Doctor's Note

The video in which I profile those two case reports is here: Chamomile Tea May Not Be Safe During Pregnancy. As I note in Anti-Inflammatory Antioxidants, high antioxidant foods are, in general, high anti-inflammatory foods.

For comparisons between the strength of anti-inflammatory foods and drugs, see:

More on healthy (and unhealthy) diets in and around pregnancy:

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  • MikeOnRaw

    Aha, very interesting in that there are some inflammatory needs within our body. Makes you wonder if there are not some other times when inflammation is needed that we may not yet understand.

    • James

      Local inflammation is needed to promote healing at the site of an injury and I understand that more systemic inflammation is needed to fight bacterial infections. Anti-inflammatory foods help keep inflammation from reaching runaway levels or a chronic state which can injure the body and cause chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease and cancer and possibly Alzheimer’s disease which seems to be related to inflammation but whose cause is not completely understood.

    • Evidence Based Nutrition MD

      This is a unique scenario in an extremely tiny blood vessel in the hearts of developing babies and we are not even sure if it is clinically relevant. For a pregnant woman in her 3rd trimester, this is a interesting thing to keep in mind but I would not generalize this outside of a very specific situation.

      Generally speaking, in adults, inflammation unchecked is a common pathway of many diseases.

      Here is a relevant passage by Dr. Greger related to Diet and Inflammation.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/2011/10/04/inflammation-diet-and-vitamin-s/

      Many chronic disease processes involve inflammation, including our top three killers—heart disease, cancer, and stroke—so doctors prescribe a daily aspirin to those for whom the benefits are thought to outweigh the risks. About 1 in 10 people on chronic low-dose aspirin develop stomach or intestinal ulcers, which in rare cases can perforate the gut and cause life-threatening bleeding. My video Aspirin Levels in Plant Foods suggests that the low levels of salicylic acid in fruits (particularly nectarines), vegetables (particularly asparagus), and herbs and spices (especially mint, cumin, thyme, and paprika) may provide the best of both worlds.

      The way aspirin and salicylic acid work is by helping our body keep inflammation in check by reducing the assembly of the enzyme responsible for producing inflammatory compounds from something called arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that both we and other animals make. In my video-of-the-day yesterday, Chicken, Eggs, and Inflammation, I explain that arachidonic acid is like cholesterol, in that our bodies make all we need for optimal function. The problem is that so do the bodies of birds and mammals, and so when we consume those other animals the level of arachidonic acid in our blood may climb too high.

      For example, inflammation in our brain caused by dietary arachidonic acid may explain why those eating plant-based diets appear less stressed and depressed (see my video Plant-Based Diet & Mood) and why eliminating chicken, fish, and eggs may improve symptoms of mood disturbance, depression, and anxiety within two weeks (see Thursday’s Improving Mood Through Diet). Arachidonic acid may also play a role in cancer, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune disorders (see Friday’sInflammatory Remarks about Arachidonic Acid).

      This morning’s video-of-the-day Chicken’s Fate is Sealed documents the meat industry’s attempts to lower the arachidonic acid level in chicken muscles through genetic manipulation and the egg industry’s attempts to lower arachidonic acid levels in hens by feeding hens blubber from baby harp seal pups clubbed to death in the Canadian seal hunt. But any arachidonic acid from chicken and eggs is in excess of what our body needs.

      In summary, plant-based diets are anti-inflammatory diets because “Vitamin S” and other anti-inflammatory phytonutrients in plants may help prevent the body from overproducing inflammatory compounds, and also because plant-based diets minimize one’s intake of inflammatory precursors in the first place.

      -Michael Greger, M.D.

      • MikeOnRaw

        I get the feeling then that the real goal of as diet that doesn’t create inflammation is so that or body can truly control inflammation. And by eating a diet high in things that creates inflammation leaves our body without the ability to control, resulting in many negative affects. Here it seems the concern is that some dietary factors are so good at reducing inflammation that in some cases our diet may actually dampen inflammatory response our body may need.

      • JoanneZ

        I’m 42 years old and 12 weeks pregnant. I conceived naturally after having unprotected sex ONE TIME! Both my partner and I have been vegan 20 years. I’ve never been pregnant and I’ve had a super easy pregnancy so far. I have no health issues and eat mostly a whole foods diet.

        My midwife who has yet to meet me or know anything about my medical history other than that this is my first pregnancy and my age, suggested on the phone that I should start taking baby aspirin everyday to help implantation of my placenta. I did a little research online and found that other women who were prescribed this had previous miscarriages, blood clotting disorders, diabetes, high blood pressure or are obese. I do not fit into any of those categories.

        I have not put aspirin in my body for over 10 years and am not about to start now without a really good reason to do so. I want to tell my midwife that I refuse to follow her orders. But I want to check first if this would be a wise decision.

  • RobertM

    Is there a comprehensive list of anti-infmaamtory food somewhere on this site or elsewhere?

  • kk

    From googling, tea inhibits non-heme iron absorption significantly. I think vegans and vegetarians should consider this. Same for coffee and cocoa.

    • Tea does indeed! That’s why I recommend everyone drink green (or white) tea separate from meals.

      • Christo

        thanks Doc !!!

      • nodelord

        if that is the case then I’m done with tea …. but what about hibiscus tea?

        • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

          Just check out our many videos on hibiscus! We mention research showing that like a quart per day is safe and beneficial to drink.

          • nodelord

            Thanks, certenly did that and none mention iron depletion

  • VegGuy

    What about dha/epa from algae oil supplements? These omega 3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, but are also highly recommended during pregnancy for healthy brain development.

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      They are anti-inflammatory for sure. Check out our info on DHA and EPA. Yes, definitely important during pregnancy as preformed omegas are preferred.

      • Linda Venema-van Der Heide

        So I should keep using them or I should not? What are preformed omegas? In a video on DHA it says it enhances the childs sight and development.
        http://nutritionfacts.org/video/algae-based-dha-vs-flax-2/

        • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

          DHA and EPA are preformed omega-3’s. Yes, I would recommend using them (algae-based DHA) and double checking with your doctor. This is what I was referring to about DHA whioch explains a lot. http://nutritionfacts.org/topics/dha/

          Let me know if this helps?

          • Linda Venema-van Der Heide

            Yes, thank you very much!

  • Linda Venema-van Der Heide

    Thank you for sharing! Though I must say I am a bit concerned now, being 38 weeks pregnant on a 100% whole-foods-plant-based and high anti-oxidant diet. Do you recommend an extra check of my baby’s heart?..

    • Thea

      Linda: As a lay person, I can’t answer your question about whether an extra heart check is a good idea or not. Dr. Greger does point out that we aren’t sure if these differences are clinically relevant or not.

      But he also advises caution… I wanted to share my 2 cents on what I think caution might look like. I don’t think Dr. Greger is recommending pregnant women start eating pro-oxidant foods like meat, diary or eggs. So, what then? I’m wondering if the cautious diet for a woman in the 3rd trimester might be something more akin to Dr. McDougall’s starch diet. It’s still plant based and whole foods, but less emphasis on the higher anti-oxidant foods. So, more focus on potatoes, quinoa, beans etc and less of the berries, dark green veggies, cocoa, etc. Just a thought. I don’t know if my suggestion makes any sense or not. Just wanted to share.

      And to wish you and your baby well! A mama who is eating a whole plant food based diet is miles ahead of so many other mamas out there. Your baby will be one lucky kid!

      • Linda Venema-van Der Heide

        Dear Thea, thank you so much for your wonderfull and kind response. The funny thing is that the dr. Mc Dougall diet is exactly what I switched to after seeing this video! I looked into the list of anti-oxidant values of 1300+ products and saw that starchy items and vegetables seemed quite low. Recently I had ‘coincadentally’ come across The Starch Solution, so now I made the switch. I have good hopes that IF there’s any ‘damage’, this will reverse it.
        Luckily, I have a very lively little boy inside me, reassuring me multiple times a day that he is doing just fine! :)
        Thanks again for your support!

    • Hi I wouldn’t stop taking one tablespoon ground flax seeds daily. It’s not so much. If you want the baby to slide out without an epidural don’t stop taking that little bit of flax. I can’t imagine eating too much antioxidants.

  • Matthew Smith

    So no turmeric in the third trimester. Expecting mothers can sense this opening? That’s amazing. Perhaps the baby needs more atomic nutrition like Iron, Phosphorus, Iodine, and protein. Do expecting mothers like pumpkin seeds?

  • Thanks! interesting video :)

  • daisy

    is it important to stop eating the 1TABLESPOON of ground flaxseed daily when pregnant?

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Apparently in the last 2 trimesters it’s suggested to avoid flax as a precaution.

      • dogulas

        Why is that (my wife has kept up on her flax up to the 3rd trimester now… should she stop)? Should she just get all her omega 3 from greens/fruits/vegetables from now on?

        • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

          Good question! Not sure exact reasons of course it probably lays out the mechanisms in some of the studies.

    • Disagree Only stop taling that small amount of flax if you want to have a C section. If you’re worried about too much take it in divided doses 1/2 tablespoon twice a day or one teaspoon 3 times a day.

  • Brux

    Is the human body amazing or what?

    But, how on Earth would the mother or the doctor know that his blood vessel is closing up in the womb? Are their any symptoms or is this just a lucky catch if the mother is in the doctor’s office?

  • joe

    What about causing idiopathic non-sustaining ventricular tachycardia? Any studies there? I was taking high dose of IBUPROFEN for a phlebitis (doctors orders) , and having cocoa, green tea, blueberries, daily.. when I had my first episode

  • Sebastian Tristan

    I don’t want to change the subject, but I need some help finding some studies comparing vegans with vegetarians, pescetarians and omnivores. I have a document with almost all the concepts the Doc mentioned since the beginning but I did not save individual studies. Let me explain: I am having a debate with a friend of mine and going through all the videos looking for comparison between the above mentioned categories is very time-consuming. I am looking preferably for controlled studies rather than cohort (observational) studies. Thanks!

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Look into the Adventist Heath Study-2 cohort and the EPIC cohort. Both look at different diets and health outcomes. We have many videos on these populations. Let me know if you cannot find? I can also email you some hard copies of the research if you’d prefer? Please give me some time though I am out of the Country.

      Thanks, Sebastian,
      Joseph

      • Sebastian Tristan

        I was looking more for intervention trials. I have already spoken about the EPIC studies with my friend but the EPIC studies don’t show vegans are healthier (something the Doc has already mentioned). I understand that there are many problems: cohort studies, low fiber intake, Vit. B12 deficiencies. That’s why I want simple controlled studies comparing vegans, vegetarians, pescetarians, omnivores. Thanks.

        • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

          Hmmm. Less trials in that category. Perhaps Dr. Barnard’s work comparing vegan to ADA diet or the National Cholesterol Education diet can help?

  • Christo

    this is what i called a scientific fair way of “cherry picking” journal (if some people said that Dr. Michael Greger does cherry picking). this is why i like Dr Michael Greger and rest of the team, they provide a reliable conclusion in a fair ground and peeling every part of the truth even in this rare “unique” case of inflmatory. THUMBS UP FOR Dr. Michael Greger and Nutrtionfacts’s Crew ! I love it

  • Emily

    Is there any information available on what a safe upper limit per day in the 3rd trimester might be? I found this list ranking foods by polyphenols (http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v64/n3s/fig_tab/ejcn2010221t1.html) but I am not sure how low I need to go in the third trimester. I am actually pregnant so I this is not a theoretical question. ;) It looks like I need to cut back on the cocoa powder / dark chocolate in any case… drat!! I would be loathe to cut out the flax seeds, however (as others have mentioned), as it really helps with the, um, digestive sluggishness of pregnancy!

  • NoelieTREX

    Oh wow. I’m 35 weeks pregnant and was just stuffing my face with grapes, blueberries, black berries, and cherries while poking around this site. Perhaps I should cut back my daily 5-7 servings of berries and fresh fruit until after the baby arrives. That’s a tall order for a pregnant woman who predominantly craves fruit though!

  • Crystal

    I noticed that green tea and coffee were included in the anti-inflammatory foods that constricted the duct. Could the caffeine have an affect on this and not the inflammatory/anti-inflammatory effects of the food themselves? I would really like to see caffeine content controlled in a study like this.

    • Sebastian Tristan

      Actually, caffeine seems to be nefarious as it apparently stiffens our arteries. Check the latest videos on caffeine and coffee in the video section.