The top ten little things that can make a big difference...
Sometimes even if we fully understand that some elements of our modern lives increase the risk of issues getting pregnant and having a healthy baby, it can be hard to make a change. That’s the problem with our lives these days: they are packed, expectations are high and we try our best - but it’s impossible to be perfect.
However, it's never about perfection (trying to be perfect will only stress you out and stress is one of our bodies most powerful enemies - click here for the science of what it really does), its about awareness and making changes where we can. In fact, there are actually lots of little changes we can make that the science suggests can make a real difference in reducing our risks.
Implementing just one or two every week can go a long way.
Here are just ten small things that can make a big difference. See how many you can do:
ONE: The ‘transition’: if people really understood the tangible effect that stress has on our bodies (hormones/inflammation etc) then I think more people would take a more active approach to managing it. Click here for the science. It’s not always easy to manage but often small things can make a difference, particularly as science shows that anxiety can also be passed to our kids. Click here for more. One simple solution? Often we cant change the fact we try and do it all - but we can take a breath or a ‘transition’ as we switch between our different roles in life. From executive, to mummy, to wife, to friend. From boardroom to bum wiping (You get the picture!) Taking even five minutes for yourself between can be immensely powerful. According psychotherapist Christophe Sauerwein Academic Directior for iCAAD (one of Europe’s leading mental health institutions) this active ‘transition’ (or taking a few minutes to yourself as you switch between roles) can be very powerful - particularly for stopping the transfer of stress or anxiety to our kids. However, it doesn't just ‘happen’, it has to be something you actively do. So, next time you’re rushing from a meeting - take even five minutes to have a walk, take a breath and re-centre before you go on to your next thing. In whatever way that works for you. Its a simple but very powerful tool.
TWO: Its ok to say no: on that subject. Part of the problem we have these days is trying to be super-people. Saying yes to too much and trying to please everyone is very common these days - as is the guilt that inevitably follows. Expectations are higher than ever, particularly of ourselves. So introduce the once a week diary cull. Do yourself a favour; set aside just a few minutes once a week to look at your diary for the week ahead. Be honest with yourself, what is really necessary and what isnt? Is there even one thing in there that you dont have to do? Giving yourself a bit of extra time and breathing space even just once a week can be hugely powerful when it comes to managing stress. Those that matter wont mind and those who mind dont matter...
THREE: Exercise: the trouble here (think Goldilocks) is that too much is as bad as too little. When it comes to stress on the body and hormonal imbalance extremes do you no favours. Too much HITT/running and intense exercise can have inflammatory and hormonal imbalancing effects. They are real - click here for more. Take a quick look at your regime and be honest. This week: can you switch out something intense for something a bit more gentle? Think resistance training/Pilates/yoga even a walk? On the flip side: no exercise is equally as bad - including during pregnancy - click here to read more. Can you put aside even 30 minutes to take a brisk walk? Taking taxis less and getting off a stop earlier all help. Lack of exercise has been linked to the enemy: inflammation. Doing something is better than nothing at all.
FOUR: Food prep Sunday: lets call a spade a spade. It is often easier to buy a pre prepared meal/bar/to eat out than it is to make food at home. Part of the evolution of our world is that there are now a million cheap and easy options to eat requiring no preparation or activity. The trouble is, we now know a lot less about where our food comes from and what’s in it as a result. Pesticides, artificial hormones, steroids and new ‘innovative’ (read: cheap for the manufacturer) ingredients are now added liberally to this type of food. It looks and tastes nice on the outside. Not so good for the insides often pushing us wildly off balance over the long term - click here for more. Even if you can just put aside a few hours on a Sunday afternoon (that's my chosen time but choose what works for you) to make up a batch of food made from real, whole, clean ingredients for the week ahead or for your freezer you will be ahead of the game and making it easier (and cheaper) for yourself. Not to mention reducing your exposure to the funnies that are rife in our food supply these days. Its just a couple of hours that can have a big effect.
FIVE: Filter it out: Take a large pot, a whole organic raw chicken, a couple of veggies of your choice (I like carrots, red onions, garlic and a bay leaf) fill with water, bring to the boil and then simmer for 2-3hrs. Even I can do this. It requires very little effort - honestly. The result is nice moist chicken (good) but even more crucially lovely gut friendly meat stock. Research shows that this contains powerful amino acids to help strengthen your gut lining. Click here for more. Why is this so important? Well your gut is the filter between your body and the outside world - when that is compromised. nasties can get in leading to inflammation and oxidative stress - click here for more. Most definitely not what you want. Use it in soups, as a stock, for cooking pasta in or on its own. My son loves it and it goes a long way.
SIX: Diversity matters in all areas of life: Eat a fruit or vegetable you haven’t had in a while. Even just one, once a week. We all get in to habits and ruts with food - but - research has shown that what we eat has a very powerful effect on the makeup of the gut bacteria (microbiome). We know that imbalances and lack of diversity are the enemy. We also know that increasing the diversity of what you eat has a real effect and changing what you eat can have an effect in as little as 24hrs! Click here for much more.
SEVEN: All about the bugs: On that note: pick one fermented food and one prebiotic food (note the e!) to incorporate in to your diet in a week. Both are powerful for boosting the diversity and balance of your gut. For a reminder why this is SO important for you and a baby click here. Its also cheaper and the science says more effective than buying store bought probiotic supplements which tend to be expensive. Click here for more.
EIGHT: the glass slipper: its a simple one but take a few minutes to go on to Amazon and get yourself a keep cup and a reusable (non plastic) water bottle. Not only is it better for the environment and your wallet longer term (cheaper than buying bottles of water and some coffee shops give you money off for bringing your own cup) but most crucially it will stop BPA impact on your hormones - click here for more. A one off exposure obviously has little effect but we all drink lots of water and coffee and it adds up. Better for health, environment and your wallet: a win all around.
NINE: Simplify: There is a whole trend for tidying at the moment. Use it on your bathroom cabinet. Take a look at your skin and personal care items. The skin absorbs as much as 60-70% of what we put on it. The skin and personal care industries are also largely unregulated. Do yourself a favour - throw out even just one product with added fragrance or lots of weird ingredients you don't recognise. The terms ‘natural’ sadly mean very little so equally don't get caught in that trap. Click here for the top tips how (and why) to buy products for your skin that won't upset the balance of your body.
TEN: Take a hold of your expectations. Give yourself a break. Even if its just once a day, you need to remind yourself that the pressure to be perfect, to get pregnant instantly, to be superman/woman is not only unrealistic (thanks instagram) but is actively hurting you. Set yourself an alarm on your phone if that's what it takes. Talk to yourself in the way you would a friend. So many times we are too hard on ourselves and it plays real havoc with our stress levels/hormones and even promotes inflammation in the body when done persistently. Click here for why we really don't want that. Especially if you are trying to get pregnant or have a small person. You are undoubtedly doing your best which is more than good enough. Be kind. Its free and surprisingly powerful.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The information on this website has been developed following years of personal research and from referenced and sourced medical research. Before making any changes we strongly recommend you consult a healthcare professional before you begin.