Pregnancy In The Stone Age – Can We Learn Something?

The woman who became pregnant during the Stone Age faced huge risks compared with today’s mother-to-be. There was no way to control bleeding or infection; Caesarean section was not an option. That we survived as a species seems remarkable – until you dig a little deeper.

The outcome of pregnancy depends on the underlying health of the mother, nutrition before and during pregnancy and the threat of infection. In all those areas the woman of 50,000 years ago was better off than her counterpart today. How is that possible in an age when there was no plumbing, no medical care and no protection from infectious diseases?

Better diet, better pregnancy

The primitive woman’s diet was less likely to be deficient in important nutrients than that of today’s young girls. (Ref 1) A study from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center has confirmed earlier reports that adolescent and adult pregnant women take in too little iron, zinc, folate and vitamin E.

A woman who begins pregnancy without sufficient calcium, vitamin D and other bone-building nutrients increases her risk of developing osteoporosis in middle age. But that’s not the end of the story. Her infant may also be at greater risk of fracture in the future. Osteoporosis of middle age is at least partly programmed before birth, especially if the mother smokes and has little physical activity. (Ref 2, 3, 4)

Most laypersons believe that Stone Agers were hearty meat-eaters. Anthropologists know that isn’t so. They lived on a predominantly meat diet for only about 100,000 years, from the time that Homo sapiens developed keen hunting skills until the advent of farming. Before that time meat came from carrion and small game. The bulk of their calories came from vegetables, fruit, roots and nuts.

Plant foods contain everything that a pregnant woman needs, including vitamins, antioxidants, protein and minerals. Modern vegetarians often become deficient in vitamin B12 but small game, birds’ eggs and the deliberate or accidental inclusion of insects in the Stone Age diet provided more than enough of that critical nutrient.

Folic acid deficiency in early pregnancy leads to defective formation of the infant’s brain and spinal cord. Those abnormalities are much less likely among the babies of mothers who receive an adequate amount of folate, at least 400 micrograms per day. So few women eat enough green leafy vegetables to boost their folate levels, the U.S. government requires that manufacturers of baked goods add it to their products.

Obstetricians have been prescribing multivitamins for their pregnant patients for decades but it is only in recent years that studies confirmed the wisdom of that practice. In 2002 the American Medical Association reversed a position of long standing and recommended that everyone, with no exceptions, needs a multivitamin/multimineral preparation every day in order to avoid subtle but health-damaging inadequacies of these nutrients. Taking a multivitamin reduces the risk of congenital defects of the newborn, especially those that involve the heart. Preeclampsia is a serious, sometimes fatal complication of pregnancy. Women whose intake of vitamins C and E is low have a threefold greater risk of that condition. (Ref. 5, 6)

Would these mostly vegetarian early Stone Agers have become iron-deficient? Not likely. Their diet was rich in iron as well as in Vitamin C that facilitates iron absorption. Under those conditions iron deficiency would have been rare. Cereal grains interfere with iron absorption, which explains why iron-deficiency is common in societies that subsist primarily on grains. However, one of the main reasons why Stone Age women were unlikely to be iron deficient is that they didn’t have nearly as many menstrual cycles as modern women do.

In a primitive society the onset of menses is about 5 years later than that of American young women. Modern hunter-gatherers, like the oldest Stone Agers, are either pregnant or nursing during most of their childbearing years and they only menstruate a few times between weaning one child and conceiving another. In those groups breastfeeding does suppress ovulation because it is literally on demand, i.e., every few minutes, even throughout the night. For a modern breastfeeding mother, on demand often means no more frequently than every couple of hours and perhaps once or twice a night after the third or fourth month. Thus menses return in spite of nursing and monthly blood loss continues.

The fish-brain connection

Beginning about 150,000 years ago our ancestors discovered seafood. The increased intake of fatty acids in fish and shellfish initiated the great advance in brain size and complexity that allowed humans to progress more quickly in the next 100,000 years than they had in the preceding million. Enormous gains in toolmaking and the development of language and group communication followed.

The human brain is composed mostly of water but the solid portion is mostly fat. The body can’t manufacture the omega-3 and omega-6 fats that make up so much of the structure of the brain and eye so we need them in our diet. Maternal deficiency of these nutrients, especially omega-3s, prevents the newborn brain and eyes from reaching their full potential. The best source of omega-3 fats is fish; nuts and leafy green vegetables are also good sources.

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are found in every cell of the body. They allow efficient flow of nutrients, regulate nerve impulses and keep inflammation in the right balance. In a proper diet there is an equal amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fats. That allows the immune system to fight infection, a real threat that humans faced from the Stone Age until the age of antibiotics, a mere 70 years ago.

The advantage to the baby of a diet that is rich in omega-3 fats is obvious but mothers need it, too. Nature protects the unborn infant by tapping into the mother’s stores of omega-3 fats. A woman whose intake of omega-3 fatty acids is low during the months and years preceding pregnancy will develop a deficiency of her own. This becomes worse with succeeding pregnancies if her intake of omega-3s remains low. Postpartum depression affects about 10 percent of women following delivery and it is associated with a deficiency of omega-3 fats. (Ref 7, 8)

The newest epidemic

There is one complication of pregnancy that never occurred in the Stone Age: type 2 diabetes. No disease in modern times has risen so fast. It has increased several-fold since the 1950s; between 1990 and 2001 it rose by 61 percent. Gestational diabetics (Ref. 9) are those who do not yet have the full-blown disease but they cannot process blood sugar (glucose) properly during pregnancy. About half of them will develop frank diabetes in the years following delivery of their infant.

Most of us know type 2 diabetes, which was once referred to as adult-onset diabetes, as the disease that our grandparents developed in their later years. It’s no longer uncommon to find it in adolescents, even in grade-schoolers. As it has dipped into the younger generation it has alarmed – but not surprised – physicians to find that it is no longer a rarity in obstetric practice.

How can we be so certain that the pregnant Stone Ager didn’t have diabetes? This is a lifestyle disease that has three major associations: a low level of physical activity, a diet that is high in refined grains and sugars, and obesity. Those conditions simply didn’t occur during the Stone Age. Their lifestyle demanded strenuous effort. Grains of any sort were not part of their diet because they require tools and controlled heat. Sugar as we know it simply didn’t exist and honey was an occasional lucky find. Obesity would have been non-existent, as it is today among the planet’s dwindling populations of hunter-gatherers.

Diabetic mothers have more complications of pregnancy than normal women do. Their babies are 5 times as likely to die and are 3 times as likely to be born with abnormalities of various organs.

They kept germs at bay

Common wisdom states that Stone Age people were an infection-ridden lot but that simply isn’t true. They had powerful immune systems because of high levels of physical activity and a remarkably varied diet. Between the protective antibodies that a mother passed across the placenta and those that she conferred on her newborn via breastmilk, Stone Age babies had more protection against the germs of the day than modern infants do.

Sexually transmitted diseases don’t spread very far or very fast when people live in small isolated bands as they did during the Stone Age. The likelihood that today’s pregnant female will have at least one of these infections is more than 50 percent (Ref. 10). The impact on babies can be severe; some die, some will be brain-damaged.

Choice and consequences

Tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs have produced a generation of infants with problems that Stone Age babies never faced. Mothers who smoke have infants that are smaller than the norm and whose brain development may be compromised. Alcohol or cocaine use by the mother during pregnancy results in stunted growth, congenital defects and other severe problems.

Given a choice, none of us would want to live in a Stone Age world but we have neutralized the almost miraculous medical advances of the last century. We have allowed our daughters to be less physically active and to subsist on a marginal diet. If we could reverse those two factors alone there would be a dramatic decline in prematurity and other complications of pregnancy.

The lessons that we can learn from the Stone Age are not subtle, obscure or beyond our capacity to imitate them. We can produce the healthiest generation ever by making better choices for our children and for ourselves.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D. is the author of Health Secrets of the Stone Age, Better Life Publishers 2005. Contact him via his web site at http://www.stoneagedoc.com.

References

1. Giddens JB et al., Pregnant adolescent and adult women have similarly low intakes of selected nutrients, J Am Diet Assoc 2000;100:1334-1340

2 Cooper C et al., Review: developmental origins of osteoporotic fracture, Osteoporosis Int 2006; 17(3):337-47

3 Prentice A et al., Nutrition and bone growth and development, Proc Nutr Soc 2006 Nov;65(4):348-60

4 Lanham SA et al., Intrauterine programming of bone. Part I: alteration of the osteogenic environment, Osteoporos Int 2008 Feb;19(2):147-56

5 Keen CL et al., The Plausibility of Micronutrient Deficiencies Being a Significant Contributing Factor to the Occurrence of Pregnancy Complications, Am Soc Nutr Sciences J Nutr 2003 May;133:1597S-1605S

6 Bodnar LM et al., Periconceptional multivitamin use reduces the risk of preeclampsia, Am J Epidemiol 2006 Sep 1;164(5):470-7

7 Freeman MP, Omega-3 fatty acids and perinatal depression: a review of the literature and recommendations for future research, Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids 2006 Oct-Nov;75(4-5):291-7

8 Kendall-Tackett K, A new paradigm for depression in new mothers: the central role of inflammation and how breastfeeding and anti-inflammatory treatments protect maternal mental health, Int Breastfeed J 2007;2:6

9 Greene MF and Solomon CG, Gestational Diabetes Mellitus – Time to Treat, N Engl J Med 2005 June 16; 352(24):2544-46

10 Baseman JG and Koutsky LA, The epidemiology of human papillomavirus infections, J Clin Virol 2005 Mar;32 Supple 1:S16-24

French Ice Cream Sundae Desserts

French ice cream sundaes might include any combination of flavors, sorbets, syrups, nuts and even alcohols. There really is no limit. However, there are some popular combinations that you are quite likely to find on the menu if you visit an ice cream parlor (glacier) in France. These classic sundaes are easy enough to reproduce at home. Add on a fancy French name, and you will have an elegant dessert ready in no time.

If you do decide to serve your dessert with a French touch, do not forget to top it with one or two rolled “cigarette” or fan shaped cookies. Their slightly sweet, crispy crunch is the perfect accompaniment to a cold and rich French sundae.

Chocolate Liegeois – Chocolate and vanilla ice creams, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and shaved chocolate.

Coffee Liegois – This is the same as a chocolate liegeois, except coffee substitutes for the chocolate.

Coupe Antillaise – Here the flavors are supposed to be Caribbean. Many times this means vanilla and rum raisin ice cream, topped with pineapple and whipped cream, but other combinations of rum and fruit are possible.

Coupe Tutti Frutti – A combination of different sorbets (for example, pear, peach, or pineapple) with different fresh fruits (for example, strawberries, grapes, melon, or pineapple), topped with whipped cream and fruit syrup.

Coupe Colonel – Watch out – the colonel has a bite! Lemon sorbet topped with vodka.

Dame Blanche – Just a simple vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. The elegance is all in the name.

Peche Melba – This was invented by the renowned French culinary authority, Auguste Escoffier, in testament to his admiration for Nelly Melba, who was a popular turn of the 20th century Australian opera singer. Vanilla ice cream, poached peaches, and raspberry sauce. These days you are likely to find your peche Melba topped with whipped cream as well.

Poire Belle Helene – Another cold dessert inspired by the opera – this one commemorates the presentation in 1864 of La Belle Helene, an operetta by Jacques Offenbach. Vanilla ice cream, poached pears, and chocolate sauce.

Profiteroles – This is not a sundae, but you will find it frequently offered on the menu in a French glacier. Cream puffs are typically filled with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce.

Homemade Frozen Fruit Sorbets – A Healthy Alternative to Ice Cream

“Ice cream, ice cream, we all scream for ice cream”. Then we look in the mirror and scream again when we see that the ice cream has taken up permanent residence on our belly, hips, and thighs.

Are you a fan of the cool concoction but tired of paying the price for indulging in the dairy delight? Or are you lactose intolerant and a simple scoop of your favorite flavor will cause you to scream with anything but delight? For whatever reasons you regret craving the cold, creamy stuff, don’t despair. There is a solution to your predicament. Meet the popular dessert’s culinary cousin: fruit sorbet.

Homemade fresh fruit sorbets are the healthy equivalent of their evil relative. They don’t contain dairy products, unpronounceable chemicals, high-fructose corn syrup, refined and processed sugar, animal fat, or high amounts of calories and guilt. They do contain fresh fruit and nothing else. Oh, yes there is one other ingredient: the ability to kick cravings for that other substance right out of your head.

What you will need to make this frozen treat is a masticating style juice extractor and a variety of fruit in any combination you desire. Adding banana to any assortment will give extra creaminess. Cut your fruit into chunks, place them in a container or plastic bag, and freeze. Once the fruit is frozen you can run the chunks through the masticating style juicer using the “blank” screen. This allows the entire fruit to pass through the masticating process and out the juicer nozzle. What you will have is something resembling soft-serve ice cream without its sinful qualities. Instead you will have a delicious, angelic wonderfulness with some truly good things to recommend it, like all the vitamins, minerals, enzymes,and natural fiber of fresh fruit.

So if you have been mourning the thought of having to give up your favorite dessert indulgence, think again. Get into the kitchen and whip up some homemade fruit sorbet. It’s cold, it’s creamy, it’s sweet, it’s satisfying, it’s good for you and it’s oh so good. It may even cause you to scream with delight.

Iodine for Hypothyroidism: Friend or Foe?

Iodine for hypothyroidism is a controversial topic, with experts on both ends of the spectrum arguing for and against its use. But if you have hypothyroidism, or know someone who does, it’s important to understand that iodine is often not a preferred form of treatment, and in many cases can make your condition worse.

Before we delve into why that is, you’re probably wondering about all of the good things you’ve heard about iodine, so allow us to explain…

Your Thyroid Needs Iodine to Function

Your body does not make iodine on its own, which means you must get it through your food. If you don’t get enough, you will be unable to make sufficient amounts of thyroid hormone.

Your thyroid depends on iodine to produce two hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). The numbers in these hormone names are actually a marker of how many iodine atoms are attached, with T4 containing 4 atom molecules, then releasing one to convert into T3, the hormone’s active form.

It’s estimated that 2 billion people worldwide — including 266 million school-age children — have insufficient iodine intake,[1] and the resulting iodine deficiency is, in fact, the most common cause of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) worldwide.

If you have an iodine-deficient diet then eating iodine-rich foods like seaweed and even supplementing with iodine can quickly help to remedy the problem… but it’s important to realize that in the United States iodine deficiency is not a major cause of hypothyroidism, and in many cases treating the condition with iodine is a major health disaster.

Iodine Deficiency is NOT a Major Cause of U.S. Hypothyroidism Cases

Iodine levels in food vary greatly depending on soil and seawater concentration of iodine. Because of this it can be difficult to get sufficient iodine from diet alone, especially if you live in an area with iodine-deficient soil. To remedy this, the United States adds iodine to most table salt, which means you’re not only getting extra iodine when you salt your food, but also when you eat processed foods, which are typically heavily salted with iodized salt.

Many animal feeds in the United States are also supplemented with iodine and as a result dairy products are also good food sources of this nutrient.

There have, however, been signs that iodine intakes in the United States have been dropping, possibly due to increased numbers of people cutting back on their salt intake, but data from the latest study available, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2004, suggests that most Americans are still getting enough.[2]

So, in the United States, iodine deficiency is not considered to be a major cause of hypothyroidism, except in specific at-risk groups, such as those who do not consume iodized salt (including that in processed foods), fish or seaweed, or women who are pregnant.

That said, cases of hypothyroidism are widespread in the United States, impacting nearly 4 percent of the population, [3] including 13 million who have not been diagnosed and are unaware they have the condition. [4]

If iodine deficiency is not the problem, then what is?

The Most Common Cause of Hypothyroidism in the United States

Hypothyroidism in the United States is most often the result of an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or Hashimoto’s disease, which causes your immune system to mistakenly attack, and destroy, the thyroid.

The disease typically begins with inflammation of your thyroid gland (thyroiditis) that over time impairs the ability of your thyroid to produce enough hormones, and eventually leads to underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism.

The exact causes of Hashimoto’s are unknown, but it’s likely the result of a combination of factors including:

  • A virus or bacteria that triggers the response
  • Genetics/family history
  • Gender (women are more likely to have Hashimoto’s)
  • Other environmental factors

However, and this is an important point, excess iodine may also worsen the condition.

Increasing Iodine May Worsen Hypothyroidism

There’s no arguing that iodine is a crucial nutrient for your body… but in the case of hypothyroidism, more is not always better.

Studies show that giving iodine to people who had adequate or excessive iodine intake could actually trigger hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroiditis.

Research also suggests that iodine actually increases the activity of the thyroid peroxidase (TPO) enzyme, and increased antibodies to this enzyme are common in Hashimoto’s patients. It is the interaction between the TPO enzyme and the antibodies that leads to inflammation and destruction of the thyroid. In other words, too much iodine can actually make Hashimoto’s worse.

Remember, since most hypothyroidism cases in the United States are due to Hashimoto’s disease, NOT iodine deficiency, this study could apply to you…

Be Very Careful if Your Health Care Practitioner Automatically Recommends Iodine for Hypothyroidism

Many health care practitioners in the United States do not understand the complexities of thyroid function and will routinely recommend iodine supplements for people with hypothyroidism. This approach will, unfortunately, be detrimental for some.

If you are truly deficient in iodine, then supplementation or increased dietary intake is necessary. But if not, additional iodine will most likely only trigger or worsen your thyroid troubles.

So if your health care practitioner recommends iodine supplementation without any real evidence that you’re deficient, it’s a red flag to take note of. A second opinion from a practitioner who understands the complex role of iodine in hypothyroidism — and can discuss with you its benefits versus risks — is likely warranted.

References

1. Food and Nutrition Bulletin 2008 Sep;29(3):195-202.

2. Thyroid. 2008 Nov;18(11):1207-14.

3. Thyroid. 2007 Dec;17(12):1211-23.

4. Archives of Internal Medicine 2000;160:526-534.

The Benefits of Having a Healthy Heart

The heart plays a vital role in keeping the body alive. The heart is a pump that pumps life through the body. The heart has two main functions. It pumps blood to the lungs to retrieve oxygen and then pumps that oxygen into the blood and transports it around the rest of the body.

The heart is actually muscle and you have to keep training the muscle to maintain its conditioning. As the saying goes if you don’t use it you will lose it, and this also applies to the heart.

When the heart is in top condition the body works like a highly maintained car engine, it runs perfectly. A heart that is healthy and well taken care off is more able to cope with demands and stress that is put on the body. As the body has been designed to move it is the constant of physical activity that keeps your heart fit.

A healthy heart can provide you and your body with many benefits as follows:

• By acquiring the habit of doing physical exercise everyday you can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease and coronary heart attack. These exercises do not have to be intensive are done for a long period. As little as 15 minutes a day of exercise that makes you breathless will greatly improve the health of the heart.

• A heart that is healthy and strong will enable the body to function more effectively. This will enable the body to take on more strenuous activities and the common daily tasks are done with efficiency and comfort.

• A trained and healthy heart works more efficiently than one that is out of condition. This means the it beats at a lower rate when the body is resting. Over time this means the heart works less and does not wear out.

• The great thing about your heart is that it has the ability to heal and repair itself. For example, if it has already been damaged by heart disease it can be repaired through the proper healing processes and activities.

As you can see the heart plays a very important role and as it is a muscle of the body you have to keep training it to keep it healthy. The best way to do this is to look at your current lifestyle and see if any improvements can be made. For example, you could cut down on high fat foods and introduce more fresh fruit and vegetables into your diet. If you do not take any exercise then maybe you should consider joining a gym or go for a jog a couple of times a week to keep you and your heart in shape.

Always seek medical advise before changing your diet or taking physical exercise if you have a health condition.

Role Of Food Service Consultants

If you have ever received bad service in a restaurant, you know that it can be a sales killer for any restaurant business. However, if you desire to have your restaurant be among the better restaurants in town and you aspire to be the best in your niche, then, providing great service is one of the best ways to earn a strong reputation. And one person that can help you deliver great is a professional food service consultant. The professional food service consultant can advise and give you the guidance you on the proper service techniques for your concept and assist in training how to deliver great service.

Providing great service is complex and needs all departments to coordinate their training and to achieve great service. It effects each food service departments such as banqueting, catering, room service and kitchen. Good food and beverage managers learn how to organize each of these departments to achieve great service.

Providing great service in hotels is even more complicated because there are so many departments involved. Every department imaginable including housekeeping, human resources and purchasing can have an impact on service. Different types of hotels have different food service needs as well. Little wonder that providing great service is so complicated. Food service consultants are the experts who know exactly what is needed by different restaurants.

Food service consultants play an active role in recipe development. They take on a number of services like:

– Development of food products

– Compilation and preparation of recipes

– Developing new ideas for recipes

– Innovating new product range

– Product management from planning to cooking and presentation

– Analyses of the market

– Analyses of competitors

– Recipe development

– Menu development advice and planning

– Catering

– Product tasting and evaluation

– Food styling and presentation

– Food recommendations

In addition to the above, food service consultants also focus on the nutritive value of foods so that the restaurant can serve foods that appeal to a large number of customers. Food consultants can even provide food specific nutrient analysis to show the exact number of calories, protein, carbs and vitamins in particular foods. This is important as many people are becoming more health conscious. A well trained food consultant can help you modify your recipes so that they are flavorful, visually appealing and nutritious.

Along with recipe development, good food consultants also can support the training of your people.

Therefore, if your restaurant business seems to be lagging behind and you just don’t know what to do, consider contacting a professional food consultant to assist in supporting your needs. You could also depend on food and beverage consultants to produce attractive pictures and sales materials for the restaurant.

Great food and service is an integral component to your restaurant business. A restaurant with excellent food service is the foundation for popular.