So it’s official…I am pregnant! For those of you who don’t know about our struggles to conceive, my husband and I tried for over a year and had no luck but at that time I was overweight and had a terrible diet and lifestyle. When I adopted the Wellness Forum Style diet recently in March, we began protecting from pregnancy so that I could get healthy. I began to lose weight and feel great! Everything was returning back to normal with hormones then in August we decided not to protect against pregnancy because we thought that since we had trouble getting pregnant before, that it may take some time to get pregnant now. Boy were we wrong! It’s only took that one try in August! I attribute our conceiving success to my healthy diet and lifestyle taught to me by the wonderful Dr. Pam Popper!
Ok so now that that has been said…I have gotten a few raised eye brows about my diet and lack thereof taking pre-natal vitamins and choosing not to vaccinate myself with the flu shot as well as choosing not to vaccinate my baby when the time comes. So…in order to explain and hopefully get other pregnant women reading this to consider the same choices I have made, I have gathered some information and advice that Dr. Popper has given about the safety and efficacy of vitamins, vaccines and a vegan or near vegan “Wellness Forum Style” diet while pregnant. Feel free to look through the questions and read the ones that appeal to you…hopefully you read all of it but I understand that some of it is quite long. Enjoy!
Dear Dr. Pam: Do you recommend folic acid for pregnant women if they are eating a Wellness Forum-style diet?
A woman practicing dietary excellence does not need to take folic acid while pregnant, because a well-structured plant-based diet provides adequate folate. The current RDA for folate is 400 mcg, which is easily met by eating a Wellness forum-style diet. Just one cup of cooked lentils contains 358 mcg of folate; one cup of cooked black beans contains 256 mcg. Vegetables like spinach, broccoli and Brussels sprouts contain approximately 58 mcg of folate per cup.
It is much better to consume folate from foods than from supplements, both because the nutrient is much more bioavailable in foods, and because a plant-based, Wellness Forum-style diet will result in a healthier pregnancy than will a less than adequate diet with supplementation added.
Dear Dr. Pam: If a woman just can’t or won’t breast feed, is soy or dairy formula better?
For the record, breastfeeding is so far superior to formula feeding of any type that other options should be considered only in rare circumstances, such as when a child is adopted or when the mother cannot produce enough milk. In fact, Dr. John McDougall has said that he thinks breastfeeding is so important that if he were appointed Surgeon General, he would allow baby formula to be available only by prescription.
I have serious concerns about cow’s milk formulas for many reasons. The nutritional makeup of cow’s milk is different than mothers’ milk. For example, the protein content of cow’s milk formula is higher, close to 17%, while mothers’ milk is approximately 6%. The risk of a child fed cow’s milk developing type 1 diabetes is higher than the risk of a smoker developing lung cancer. It is common for babies fed cow’s milk to develop chronic ear infections, gas and intestinal discomfort, vomiting, colic, diarrhea or constipation, and skin conditions like eczema.
Both cow’s milk and soy formulas contain added sugars, and many pediatricians are legitimately concerned that these added sugars set the stage for craving sweet foods, which can lead to overeating and obesity in children. Another issue for formula-fed babies, regardless of the type of formula used, is overeating. Breastfed babies nurse until they are full; the milk is not measured, but portion control is not an issue. Bottle-fed babies are encouraged to drink milk until the bottle is emptied and in many cases this is the beginning of learning how to overeat.
Keep in mind that there are no good options if an infant cannot be breastfed; parents must pick from less than optimal ones. All things considered, I am more comfortable with organic soy formulas than cow’s milk formulas, since my research has shown the risks associated with soy to be considerably less than the risks associated with cow’s milk.
Dear Dr. Pam: I have heard you speak about the H1N1 vaccine and flu vaccine and know that you don’t think people should get these. But I now some people who have had H1N1 and were really, really sick. And a nurse friend of mine told me that people do die from the flu. I’m wondering if you are not taking this seriously enough.
The flu can be serious and people do die from it every year. H1N1 is also serious and there have been deaths from this form of the flu also. The issue is whether or not the risk of getting the flu, or H1N1, and having complications or dying from it is significant enough for public health authorities to declare an epidemic or pandemic, and to promote vaccinations in response.
Last year, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control instructed health care providers to stop testing to confirm H1N1 or flu, and to report and treat patients who presented with flu-like symptoms as H1N1 patients. This meant that every patient with a runny nose or fever was treated as a flu patient and reported as such.
I publicly stated at the time this policy decision was made that the reason was that there was no epidemic, and health authorities could not afford for testing to show this to be the case. In fact, CBS News confirmed this fact during its investigation of the matter when state records from before the mandate showed that fewer than 2% of those presenting with flu-like symptoms had any form of the flu at all.
The actions taken by public health authorities were abominable and have far-reaching consequences. Scarce health care resources were allocated to vaccinating people when the risk of contracting H1N1 or any form of flu was negligible. Countries with scant financial resources were forced to purchase vaccines in anticipation of a public health threat that simply did not exist. The vaccines were not properly tested; federal authorities stated that it was unethical to test the vaccines on pregnant women, for example, yet targeted pregnant women to get the vaccine as soon as it was available.
There are risks associated with all pharmaceuticals, including vaccinations. The decision to take a drug or to get a vaccination should only be made when the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. Every year, thousands of people are injured by flu vaccines, a risk that might be worth taking if the chances of dying from the flu were significant; in a situation where the risks are almost non-existent, it is unconscionable to expose people to potential harm from vaccines.
Who benefited from all of this hype? The drug companies, of course, which were able to sell tens of millions of doses of vaccines to government agencies and to the public, which generated huge profits.
In summary, to confirm my position, the flu can make some people very ill, and some people do die from it every year. The fact is, however, that most people do not get the flu, and few people die of it. The decision to declare public health emergencies and grant “epidemic” status to a disease should be based on facts. To do otherwise is a violation of public trust.
Dear Dr. Pam: I have heard a lot of news lately that the theory that vaccinations cause autism has been totally discredited. Is this true?
I have spent considerable time researching this issue myself, and I am convinced that there is a connection between vaccinations and autism. However, vaccinations are not the only cause of autism and the link between thimerosal and autism is not clear. Thimerosal is a preservative that was used in almost all childhood vaccinations until a few years ago, and is still used in many vaccines, including flu vaccines, today. Many of the lawsuits alleging harm from vaccinations have focused on this connection, and I think this strategy is misdirected. This does not mean that I am not concerned about thimerosal, but rather that I think that a cause and effect relationship between thimerosal alone and autism has not been established.
The effort to discredit vaccines as a cause of autism has been going on for decades. In my opinion, the recent stepped-up push to do so is due to the public’s growing suspicion and rejection of vaccines. In spite of a national campaign mounted by health authorities to scare people about the dangers of the H1N1 virus, most of the public opted not to get vaccinated. According to an article in the Columbus Dispatch on Monday, March 22, only 42% of the vaccines distributed to Ohio from the federal government were actually administered. The article stated that 9800 unused doses of vaccine were stored at the Summit County Health Department alone.
Thankfully, we live in an information age, and more and more people are finding out that not only are there safety issues with vaccines, but efficacy issues as well. A recent outbreak of mumps among teenagers in New York and New Jersey involved kids who were vaccinated. Adults who experienced an outbreak of mumps in Iowa a few years ago had all been vaccinated too. The risks associated with getting vaccines need to be carefully weighed against the expected benefits, and increasing amounts of evidence suggest that the benefits may have been overstated.
The health authorities are fighting an uphill battle as more and more people are opting not to vaccinate their children, or to get annual flu shots and other recommended inoculations. As a result, I expect that attacks on health professionals who support the rights of individuals to make decisions about vaccinations based on informed choice will continue and become even more vicious in the future. It is truly unfortunate that we cannot have objective scientific debate about such issues and develop public health policies accordingly.
Dear Dr. Pam: I have taken Wellness 101 and have changed my diet a lot. I have a few questions about protein. I know you advise people to eat a low-protein diet; what happens if you consume too much protein? Do you have the same concerns about plant protein that you do about animal protein?
Protein requirements are actually quite low; about 2.5% of calories. Most people are consuming many times that amount and are not at any risk of developing protein deficiencies. In fact, it is virtually impossible not to consume enough protein if you are eating enough calories daily.
When you consume protein, it is broken down into amino acids, which are made up of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen. The amino acids are then absorbed into the system where they are re-constituted into amino acid chains that make up cells of the body, like enzymes and hormones. When you consume too much protein, the body has to dispose of the unneeded amino acid chains, and it does this by converting them to carbohydrate or fat. Fats and carbohydrate are comprised of oxygen, hydrogen and carbon; what differentiates protein from fats and carbohydrates is nitrogen.
The conversion of protein into fats and carbohydrate is performed with the assistance of the liver. The carbohydrate is burned for energy or stored as glycogen, and the fat is stored for future use. In order to accomplish this conversion, the nitrogen must be released, which causes the production of ammonia. The ammonia is converted into waste products like urea, uric acid and creatinine, which are disposed of by the kidneys. Excess protein consumption places stress on the liver and kidneys.
Dr. Campbell’s research using lab animals at Cornell showed that plant proteins like soy and gluten did not have the same cancer-promoting effects that animal proteins had. However, I have two concerns about excess plant protein consumption. The first is that the body needs and uses complex carbohydrate for energy. Many people are consuming enough calories daily, but are not consuming enough carbohydrate to provide adequate energy for the day’s activities because excess protein and fat consumption crowds out carbohydrate consumption. The other concern is that plant proteins contain nitrogen, just as animal protein does, and the body has to clear it, which still results in stress on the liver and kidneys.
The best diet for health maintenance is a near-vegan or vegan diet with 75% of calories from complex carbohydrate, 10% of calories as the upper limit from protein and 15% as the upper limit from fat.