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Diet during pregnancy – an interview with Dr Preeti Agraval

An interview with Dr Preeti Agraval from India – a birthplace of natural medicine. She has been leading a medical practice in Poland for over 20 years. She’s the Doctor of Medical Sciences and the second degree specialist in gynecology and obstetrics. The founder of Poland’s first Integrative Medical Center in Wroclaw and the president of the Foundation Women and Nature. She has been healing and promoting a holistic approach to health and disease for many years. She heals basing on integrative medicine which is a combination of academic medicine with broadly defined natural medicine (herbal medicine, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, supplementation, appropriate dietary recommendations and complementary therapies) and psychosomatics.

I. Cz.-W.: Doctor, my friends often ask me questions about my kids’ and my own diet from when I was pregnant. Many women planning pregnancy have various dilemmas in terms of what they should eat, because one thing they are told by grandmothers and mothers, something else by obstetricians, and yet what else flows from the media on the subject.

What is your approach to nutrition of women during preparation for pregnancy and during pregnancy? And one more important question: what herbs can women drink and use during pregnancy?

Dr Preeti Agrawal: Let’s start with general data. Diet during trying for a baby and during pregnancy should be, first and foremost, sustainable. Pregnancy can also be a time to introduce good eating habits, without unnecessary excuse, which is a disease, because often, unfortunately, only in the event of illness people begin to pay attention to their meals, the ingredients, the origin of food and start to consider its influence on health and frame of mind. Often, while pregnant, we experience the positive impact of diet on our health, it not only remains with us, but the rest of the family profits from our knowledge and beneficiary impact of the meals and also changes their eating habits.

However, we must remember that a good diet gives much better results in conjunction with outdoor activities, exercise and serenity. This is the best way to well-being of mother and baby both during pregnancy and after birth. With a balanced diet, properly chosen meals, the use of herbs and vitamins, we can prevent hypertension, choleostasis of pregnancy, diabetes, nephritis and water retention at the end of pregnancy.

I. Cz.-W.:   What is a balanced diet?

Dr P.A.: A person who lives in harmony with cycles of nature is healthier and feels better. People whose daily diet is based on traditional, local food, without “civilized” products, such as white sugar, canned vegetables, bread and processed white flour, heal naturally and live longer than people in highly developed Western cultures.

I. Cz.-W.:  So our diet should be determined by food available in our culture, without the need to preserve and process it? So, is there any data that allow people more focused on specific calculations keep in mind some values, to be able to relate to something, at least at the beginning of changing their diet?

Dr Preeti Agrawal: A balanced diet should contain 25-30% of natural fats, 10-15% of protein, 65-70% of carbohydrates (including approximately 65-70% of complex carbohydrates or starch, the rest should contain simple carbohydrates, such as fructose that comes from fruit).

I. Cz.-W.:– Fats are often controversial subject. Which are best, do we really need them and in what form moms-to-be should use them?

Dr Preeti Agrawal: Fat appears in our meals in two forms. As an individual product: in the form of olive, butter or lard, or in combination with protein, as an element of natural products, such as meat, cheese, nuts, whole grains, avocado or coconuts. Fats fulfill the role of flavor, but most importantly they are essential for proper functioning of our body, constituting a protective layer for tissues. Decomposition of fats generates heat, which is very important in our climate. Furthermore, fats strengthen tissues. They protect nerve and brain tissue, they give the skin elasticity and are the source of hormones. Moreover, they are essential to absorb vitamins soluble in them: A, D, E and K. Which are best? It is really important what kind of fats we choose. Highly processed in food industry, fats are simply harmful to the body, because during their processing, isomers of trans-unsaturated fatty acids are created, and they are harmful to our health.

I. Cz.-W.:  And to what extent are they harmful?

Dr Preeti Agrawal: Fats, such as, for example, margarine and some types of peanut butter, after a long period of use and under unfavorable circumstances that further debilitate health condition, can contribute to stroke and weakening of immune system, a factor which is particularly important during pregnancy.

I. Cz.-W.: What can you advise on milk and protein in general? We keep hearing about overproteinization of both children and adults.

Dr Preeti Agrawal: 

Indeed, the daily consumption of meat and dairy products results in excessive consumption of proteins. This, in turn, leads to the formation of toxic by-products that burden kidneys and liver. The problem is not only an excess of meat in diet, but also its origin. Unfortunately, it is now a norm to give farm animals antibiotics and hormones on an industrial scale to accelerate growth and to protect the entire husbandry against losses. It is similar with poultry, eggs and fish from industrial farming. That is why it is very important to make right choices when buying this type of goods. You should choose those that come from biodynamic farming in natural conditions, and certainly this choice will reward us, not only in quality of our health, but also in far higher flavor values.

Cow’s milk is a separate topic. It has been acclaimed an excellent source of protein because of high content of amino acids and calcium. But watching still growing number of allergic infants, this thesis might need to be verified step by step.

Cow’s milk is significantly different in composition than human milk. Human body does not absorb much higher amounts of protein and calcium the same way he absorbs these substances from mother’s milk. Cow’s milk is tailored to the needs of a calf that weighs three or four times more than an adult. Therefore, in this case, more does not necessarily mean better and it should be kept in mind that an excess of certain component in diet can be just as dangerous as its deficiency.

I. Cz.-W.:  And how does this relate to the state of pregnancy and what consequences it may cause?

Dr Preeti Agrawal: During pregnancy, overproteinization caused by the consumption of milk may intensify symptoms, such as asthma, allergies, hypertension, oedema and kidney diseases. While the body of pregnant woman, and a human being in general responds well to the following dairy products: cream, butter, buttermilk, natural white cheese and sheep milk cheese. Pregnant women may take delight in these products, obviously observing individual responses to each of them.

I. Cz.-W.:  And where to derive calcium from? It’s a very important structural element for body growing in us. It is known that if the mother absorbs too little of it, her body will give it to the little one, and she will then face the consequences of deficiency.

Dr Preeti Agrawal: As it turns out, many natural products contain easily absorbed calcium. These include beans, nuts, almonds, sesame seeds, salmon, sardines. Among the vegetables these are broccoli, cabbage, beetroot, parsley, watercress, seaweeds, such as kelp, kombu or wakame. An excellent source of protein are also soups cooked on the fish, poultry or beef bones.

I. Cz.-W.: Often during pregnancy, I heard that I can’t use these or other herbs. One massage therapist advised me not to use lavender oils or camomile tea but he could not give reasons why. What is the truth?

Dr Preeti Agrawal: 

In moderate amount, herbs are needed and healthy during pregnancy. They support digestion, prevent flatulence, improve the taste of food. Herbs have also great power to prevent diseases, and that is why they are very important during pregnancy. Their effectiveness is due to the high content of vitamins and microelements and specific natural health-promoting chemical substances. Most herbs are completely safe for pregnant women and they successfully replace chemical drugs. In post-natal period they help regain balance and strengthen mother’s body. In India, almost all women during the first weeks of their postpartum period drink herbs, enjoy the baths and massages of the whole body. The most valuable herbs for pregnant women include nettle, dandelion, raspberry leaves, lemon balm, chamomile and marigold flowers. Such herbs as yarrow, field mint, motherwort, shepherd’s purse and black cohosh should be avoided.

Detailed use of herbs and blends for pregnant women are available in my book “Discovering Motherhood” that you can gain access through the Foundation Women and Nature website.

I. Cz.-W.:– Yet another controversial subject: sugar What advice have you got for women who crave for something sweet during pregnancy, knowing how harmful it can be?

Dr Preeti Agrawal: In natural products, such as fruit, sugar appears with the whole group of nutrients that help the body in its decomposition. Refined white sugar, such as white flour, is devoid of minerals, vitamins, protein and fiber. To decompose this kind of sugar, our body must draw the missing nutrients from other sources. Therefore, while eating sugar or white flour, we lose vitamin B, calcium, phosphorus and iron. Due to the excessive consumption of sugar, we are often plagued by ailments connected with high cholesterol, nervousness, recurrent vaginitis, depression, mental illness, diabetes and obesity which have a direct impact on the health of mother and a child during pregnancy and after birth. How can this natural need for something sweet be satisfied? With fresh and dried fruits, sweet vegetables, fruit compotes and natural infusion herbs with the addition of good quality honey.

I. Cz.-W.: So basically, pregnant women should be guided by the principle that what is healthy, natural or at least the least processed and does no harm, and at the same time flows in harmony with natural cycles around us, is advisable both for them and for their children. Thank you very much, Doctor, for another dose of advice. I invite you for another meeting.


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Izabela Kopp

Therapist of Hellinger’s Settings, coach and personal development coach, working with dozens of people from Poland and abroad every month and accompanying them on their way to achieve joy and full personal and professional life.