might be iron deficient (or anemic, just keep reading) and not even know it. Did you know iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world? Iron is a vital mineral and here’s a few reasons why.

Carries oxygen in our blood

Two thirds of our bodies iron is found in red blood cells and is referred to as hemoglobin. In muscle cells, it’s referred to as myoglobin. (Naka Herbs, Web. 2008). Hemoglobin is a protein that transports oxygen throughout the body, delivering it to our tissues, and in order to do this effectively, requires iron.

Required for enzymes

Iron is a building block for many enzymes including those required for our metabolism. Iron is also important for the creation of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that send signals from one neuron to another. Neurotransmitters such as dopamine are also required for circadian rhythm; our natural sleep-wake patterns.

Important for the growth of babies and children

Iron is a nutrient we focus on when introducing solids to babies. This is because during the third trimester of your pregnancy, your body passed iron onto your baby. These iron stores protect your baby for about 6 months. After 6 months, their iron stores begin to decline and they need to consume iron from solids alongside breastmilk. Breastmilk itself contains a low amount of iron but contains an enzyme, lactoferrin, as well as vitamin C that helps increase the absorption. Iron from animal foods is much better absorbed than plant foods (as you’ll read below). Recent evidence also demonstrates low iron levels in children and iron-deficiency anemia is most common in children age 6-24 months when their nervous system is rapidly developing.

Iron-deficiency anemia in children also increases the risks for cognitive impairment, ADHA and restless leg-syndrome. It is associated with impaired and disordered sleep as well. Iron-deficient infants and those with iron-deficiency anemia tend to wake more frequently at night and are described by their parents as being restless.

Lost in athletes and menstruating women

The need for oxygen is higher in athletes and those who are physically active. Because iron is needed for hemoglobin to carry oxygen, those who are physically active need more iron. Myoglobin, in our muscles, also requires iron. Iron can be lost during physical performance in sweat and hemolysis (the breakdown of red blood cells) cited here. Women loose blood monthly during menstruation and so, have higher iron needs than men. This is especially true for female athletes.

Vegetarians and vegans needs more iron

Iron found in plant foods is referred to as non-heme iron. Animal iron is called heme iron and has a higher absorption rate than non-heme. Non-heme iron has a very low absorption rate and is further impacted by certain substances in these plant foods. Phytates, oxalates, polyphenols and phosphates all inhibit iron absorption. Phytates are found in nuts, legumes and soy. Oxalates are found in spinach, rhubarb and beets. Polyphenols are compounds found in tea, red wine and coffee. Phosphates are found in sodas, which should be avoided anyway, due to their lack of nutritional value and high sugar content.

More is needed during pregnancy

During pregnancy, the need for iron increases to help build the blood supply needed for the placenta and growing fetus. Blood work is done early in pregnancy to check iron levels and then again after 24 weeks to re-check. The iron is checked again as typically women have enough stored iron (ferritin) to last about 6 months. For this reason, it is not only important to take an iron supplement during pregnancy but also before pregnancy to ensure adequate iron stores and hemoglobin levels. Typically, the range for hemoglobin levels during pregnancy (and women in general) is 120-160 g/L. Around 6 months (24 weeks) typically a drop is seen to below 120g/L.

Because the type of iron impacts absorption and because you may have entered into pregnancy already deficient, it’s important to work with a Naturopath or a Functional Medicine Doctor to have your iron levels tested and supplemented accordingly.

Lack of iron leads to deficiency

When not enough iron is consumed, we don’t have enough in our hemoglobin and begin to experience iron deficiency symptoms. The first stage of iron deficiency is called “iron depletion” followed by “iron- deficiency without anemia” and the final stage is “iron-deficiency anemia”. The below symptoms can be seen in iron-deficiency anemia but also might be seen in earlier stages of iron deficiency.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Brittle nails
  • Brittle hair
  • Extensive hair loss
  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Easily bruised
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Pale skin
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Poor concentration
  • Heavy menstruation

Iron deficiency can also occur with sub-optimal intake of certain vitamins such as B12 and folate. When this occurs, the shape of hemoglobin is altered and its ability to carry oxygen is impaired. This is referred to as vitamin-deficiency anemia. Anemia can also be a results of genetic conditions.

If you suspect you might be iron deficient, speak with your primary care provider and have your blood work done. Not only should you have your hemoglobin tested (the primary go-to) but your ferritin levels (which measure the amount of iron your body has stored) should be tested as well. The reason is, as our hemoglobin levels drop, our body pulls from our back-up supply; what has been stored in our body. So in theory, you could have normal hemoglobin levels but your stores could be close to depleted meaning in a few short months (or weeks depending on your activity level), you’ll likely experience more symptoms and they will be more severe.

To correct an iron-deficiency anemia, you can supplement with iron. When choosing an iron supplement, be sure to select one that is non-constipating as this is an unfortunate side-effect of many irons on the market. Some of my favourites that I have used personally include Floradix/Floravit, Blood Builder and Vital F. It’s also best to use this under your primary care providers (ideally a Naturopath or Functional Medicine Doctor) supervision as you can in fact, consume too much iron. They might suggest a protocol that includes cycling off the iron every few months, have you take as the bottle directs, or change your dose entirely. This is why it’s best to know your numbers before you begin supplementing.

As with any other health concerns you might have, always do your research and speak to your most trusted health care provider to determine what is best for your individual needs.

References:

Dosman, C., Witmans, M., & Zwaigenbaum, L. (2012). Iron’s role in paediatric restless legs syndrome – a review. Paediatrics & child health17(4), 193–197. https://doi.org/10.1093/pch/17.4.193

J Dev Behav Pediatr. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2014 Feb 1.Published in final edited form as:J Dev Behav Pediatr. 2013 Feb; 34(2): 120–128.doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e31827d5848

Ji, X., Grandner, M. A., & Liu, J. (2017). The relationship between micronutrient status and sleep patterns: a systematic review. Public health nutrition20(4), 687–701. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1368980016002603

Moturi, S., & Avis, K. (2010). Assessment and treatment of common pediatric sleep disorders. Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township))7(6), 24–37.

Peirano, P. D., Algarín, C. R., Chamorro, R. A., Reyes, S. C., Durán, S. A., Garrido, M. I., & Lozoff, B. (2010). Sleep alterations and iron deficiency anemia in infancy. Sleep medicine11(7), 637–642. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2010.03.014

Supporting your skin during pregnancy

Updated May 7th 2021

There is a lot of demand on your body when you are pregnant. One of the biggest changes is your growing baby. Your skin needs to grow and stretch with the baby and most of us would love that to happen with the most minimal impact possible. Stretch marks and Linea Nigra are very common in pregnancy so much so that 1 in 2 people will get stretch marks.

There are a lot of natural options to support your body and your skin during this time to possibly reduce the quantity of stretch marks as well as their intensity (less red and itchy). Below are the products I personally used and believe in based on research and personal experience.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase I earn a small commission.

Collagen is an essential addition to a pregnant person’s routine. Specifically, powdered collagen from a marine or bovine source. Collagen will help support the natural elasticity of the skin through the production of elastin, helping it to stretch. This is also important for your growing blood vessels. Collagen is a very important source of the amino acid glycine. Glycine is also found in gelatin and slow cooked meats (pulled pork, bone broth, chicken soup) due to the breakdown of the animals connective tissue. According to Registered Dietitian and prenatal nutrition educator, Lily Nichols , “the demand for glycine during pregnancy may already exceed the capacity for it’s synthesis, making it conditionally indispensable”.

Glycine is needed for the synthesis of fetal DNA and collagen, among other functions. It’s particularly important…later in pregnancy when your baby is gaining weight rapidly. Your baby’s developing bones, connective tissues, organs, and skin need glycine

Lily Nichols, RDN, Real Food for Pregnancy Chp 3, pg 37

Omega 3’s are important for moisture retention in your skin which also helps with the stretching. In addition, they are an excellent anti-inflammatory supplement that also have research to support aiding the developing brain and eyes of the fetus.

Rosehip Oil is a wonderful oil that you apply topically to your skin. The unique feature of Rosehip oil is the ability to regenerate skin cells and collagen and restores skin’s elasticity. Some consider it to be the botox of skin oils. It is rich in Vitamins A and C as well as omega 3’s and 6’s. I have been using St. Francis Herb Farm Rosehip Oil for a few months now and I do believe it’s another reason my skin is stretching well.

Marula Oil is another wonderful oil that actually works to prevent and heal stretch marks. Sourced from the fruit of the Marula tree in Namibia, Marula oil is considered to be a “miracle” oil. It softens and soothes the skin and improves the skin’s ability to retain moisture, all of which support your growing belly. Again, I am using the St. Francis Herb Farm brand of Marula Oil.

A few other notes I have to share is to DRINK YOUR WATER. Water is essential for the growing baby, your growing blood supply, the amniotic fluid and maintaining the moisture in your skin.

It is also important that while we gain weight during pregnancy, it should be slow and steady. A slow and steady weight gain will also prevent/reduce the impact of stretch marks as your skin is growing very slowly. Rapid weight gain can lead to an increased number of stretch marks and they can be itchy or red in colour. Your primary prenatal care practitioner (whether Dr. or Midwife) will let you know if your gain is too rapid.

Another important mention is to avoid the use of petroleum based products such as baby oil, mineral oil (aka liquid paraffin which is the main ingredient in BioOil) vaseline or other “jellies”. Gasoline is also derived from Petroleum!