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Pregnancy Cravings, Microplastic Consumption, and Low Progesterone


Unbeknownst to me, I was days away from experiencing my first diagnosed missed miscarriage. I posted on Facebook about the immense cravings I was experiencing for unhealthy food choices. So many women attempted to offer me support by saying "EAT IT ALL, GIRLFRIEND!" Out of all the women who commented, one woman bravely stated that cravings were not "normal" during pregnancy - I'm so thankful for the insight she unknowingly left behind.

Could Pregnancy Cravings Indicate a Larger Health Issue?

In my experience, yes. It took 3 back-to-back miscarriages for me to better understand the importance of nutrition during pregnancy.


When you are pregnant, it’s oftentimes easier to give in to “cravings”. If your family/friends are anything like mine, they will encourage you to eat those hot Cheetos and ice cream, because “it’s for the baby”. They mean well in their support, but this encouragement may not be the best thing for mother.


Pregnant women seem to have the “get out of jail free card” in relation to healthy food choices simply because they’re pregnant and experiencing cravings.


Very seldom, though, do women explore WHY they're experiencing cravings.


It’s important to remember: pregnancy is one of THE MOST critical times to really hone in on what you’re consuming, for both mother and baby's sake. Furthermore, “cravings” during pregnancy may indicate some type of vitamin/mineral deficiency, or hormonal imbalance.


For example, mothers that crave meat may be experiencing an iron deficiency. Other symptoms of this deficiency can include fatigue, sleep issues, and even preeclampsia.

Up to 52 percent of pregnant women around the world aren’t getting enough iron according to a 2015 study published in Saudi Medical Journal — and iron deficiency during pregnancy can lead to anemia. For moms-to-be, anemia can cause fatigue, difficulty sleeping and breathing complications, and it increases the risk of infection, bleeding and preeclampsia, says the study. For newborns, iron deficiency can cause premature birth, low birth weight and even death. Babies born with iron deficiency anemia may remain anemic in their first year, which could result in developmental issues.

Folate deficiency may be indicated by cravings for eggs, salads, and other leafy greens.

Your body’s demand for folate, also known as vitamin B9, increases during pregnancy because this micronutrient is essential for fetal growth according to a 2011 article published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. Folate protects your unborn child from neural tube defects that harm the brain, spine and spinal cord and occur at early stages of pregnancy. And for expectant moms, a folate deficiency can also lead to anemia and neurological concerns.

Liver congestion is associated with sweet and sour cravings, while sugar and starch cravings may indicate candida (yeast) overgrowth, or a neurotransmitter (often serotonin) imbalance. (Pregnancy mood swings, anyone?)


The "cravings list" goes on and on, but the fundamental premise remains the same: for every craving, there is a reason behind said craving. And no, it's not because your 7 week old baby "needs" starbursts or a McDonalds' bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit.


The regular consumption of highly processed foods, sweets, beverages, etc. during pregnancy may lead to negative outcomes that could otherwise be avoided through healthy food choices.


Miscarriage & Diet - Is There a Correlation?

America's miscarriage rate alone should alarm pregnant mothers to re-evaluate their nutrition, however, women are not directly told that their food choices affect their body's ability to fuel pregnancy.


Hopexchange states,

...Approximately 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage; and some estimates are as high as 1 in 3.If you include loss that occurs before a positive pregnancy test, some estimate that 40% of all conceptions result in loss.

We are told that certain drugs and prescription medications contribute to miscarriage rates, however, the same emphasis is not placed on food. It should be common knowledge that nutrition directly impacts our ability to maintain pregnancy, but it is not.


Pregnant women should be conscious of what they eat as the wrong diet can cause a miscarriage. Diet plays a crucial role in pregnancy. Some foods, despite their nutritional value, can put your pregnancy at risk. As such, it’s important to be vigilant and know which foods either promote or threaten the growth of your unborn baby.

I firmly believe that women who have a history of repeated early miscarriages coinciding a low progesterone diagnosis may be negatively affecting their progesterone levels via the foods they are eating! (This was my experience verbatim, by the way.)


What the Science Says About Microplastics, Specifically

When it was finally discovered that I had low progesterone, I asked my ND what would cause such a thing. I had such a healthy pregnancy with my first born - I was stunned. She then told me that science has directly correlated environmental factors to sky rocketing low progesterone levels in women, specifically, in relation to the consumption of microplastics.


Microplastics can be found in all processed foods/drinks, pre-packaged foods/drinks, fast foods/drinks, etc. Unfortunately, they are even found in fruits and vegetables nowadays.

A recent study published in the journal Environmental Research has revealed that microplastics are absorbed in the fruits and vegetables we consume. According to the study, scientists have discovered that some of the most commonly consumed produce, including apples, carrots, pineapples, kale and cabbage, may be contaminated with high levels of plastic.

Science has repeatedly proven that humans are consuming alarming rates of microplastics.

A new study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology says it's possible that humans may be consuming anywhere from 39,000 to 52,000 microplastic particles a year. With added estimates of how much microplastic might be inhaled, that number is more than 74,000.

Continued:

The average person eats at least 50,000 particles of microplastic a year and breathes in a similar quantity, according to the first study to estimate human ingestion of plastic pollution.

In relation to low progesterone, specifically:

...Exposure to synthetic substances, like plastics, may increase estrogen levels and stimulate lower progesterone levels. Plastics contain xenohormones, which mimic estrogenic activity and create hormone imbalance. Pesticides, herbicides and fungicides that derive from petrochemicals may also contain xenohormones.

What's worrisome about this study is that it did not even touch on fast foods/beverages, pre-packaged/processed foods, etc. In bottled water alone, they found:

... 22 times more microplastic than tap water on average. A person who only drank bottled water would consume 130,000 particles per year from that source alone, the researchers said, compared with 4,000 from tap water.

Can you imagine how much microplastic a typical consumer in America ingests on a daily basis in lieu of their eating regimen? Now imagine what that consumption does to the body, hormones, etc. I believe our current health statistics speak for themselves.


Unhealthy cravings, that are met with unhealthy food choices, cause an uptick in consumption of these microplastics. (Mind you, we are not even addressing all of the other harmful ingredients in these food choices.) This uptick may contribute to negative health outcomes during pregnancy for mother & baby.


A viable pregnancy that turns unviable, as was my repeated experience, may be one of these consequences.


The Takeaway

If you are pregnant and experiencing cravings, it is important to evaluate your body's health state to determine if a deficiency is present. It is always best to eat a healthy, balanced diet especially during pregnancy. While cravings may occur during pregnancy, it is important to address the underlying reason of these cravings. I highly encourage you to seek out medical guidance if desired, as the long-term consequences of nutritional deficiencies can be detrimental, and can negatively impact one's ability to maintain pregnancy.


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