Pregnancy – Calcium

Calcium is an essential mineral for a human body, we all know that. It is THE bone builder mineral. It also is an essential nutrient and plays a vital role in nerve and muscle function. However its absorption in the body is insufficient (only 30-40% of Calcium is absorbed in the intestines), plus losses are rather high. That is why the recommended daily intake is high to ensure that body gets sufficient Calcium.

Calcium needs Vitamin D for maximum absorption. One of the reasons Calcium supplements are fortified with Vitamin D. On the other hand Iron and Zinc hinder the absorption of Calcium. And coffee, soft drinks (!) and excessive intake of protein and sodium can deplete calcium levels (as their act as diuretics).

Pregnant and lactating women need more Calcium as the recommended daily allowance as we pass this essential mineral to our babies (growing skeleton, bones, nervous system…..). Before pregnancy I didn’t consumed that many dairy products and supplemented with Calcium supplements (after suffering stress fracture in my hip beginning of 2013). At the start of the pregnancy I was careful what I was putting into my mouth and eliminated pretty much all supplements (apart from folic acid). I tried to get all the nutrients from the food. Which didn’t quite worked out. See my blog Pregnancy Cravings.

But there is something else Calcium plays an important role in. Going through my nutrients book last night I came across this interesting fact. Calcium is a calming mineral and promotes sleep. How interesting!? Pregnancy does rob you from a decent sleep, no matter what stage of pregnancy you are. But especially at the end when you are too huge to move, too many trips to the toilet, worry about things, the list is endless. You are so tired that you don’t even know what a good night sleep is anymore. I know I know it will get worst once baby is here.

Anyway back to Calcium……

When I discovered the reason for my cravings for bread and butter (Calcium deficiency), I started to take Calcium supplements again. I usually take it just before I go to bed as I eat high protein diet during the day. However in the last 3 months my dairy consumption has been increase (cravings!). I do eat a fairly large amount of yogurts, cheese and butter on a daily basis. So I only started taken Calcium Supplements every other day. (things starting to fall into places…..)
Thinking back about the same time, 3 months, where I started having very, very bad night sleeps. Some night I get 3-4 hours of decent sleep, some nights none. I just couldn’t figure out why? I didn’t see the connection.
Last night I started the experiment, does Calcium really promotes a good night sleep? Not sure, but I will see how it goes over the next few nights. Might not be as true as I would wish for, as I am only few days away from due date. But it is worth trying.

Plus it makes perfect sense to me, why it is recommended to drink a glass of warm milk (with a cookie) before bed! Genius…..

Our main sources of Calcium are dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt. But there are great alternatives such as green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale) or sardines. Check out this article: Dairy-Free Sources of Calcium.



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Posted by on 15 April, 2014 in Health & Wellbeing, Pregnancy


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Pregnancy – Foam Roller

Being a runner Foam Roller has became my best friend. Anyone who is using it knows the benefits of foam roller and how amazing it feels and of course painful at the same time. Hence the motto: No Pain, No Gain!

The benefits of using foam roller are endless. Not only is it a cheaper way to get a “deep tissue massage” which is available at any time, it also has following benefits:

– Range of motion
– Balance
– Core stability
– Body Awareness – you are more aware when something doesn’t feel quite right!
– Range of motion
– Flexibility
– Coordination
– Focus
– Body relaxation – one of the main reasons I continue to use foam roller during my pregnancy.

I continue to use foam roller during my pregnancy. Even at this late stage of pregnancy (39 weeks today though with more care due to Relaxin Hormone). It really helps me with sore muscles especially legs. I think that is why I don’t suffer that much from cramps in the legs, calves and water retention.

I use foam roller either first things in the morning (warm from bed and after little warm up session), after a bath or shower, or of course after training.

Following Foam Roller Massages I use (or did) during my pregnancy:

Upper Back Massage
Great for posture and relieving upper back muscles tension (you know growing breasts pulling you down and ruin your posture!). Also opens your chest, which means more oxygen supply. I did stop doing this massage after 6 months into pregnancy. Bigger bump meant I was too heavy and it didn’t feel good or safe for me to continue.

Hamstring Massage
Does what is says. Continue doing until this late stage of pregnancy. Promotes blood flow and relieving muscles tension.

Calf Massage
One I really recommend and love doing. With continuously weight gain calves do get a battering. Continue doing at this late stage of pregnancy.

Inner Thigh Massage
Only did this massage type until 5 months pregnant. Became too uncomfortable for me to continue due to growing bump. Just didn’t feel right or safe.

Quad Massage
Great for tight muscles. Also promotes blood flow and helps with water retention. Though do with care, growing bump (nearly touching the floor!). Only do it if you feel really safe. I only do it if I am not too tired and have the confidence that my arms with support my weight.

IT band Massage
Relieving tension in the upper thigh. I stopped doing this massage after 6 months. Became too heavy and didn’t want to put more pressure on my hip/pelvis.

Gluteal Massage
Improves blood circulation to the legs, helps with water retention and of course releases tight gluteal muscles (and I find it forms nice bum :)). I continue to do it. I sometime also use the blue ball (see picture below).

Roller Squat
It does have several benefits. First squatting, you can go really deep down which improves your leg strength (important to carry all the extra weight during pregnancy). Second gentle back massage, depending how deep you go from the upper to lower back. I also found it help me with the posture and opening my chest for better breathing.

You can find loads of videos on YouTube on how to perform each foam roller massage. Important is that your muscles are warm, you feel confident and have the strength to hold your own weight (which can be tricky with ever so growing bump and weight gain).

Also see our blog Self Massage for Runners

Friends for Life!


Foam Roller

Happy Foam Rolling! Be safe, be healthy!


P.S. I prefer the orange foam roller. It gets really deep into the muscles.

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Posted by on 14 April, 2014 in Health & Wellbeing, Kit, Pregnancy


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Pregnancy – Sciatic Nerve

My pregnancy was an easy ride. Apart from feeling exhausted (which is part of the pregnancy) and spinning mind I must say I am very lucky to come that far with no major complications.

But there is one “complication” I have development at about 24/25 weeks. Sciatic Nerve.
The cause: Baby is resting either its head or shoulder on my sciatic nerve. (yes, baby was head down from very early stage. All those ball exercises I’ve been doing from the beginning of the pregnancy seem to work).
Symptoms: My left thigh is numb and has been since then. I don’t feel any pain but is very uncomfortable and just feels weird. But since the baby has grown and put on some weight it does get very, very uncomfortable and painful when walking. Loads of times I just have this pin and needles feeling.
“Cure”: Not much you can do, unfortunately. What I found helps me to relieve this uncomfortable feeling (and pain) is to lie on left side for 10/15 minutes and make baby move. But what I really like and what helps me very quickly is to kneel over the exercise ball on all four. That way baby gets loads of room (it feels like he/she is in the hammock) to move or “dropping” even if only few milliliters from the sciatic nerve. I get instant relieve (even if it is only for short time).

Midwife told me that it will go away once baby is out. So not long now! 🙂



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Posted by on 14 April, 2014 in Health & Wellbeing, Pregnancy


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Pregnancy – Stretch Marks

“Our skin is designed to be flexible. Well-nourished, healthy skin has the ability to snap back like a rubber band. However, when it isn’t in optimal condition, rapid stretching can result in tearing at the dermis layer” – Harmala Francois.

This topic is perhaps a bit on the sensitive side for most pregnant women. It is part of the pregnancy and we just have to accept it (or act to prevent/minimise it). Some women are lucky and don’t get any, some are less and no matter what they do, they still get them. At the end it comes down to your skin type.

Perhaps I am one of the lucky ones, but I didn’t want to take the chance. Being self-conscious of my body image I always took good care of my skin. I did a little research what is available on the market and what is THE best product to avoid or minimize pregnancy stretch marks. I came across Bio-Oil. Amazing product and a must have item for any pregnant woman! I started using it from early stage of 2nd trimester. I massage bump, breast and hip area with Bio-Oil twice a day.
I have to say now 11 days until due date I do not have any stretch marks. My skin is super soft, even and looks healthy. I even got rid of my old stretch marks (drastic weight loss about 12 years ago).

Bio-Oil is a bit expensive compared to other products, so look around for offers. I bought my at Costco (Wholesaler) for an incredible price. 2x 200ml for about £20. You don’t need much, little goes a long way and I only apply on certain areas. Plus the smell I find is calming and relaxing.

Of course no matter how much and what body lotions, cremes, oils etc you put on, those alone don’t do the whole job. Perhaps for some….. So next two important “strategies” I use is hydration and adequate intake of zinc.

Hydration – as we know is important no matter if you are pregnant or not. Water is what keeping us alive (and of course the fuel aka food). It also keeps skin elastic and moist from inside. I drink roughly 3L of water a day, plus loads of fresh vegetables and fruits. I start my day with big glass of water (sometimes with lemon or lime). This not only kicks my metabolism but also helps my to re-hydrate after a night sleep. Plus sets good habit for the rest of the day.

Zinc – now you are probably wonder why zinc? Zinc is an essential mineral and is found in every cell of our bodies. Zinc has many functions in the body and one of them is it ability to promote skin health (it is used as an ingredient in many skin products). Good sources of zinc: egg yolk, pumpkin seed, mushrooms, meat, fish and legumes.


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Posted by on 10 April, 2014 in Health & Wellbeing, Pregnancy


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Pregnancy – Cravings

I’ve been pretty lucky when it comes to pregnancy cravings. Nothing too ordinary or weird food combinations (apart from cheese with mustard, but I wouldn’t count it as it was a one off trial which was good). I put it all down to good nutrition before conceiving. Really it is the key to prepare your body and mind as much as possible before such an amazing and extraordinary journey.

Before becoming pregnant I was very disciplined with what I eat. Training every day, some days twice a day, does require dedication, pre-planning and finding easy ways for nutritious meals and snacks for quick recovery and adequate energy supply. Paul and I started to eat much more real, natural, unprocessed and balanced food. I also cut down any kind of wheat products as it was causing me discomfort in my GI track.

So when we found out that I was pregnant I knew that my diet has to be even better now. Not only I had to ensure that I get required nutrients, vitamins and minerals for me but I am growing a human being inside me which completely depends on my nutritious intake. Big big responsibility if you ask me. Anything I put into my mouth will affect this little creature for life.

Good Cravings
Loads more fruit such as apples, grapes, bananas, nectarines, citrus fruits and any kind of fruits that are juice and sour. Before pregnancy I was starting to watch my fruit intake due to their high fruit sugar content and only had max. 3 portion a day (I was opting more and more for fresh vegetables). That was a bit odd but I wasn’t too concerned about it. I needed it – body was screaming for it.
Protein in form of chicken, fish but mostly BEEF! I could have killed the cow myself for a good old steak or a proper burger (medium rare of course, I know, I know not suppose to have it medium rare while pregnant, but the cravings….). We started to eat animals protein every day, where before we would have perhaps 2 or 3 days a week no animal protein at all (apart from eggs for breakfast). But again growing human cells requires protein, complete protein. And the best source for complete protein comes from animals. Plus iron! No wonder all my blood results always showed high iron present. Wonderful!
Dairy products – Especially in the last 3 months of the pregnancy I crave much more yogurt, full-fat, plain and/or flavored. Loads more cheese of any kind and from. Even soft cheeses and occasionally blue cheese (bad girl!). And of course butter! Slightly salted on ryvita – delicious! Even though I take Calcium supplements I still have yogurt 3 times a day. I can feel strong bones are baby is already has!

Otherwise I eat as before with small adjustments such as smaller portions and more often.

And here to:

Bad Cravings
I had a phase between 12 to 18 weeks of pregnancy where I craved and just had to have it no matter what – bread with butter. By bread I mean good rustic bread such as dark rye or spelt with loads (really loads!) butter. It was bad, really bad. I could consume a whole loaf of bread and in one session. No problem. I lost all senses of control and discipline (and my mind).

This phase went for about 6 weeks, with some days I could control it but some days it was too much and I had to give in. How did I feel? Rubbish. I had headache for days, dehydrated, constipated, water retention, low on energy, bloated, bad mood and temper (not good combination anyway with pregnancy hormones). And as I still tried to train every day (low to medium intensity) my recovery times were long (due to dehydration). I was in agony after only short weight session. Plus my teeth became very sensitive (!). All symptoms pointing towards WHEAT! And I knew it but I couldn’t gain control.

I did a little research and quickly found that craving bread with butter could be associated with low calcium! Of course butter has calcium but clearly not enough for both of us. I increased my yogurt intake (full fat Greek yogurt) and started taking Calcium supplements.

It was a miracle. After only 2 days my cravings disappeared almost over night. My teeth got better. Water retention went down, I became more energetic. No headaches. I started to feel great! And most important I got “control” over my mind.

All I can say, yes cravings are odd thing during pregnancy and can take over your mind (or make lose your mind). But listening to your body and noticing your behavior is the key. We can blame the pregnancy hormones, which are true, but at the end of the day if we are mindful of what we are putting in our month and think for one moment is that doing us and our baby any good, we can prevent any long term health issues for both. I know we all are unique and different but the basics are the same. Eat good, feel good, be healthy and happy. After all cravings tell us (or scream at us) that something is missing in our bodies, something is inadequate in our diet.

Nutrition is my passion. Food is my lover. Cooking is a second nature. Nature is what I love.

Happy carving!


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Posted by on 7 April, 2014 in Health & Wellbeing


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Pregnancy – Epsom Salt Bath

Epsom Salt Baths = AMAZING!

I knew that Epsom Salt Baths are being used by the professional athletes to speed up recovery after an intense training session. I’ve never tried it before myself and being pregnant I did approach it with care. I thought pregnancy is pretty much the same as an intensive exercise session, a bloody long one too! After all you are carrying, growing and nourishing a human being that demands a lot of energy of you. As it is growing bigger and bigger every day it starts to push on all your muscles. Your body composition and posture is changing. And as baby continues to grow and put on more weight you start to waddle more and more. Plus hormones relaxes joints and ligaments, your inside is going through enormous changes. Rib cage moves apart to accommodate the ever-growing baby. An enormous demand on your body and mind if you ask me.

Before starting with the Epsom Salt I discussed it with my midwife and she gave me her go ahead as long as my membrane is closed.

Benefits taking Epsom Salt Baths during pregnancy (how they help me):

  • natural pain relieve
  • helps with keeping water retention to a minimum or gets rid of any
  • reduces swelling – ankles, calves
  • relieve muscles soreness
  • helps with pelvis and hip pain – the pain is literally gone after the bath
  • detoxed
  • helps with constipation
  • I feel energised and light when I get out

I bought 5kg bag from Westlab. Great price and super fast service.

Happy bathing!


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Posted by on 5 April, 2014 in Health & Wellbeing


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