Because of my supposed higher risk for developing preeclampsia during pregnancy, my midwife gave me an anti-inflammatory diet to follow. Preeclampsia, it turns out, is an autoimmune disease in which the body reacts to the foreign DNA from the baby’s father. Autoimmune diseases can be treated with an anti-inflammatory diet; likewise, such a diet may prevent preeclampsia from developing.
I consider my midwife to be very intelligent and well-educated. She also has a respect for traditional foods. She says she has had good success with using this diet.
Anti-inflammatory Diet for Preventing Preeclampsia
Try to eat only organically grown foods as they reportedly have two to five times more nutrients and it will decrease exposure to pesticides. There is no restriction on the amount of food you can eat. The foods listed are only examples of foods to eat. Try to compose meals of approximately 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% healthy fats. Try to eat any one food no more than five times a week. Plan your meals ahead of time and try to find at least ten recipes you enjoy.
- The primary reason for using steamed vegetables is that steaming improves the utilization or the availability of the food nutrients allowing the gastrointestinal mucosa to repair itself. Use minimal raw vegetables except as a salad. Include at least one green vegetable a day.
- Eat a variety of any and all vegetables (except tomatoes and potatoes) that you can tolerate. It is best to try to eat mostly the lower carbohydrate vegetables.
- Add your favorite spices to enhance the taste of these vegetables [Lisa’s note: And a healthy fat for better absorption of vitamins!]
- Eat one to two cups of cooked grains per day of those you tolerate, unless you have indications of high insulin levels such as overweight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes.
- Allowed grains include: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, millet, oatmeal, quinoa, basmati or brown rice, rye, teff.
- Other grain foods that may be eaten are rice crisps and Wasa crackers.
- Eat a variety of any legumes that you are able to tolerate. Soak for 48-72 hours and cook slowly: split peas, lentils, kidney beans, pinto beans, fermented soy (tempeh or miso), mung beans, garbanzo beans, adzuki beans. [Lisa’s note: I have read that lectins in legumes are not suitable for an anti-inflammatory diet, so it may just depend on your own body.]
- Poach, bake, steak or broil: cod, haddock, halibut, mackerel, sardines, summer flounder, wild pacific salmon. Deep sea ocean fish preferred over farmed.
- No shellfish.
- Meat only, not the skin. Free range or organically grown chicken and turkey. [Lisa’s note: pastured is best.]
- Bake, broil or steam.
- Eat only 1 0r 2 pieces of practically any fruit except citrus. If possible it is preferred to eat the fruit baked. Try to eat mostly lower carbohydrate fruits: cantaloupe, rhubarb, strawberries, melons, apricots, blackberries, cranberries, papaya, peach, plum, raspberries, kiwi, etc.
- Occasionally maple syrup, rice syrup, barley syrup, raw honey or stevia–use only with meals. [Lisa’s note: some people react to stevia. Also, anecdotally, stevia may increase amniotic fluid. Use with caution.]
- Absolutely no sugar [doesn’t specify, but I was told no cane sugar or molasses, no corn], no artificial or other sweetener allowed.
Seeds and Nuts
- Grind flax, pumpkin, sesame or sunflower seeds and add to steamed vegetables, cooked grains, etc. You may also eat nut and seed butters, such as almonds, cashew, sesame, etc.
- For butter, mix together 1 pound of butter and 1 cup of extra virgin olive oil. Whip at room temperature and store in refrigerator.
- Use extra virgin olive oil for all other situations requiring oil. [Lisa’s note: I was surprised coconut oil wasn’t listed, and forgot to ask about it. I think it would be fine, but can’t say for sure.]
- To add delightful flavor to your food choices add whatever spice you enjoy.
- Drink a minimum of 6 to 8 glasses of spring, bottled, filtered or reverse osmosis filtered water every day. Sip the water; try to drink one glass per hour. A few drops of chlorophyll will add a pleasant taste. No distilled water. [Lisa’s note: Personally I would avoid bottled water unless it is spring or filtered, preferably in a glass bottle.]
- Small amounts of soy, rice, or oat milk are allowed only on cooked grains or in cooking. [Lisa’s note: WAPF does not recommend soy milk.]
For the time being, avoid the following foods:
- All animal milks and cheeses [Lisa’s note: I do not believe that grassfed raw milk is a problem unless you have a dairy sensitivity.]
- Commercial eggs (organic or pastured eggs are okay)
- All wheat products including bread
- Peanuts/peanut butter
- Red meat (beef/pork) [was told that pastured/grassfed beef is fine]
- Any processed foods
- All caffeinated teas, coffee
- White flour and corn products
- Citrus fruits
- All fruit juices
- All dried fruit
- Fried foods
[I thought chocolate was on this list, but apparently it’s not. However, chocolate does contain caffeine and usually sugar. Using cocoa powder with acceptable sweeteners may be acceptable in moderation. WAPF does not recommend chocolate at all, and Wise Woman Herbal During the Childbearing Year does not recommend chocolate when pregnant. I would recommend avoiding or greatly limiting if possible.]
Personal experience: I have been trying to implement this diet for several weeks. While I struggle to do everything listed, my efforts have resulted in feeling less nausea and having more energy. I believe if I followed it perfectly I would have no acid reflux. On a weekend when I was busy going from one event to another and was at the mercy of being fed by other people, my feet and ankles swelled and a couple days later my nausea was back. At the very least, the diet makes me feel better.