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Ask The Herbalist

  • Can you recommended any products to help me stay "regular" and avoid constipation during pregnancy?

    There are several great ways to stay regular during pregnancy, though I recommend herbs last. Eat a plant-based diet to ensure optimal nutrition, including five or more servings a day of fruits in season, vegetables (raw salads and cooked vegetables), and one to two servings of whole grains that suit you.

    Supplement with plant proteins such as cooked garbanzos tossed on summer salads, split pea soup when weather turns cooler, and every lentil or bean you like (be sure to cook with aromatic herbs and spices to make them more easily digested).

    All that fiber and adequate hydration will keep you regular and feeling satisfied as your appetite naturally goes up during pregnancy. Whether you include animal protein is up to you, so I'll just note that excess cheese or red meat can contribute to constipation. Too much bread or the refined sugar-and-flour sweets some women seem to crave can lead to a sense of bloating, indigestion, or constipation as well.

    Plain water and soothing herb teas such as raspberry leaf, nettle leaf, lemon balm, ginger root, dandelion leaf and/or root, rooibos, fennel seed, and lemon verbena are just a few of the teas that pregnant women have been enjoying hot or cold for centuries, along with plain water. I like mine with a dash of fresh lemon juice added. We also offer a Pregnancy Tonic Herbal Tea Blend for this specific purpose.

    In addition, maintaining regular digestive function depends on movement. I would also recommend some light form of exercise, even if just walking. Tailor your activity to take into account some natural spells of fatigue as your pregnancy progresses. Many studies show exercise and fitness reduces complications at the time of birth, for mother and baby. The general guideline is to try a teaspoon of dried leaves in a cup of water just off the boil, covered, to steep 5-15 minutes. Strain the tea leaves and enjoy a single herb or a mix and match according to your palate. If it tastes too strong, you can always dilute with plain water until it tastes good to you.

    Yours,

    Amanda McQuade Crawford

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  • I was given an herbal mix for weight loss and I am wondering if it's safe since I am breastfeeding?

    Thank you for your excellent question. I sympathize that diet and exercise alone have not been enough but the good news is, breastfeeding is one of the healthiest ways to lose weight while re-setting your metabolism with food choices (avoiding that dreaded word, diet) and regular activity.

    The herbs (Lobelia, Fenugreek, Red Clover, Parsley, Mullin, Golden Seal, Fennel) - this sounds like a liquid formula called a tincture, which has low amounts of alcohol. That is to both extract and preserve the different herbs. However, the hot water does NOT evaporate off the alcohol sufficiently for lactating or alcohol-sensitive people. As for this herbal formula, I cannot recommend it for you: some herbs are fine (Fennel Seed helps prevent colic and gas for your baby), while others may be passed through your milk that your infant does not need (Red Clover, Lobelia, Goldenseal). This does not even seem like a formula targeting weight loss -- more of a general digestive, diuretic, hormonal, and immune formula.

    Safety data tells us a few too many of these ingredients are not for breastfeeding moms. It isn't so much "dangerous" (so relax if you tried it) but it isn't a good mix for you to take regularly right now. Here is my opinion: save your money. Instead, buy local salad mixes and summer fruits that you love. Breastfeeding your baby as long as possible while walking or exercising daily, eating fruits, veggies, lean protein, and LOTS (1/2-1 gallon a day) of water and unsweetened herb tea (not milk or juice) is best for your baby and your weight loss.

    I know it can be a struggle. Have faith that you are both starting a new chapter in your lives together. Breastfeeding on demand (historically, global norms are 1-3 years, not the typical 6 months in the US) PLUS rehydrating on a clean eating plan is your very best way to break the vicious cycle of stubborn weight. Excellent safety info for breastfeeding exists on the following for teas: Fennel Seed, Lemon Balm Leaves, Rooibos (caffeine free looks and tastes like tea), 1 mug (6-7 fluid oz.) of green tea a day (low caffeine, helps metabolism). Chamomile, Peach Leaf, Ginger Root, and Linden Flower, all reasonably good tasting hot or cold, made as mild or strong as your palate desires.

    You might try adding a teaspoon of flax seeds to fruit smoothies or on morning oatmeal with a dash of cinnamon to help improve blood sugar, promote heart health, and better elimination. There is a chapter on herbs for pregnancy, breastfeeding, and babies in my book, Herbal Remedies for Women. I hope this gives you hope and help.

    Congratulations and best wishes,

    Amanda McQuade Crawford

    Amanda McQuade Crawford

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  • Is there a link between Dong Quai & birth defects?

    You are still in your first trimester, and the dose of Dong Quai (Angelica Sinensis), as you say, is well below therapeutic ranges, and far, far below "high" or problematic doses cited in the literature as a concern. In my estimation, you have nothing to fear about the little you took with the prenatal vitamins. Still, I agree with you: switch to a prenatal formulation that does not contain Dong Quai or other unfamiliar herbs, though, just for the record, nettle leaf, raspberry leaf, and other nutritive herbs are generally considered safe, even recommended by some midwives, during pregnancy.

    I re-checked the literature on Dong Quai and birth defects. There is one report, questioned by health experts, of one woman taking an herbal combination of several herbs including Dong Quai that may or may not have been a co-factor in her baby's birth defects. Of course, we want to know more. I am sad for her experience. The good news for you is, there is no other research linking this herb with similar problems.

    As I scan governmental, medical, and popular sites, I see a fair amount of fear of the unknown reflected in the blogosphere, not supported by either scientific or traditional information, about Dong Quai acting as an estrogen (it does not), and as a blood thinner (to some degree, but not significant in the amount you were taking). Occasionally, Dong Quai may even be prescribed for a pregnant woman if she needs it.

    Most healthy pregnant women on prenatal vitamins do not need it. So, rest assured, it is extremely improbable the amount you took did much of anything. Still, stopping the vitamins containing Dong Quai is my recommendation. I also recommend you give yourself credit for researching this, asking the right questions, and taking the safest, most cautious path for your peace of mind, all important to you and your baby. You have my best wishes for a safe and
    happy pregnancy.

    Yours,

    Amanda McQuade Crawford

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  • After colon cleansing, how do I keep up with "maintenance"?

    We recommend a daily probiotic for ongoing support of the intestinal system. Our probiotic is Friendly Bacteria Replenisher with 3 billion live cultures. Also be on the lookout for a daily digestive support product later this year.

    - James Sullivan, N.D.

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  • What are long term effects of taking Digestive Stimulator?

    There are no long term effects of taking Digestive Stimulator continuously – however, it is intended to be a supplement only. The primary goal would be to get your digestive system functioning correctly so bowel movements happen on their own vs. taking a supplement to assist them. Without knowing more information about you or why you need them it is difficult to help with a possible solution.

    - James Sullivan, N.D.

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  • Can I do a colon cleanse while nursing?

    Yes, you may cleanse while nursing, however, we would not recommend anything harsh, anything that
    involves fasting or a complete disruption of your system. If you are fasting you may be lacking certain nutrients which means baby is not getting those
    nutrients as well. We would not recommend anything stronger than our simple basic 5-day starter cleanse if you choose to cleanse
    while nursing. It's gentle on your system and no fasting is required.

    - James Sullivan, N.D.

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  • Can I still do an internal body cleanse if my gallbladders been removed?

    Yes, you can do one of our internal body cleanses even though you have had your gallbladder removed. I am a fan of coffee enemas too, yet our basic Revive 5-Day Cleanse will provide your liver and circulation with the extra support it may appreciate, since these systems are functioning without the gallbladder.

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  • What should I eat before a colon cleanse? Are there any exercise restrictions during colon cleansing?

    The best way to ease into a colon cleanse, which should not be a shock to the system, is to spend a week preparing (and you have almost 2 before your cleanse).

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  • Are internal body cleanses safe while nursing?

    One should never fast while nursing, as fasting may deplete your body of some important nutrients baby may need.

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  • Is your female cleanse indicated for fertility?

    Thank you for your question. Heavy metals and other problematic toxins in food, water, and air, are known to bind with hormone receptors, affecting reproductive health.

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