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You can turn the stress genes off during pregnancy
S-T-R-E-S-S-D OUT !
This is how most of us feel, most of the time.
As a pregnant women, juggling life and “growing” a baby, you are definitely not immune to stress. The problem is, your stress, is not just your problem, your stress impacts your baby.
And a baby developing in a stressful environment, emerges a little more stressed. This “stress” is not visible on the outside, but it is “visible” on the inside – stress genes are activated.
These minute differences do influence long-term health. So stopping this inter-generational STRESS, is something every Mom wants to do.
What are your options ?
- Running away to a tropical island – for most of us, not practical, life must go on.
- Thinking “happy” thoughts – traditional de-stressing techniques can help, but sometimes, they’re just not enough.
- A sugar binge. This also helps, but the benefit is temporary, because you climb onto a hormonal rollercoaster which turns out to be STRESSFUL, as well.
Researchers from Cornell University have uncovered an easy to implement nutritional strategy, which drops baby’s stress levels, by as much as 33 %.
The strategy………….. eating more choline.
Never heard of choline ?
It’s a nutrient without much of fan club, most multi-vitamin preparations don’t include it. Official guidelines recommend you consume around 450 mg/ day, but at this stage, it is not considered an essential nutrient i.e. a nutrient you can’t do without.
It is found in lots of foods, so we’re all getting a little of it. It is highly unlikely that you’re deficient, but if you’re following a low fat diet, you’re probably not getting as much as you should. The reason, it is primarily found in foods considered to be “high” fat e.g. eggs and meat.
So what does it do ?
Choline is a giver
It’s biggest claim to fame, is it gives, methyl groups i.e. it is a methyl donor. Folic acid/folate, another important nutrient in pregnancy, is also a methyl donor.
Your body needs methyl groups for lots of different chemical reactions, especially the reactions that turn your genes on and off.
The process of switching genes on and off happens throughout our lives – it helps to ensure, that our body is in tune with what is happening in the environment. But not all genes can be modified in adulthood, many genes are “switched on” or “switched off” PERMANENTLY, during fetal development.
Several STRESS genes are lifers.
Flipping the STRESS switch
The Cornell team set about exploring whether by providing extra choline to a developing baby, the stress “switch” could be altered.
26 healthy women, all in the third trimester of their pregnancy, participated in a controlled feeding study. The ladies were provided with all their meals, so the team could keep tabs on exactly how much choline was consumed every day. The women followed the diet for 12 weeks, up until they delivered their baby.
Half the ladies ended up consuming 480 mg of choline, which is a tiny bit more choline than what is currently recommended. The other half of the ladies, consumed 930 mg of choline each day, clearly this is a lot more than usual.
The stress count
Birth is a stressful process for both Mom’s and babies, some births are more stressful than others.
The team quantified how stressful the moment was, by measuring the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol in blood samples taken from both the Mom and baby, following vaginal delivery. There was not much of a difference in the levels of stress in the Mom’s, but there was a difference in the babies. The babies who received extra choline, showed a significantly lower stress response.
Stress ends with cortisol, but it begins with another hormone, cortisol releasing hormone.
The choline effect
The gene which is responsible for producing cortisol releasing hormone, is the CRH gene. The settings on this CRH gene, determine the overall response to stress. The team found, that the extra choline during pregnancy, changed the setting of this gene in the placenta. And this changed the setting of the gene in the baby, stabilizing the stress axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis).
The change was PERMANENT.
Previous research suggests, being born with excess levels of cortisol is trouble, with a capital T, having a stable stress axis, is a good thing. It makes you a little more resilient – you’re more likely to be the kind of person that can roll with the punches, so you’re less likely to succumb to stress-related disorders.
NB. Stress-related disorders includes depression and anxiety, as well as diabetes and hypertension.
An egg a day…
Everyone should strive to get enough choline. If you’re pregnant, you want to get more than enough. The best sources of choline are eggs (682 mg/100g) and liver (300 mg/100g)…..
It is time to change the old adage about apples….
“An egg a day – keeps the doctor away”
PS. Eggs really are superfoods. Unfortunately, many people restrict their egg consumption because they think eggs cause high cholesterol/heart disease, they don’t. Adding an egg or two to your daily routine, can bring a whole host of benefits to you now and in the future.
It is vitally important to eat a balanced diet, during pregnancy and lactation. But, not all nutrients are equally important….
Where you live counts…. As a rule, the nicer the environment – the nicer your life. But the place you really want to BE NICE, is your Mom’s womb.
The idea of BAD GENES and GOOD GENES is too simplistic. There is a gene-environment enigma, success is all about possessing the RIGHT gene for a particular environment.
If you are an expectant Mom or know someone that is – invite them to participate, so they can create Better Body Chemistry during their pregnancy and raise a HAPPY HEALTHY little one.