Pregnancy and Celiac Disease
If you have celiac disease and are well controlled because you stick rigidly to a gluten-free diet, you are as likely as anyone who has not got celiac disease to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. Those who have celiac disease and who do not have a completely gluten-free diet have an increased risk of problems for themselves and their baby. Pregnancy is demanding on the body; the mum not only needs a good supply of all the necessary nutrients to keep her healthy but also to support the development of the baby. To do this she will need to eat a good, balanced gluten-free diet. Foods rich in folic acid, iron and calcium are particularly important. General Principles Your diet should be as healthy as possible.
Keep to the "5" rule for fruit and vegetables. Try and eat 5 different varieties every day. Fruit juice counts as 1 variety however many glasses of it you drink. Eat food naturally rich in calcium: milk, cheese and yoghurts, sardines, pilchards etc. Commercially produced gluten-free flours and mixes are often enriched with calcium.
It is a good idea to use skimmed or semi-skimmed milk and low fat yogurts and cheese so you can keep the fat content down. Avoid unpasturised milk and soft cheese or mould-ripened cheeses as they can carry bacteria. Eat food rich in the mineral iron, it can be found in lean red meat, eggs and fish – particularly the fish rich in natural oil – herring, mackerel, sardines and salmon. Soya, tofu, sunflower seeds, green leafy vegetables, lentils, beans, watermelon and black strap molasses are also rich sources of iron. Avoid uncooked eggs, or partially cooked eggs found in mousses, eggnog, fools etc. Avoid liver and pâtés Eat plenty of roughage, as constipation is a common problem during pregnancy. Gluten-free foods which have high levels of fibre include brown rice, buckwheat, potatoes – particularly the skin, peas, corn, lentils, millet, seeds such as sunflower or linseeds, vegetables and fruit and dried fruits such as figs and dates. Drinking plenty of fluids will also help. A glass of hot water with a twist of lemon juice first thing in the morning can work well. It is important for all prospective mums that they take proper care of themselves prior to becoming pregnant.
The benefits of eating foods rich in folic acid for three months before becoming pregnant and during pregnancy, particularly in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is well documented. It helps prevent conditions such as Spina Bifida. Folic Acid supplements are easily available from the pharmacist or health food shop. Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, which are naturally rich in folic acid. Giving up smoking is very important as babies of smoking mothers are much more susceptible to low birth weight and other health problems. Cutting out alcohol or at least cutting it down to no more than one or two units a week is advisable. Finally once your baby is born it is advisable to wait until the baby is at between 4 and 6 months old before introducing wheat to their diet. There is no advantage in waiting any longer than 6 months.
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