On 14 February 2011, Janette Roberts, pharmacist, nutritionist and best-selling author, discussed Natural Fertility Management with Jeff Croucher from Pure Health Direct on 99.7 fm local radio. Click on the video links to watch a video recording of the session or read the transcript of the discussion below.
Reproductive health is under threat, as well as being increasingly medically managed, with conception, pregnancy, birth and breast feeding, no longer unfolding naturally and easily. So what’s the answer? My guest today is Jan Roberts, pharmacist, clinical nutritionist and best-selling author. Jan, tell us a little bit more about yourself…
Well Jeff, I began my pharmacy career way back in 1967. I was fifteen years in community pharmacy, before frustration with band-aid medicine led me to a diploma in clinical nutrition. Along the way I heard of Foresight – the UK-based Association for the Promotion of Preconceptual Care (www.foresight-preconception.org.uk/). It was their work that prompted the preparation I did before my own pregnancies and it was the benefits that I saw that inspired my work for the last thirty years. That work has been promoting PRECONCEPTION HEALTHCARE as the way to improve fertility and to prevent miscarriage and other reproductive problems. But more importantly PRECONCEPTION HEALTHCARE is the logical, elegantly simple way to ensure a really beautiful bright happy healthy baby.
Well that sounds like something that’s vitally important today when we see so much infertility, so many miscarriages, premature births and so many kids with asthma and allergies, AD/HD and so on.
It’s never been more important than it is today Jeff! Infertility rates are on the rise, one woman in four will have a miscarriage, labours are frequently long and require medical intervention, breast feeding periods are much too short and we have an absolute epidemic of kids with subtle and not so subtle health issues. All of this represents a very inauspicious start to family life. For some, it represents a lifetime of heartache and hardship. Of course the cost to the community and to health care systems is impossible to quantify.
No doubt about the cost to the community Jan, but another concern is that with increasing rates of reproductive problems and so many kids with these various health issues, they come to be accepted as the norm. But you’re saying we can do something to reduce these statistics?
Absolutely Jeff, and the story starts before conception and it starts with both prospective parents. They’re in this quest for a really healthy baby together! I want to make that really clear! This approach is not about an IVF specialist, obstetrician, midwife, or hospital delivering your perfect baby. It’s not about ultrasounds or other pre-natal diagnostic screening ensuring the 100% product.
So you’re saying that the system can’t be held responsible for ensuring optimally healthy babies – the responsibility really lies with prospective parents:
That’s right! This is about two prospective parents committing to giving their family the very best possible start in life.
Well Jan that’s a really exciting opportunity for anyone who plans to become a Mum or a Dad at some stage!
I think so Jeff – and it’s not really as hard as it sounds, nor as ‘out there’ as some people think. Farmers and stock-breeders know all about preconception care. They would always ensure their breeding stock is in optimally nourished and non-stressed condition, and the human population would do well to keep that in mind.
Jan, you say optimally nourished and non-stressed condition for prospective parents – can you please elaborate on that for our listeners?
In a nutshell preconception healthcare means an abundance of all the basic building blocks – that means vitamins, trace elements, essential fatty and amino acids, purified water and complete absence of anything that may be potentially toxic!
Preconception healthcare must involve both partners equally! The program MUST BE COMPLETED and in place for at least 4 months before conception. THAT DOESN’T MEAN ‘Cutting down on cigarettes” or “reducing alcohol” during that critical 4 month period! They need to have QUIT already because sperm take up to 116 days to form and the egg is susceptible to damage for 100 days prior to ovulation. The bulk of what needs doing will involve the couple’s own actions, but sometimes they’ll need help from a practitioner.
Jan – let’s talk for moment about the basic building blocks. Obviously the primary source of those building blocks will be a wholefood, organic diet, but that’s often a tall order in today’s society so what are your thoughts about supplements?
Jeff, healthy food grown on healthy soil is my mantra for prospective parents, but you’re right that’s a tall order for many people, so while supplements can never take the place of a really healthy diet, they’re absolutely essential for both partners during that critical 4-month period. In fact, I say the longer you take a robust combination of all the vitamins and trace elements before conception the better. The reasoning behind it being – The needs during reproduction are so critical – a diet that may support adult life may be completely unable to support healthy reproduction _ Time is short (that’s particularly the case for older women) – You have to make up for multiple nutritional deficits caused by a refined Western diet, unhealthy lifestyle habits and and exposure to toxicity
That sounds to me like a prospective mum needs a lot more than folic acid and iron which seem to be the standard fare prescribed by GPs and obstetricians.
ABSOLUTELY right – in fact single nutrients are definitely not recommended. Folic acid for example is part of the B-Complex group – it never occurs alone in nature and shouldn’t be taken alone. In the case of iron, inorganic iron supplements can cause a deficiency in zinc, which is the antagonist mineral.
Zinc deficiency? Jan I read somewhere that zinc is the most important trace element for the woman about to become pregnant. Is that true?
That’s a pretty good assessment of the importance of zinc, but zinc deficiency is also considered to be the most widespread deficiency in the Western world! In fact a CSIRO study showed that 67% Australian men receive below RDA of zinc, 85% Australian women receive below RDA and a University of Queensland study showed that 2/3 of Australian children are zinc deficient.
Well they’re very chastening statistics Jan – why such widespread zinc deficiency?
Zinc deficiency is almost entirely attributable to modern diets and lifestyles. Zinc is lost or destroyed by: Non-organic farming and refining of grains. Alcohol, cigarettes, diuretics (that’s caffeine) – all deplete the body of zinc. The detoxification of heavy metals such as lead, requires zinc. Growth, pregnancy, breast feeding, stress and illness all put increased demands on zinc levels. Finally oral contraceptives and iron supplements seriously disturb zinc status!
OK, I understand that our 21st Century lifestyle can be held responsible, and that some of this deficiency could potentially affect the pregnant mum and her baby. But there’s no FRANK zinc deficiency state such as Vitamin C deficiency and scurvy, so what conditions would we expect when someone is deficient in zinc?
It’s a very long list Jeff…but it gives you an idea of what I mean when I say ZINC IS IMPORTANT!!
Zinc deficiency is implicated in…
Low libido (no sex drive)
Poor fetal growth
Poor maternal instinct
Irritable, jittery baby
Learning/behavior problems and MUCH MORE.
That IS a very long list Jan, but I need you to explain how prolonged labour can be partly attributable to a deficiency of a trace element?
Well zinc is intimately involved in collagen formation. In a zinc deficient woman, collagen formation is compromised and gaps appear in her uterine membrane. Those gaps mean that the uterus then contracts inefficiently – hence a long labour.
I notice post natal depression and poor maternal instinct are on that list of possible symptoms, so Jan you’d better tell our listeners how to restore their zinc status?
Jeff, there’s a very simple, inexpensive taste test for zinc status and it can be one of the first steps in a preconception program. Take 5ml of a taste test solution into your mouth and swirl it around. Notice the sensation: Strong, unpleasant taste, dry mineral, sweet or furry taste or no taste (like water). I’m not going to tell you what’s adequate zinc status and what’s deficient. You can order the test to find out!
That’s easy enough – so when you’ve done the test, you then you supplement according to your zinc status?
Simply follow the directions on the label Jeff, using a liquid product if your status is very compromised, but remember you need all those other trace elements and vitamins. My co-author Francesca Naish and I have developed an “Essential Range” that comes as a handy 30-day supply. Everything for his and her preconception preparation and the range is based on 30 years clinical experience and all of Foresight’s research.
Something else I’d like you to explain Jan? You said that the oral contraceptive pill is apparently another zinc thief? How does that work?
The pill causes copper levels to rise (copper is a zinc antagonist) and zinc levels to fall. It’s often quite difficult to reverse the zinc deficiency in long-term pill users. So if you’re on the pill, make sure you have a really good break from it AND restore your zinc status well ahead of any attempt at baby-making. Women who take the oral contraceptive pill right up to the time of conception will begin their pregnancy in a zinc compromised state, with potential negative effects on every stage of their pregnancy and their baby.
Jan, I know that lots of women take the pill simply to regulate their cycles, but is there another way to do that?
I’m dismayed when doctors prescribe the pill for hormonal irregularities, because it only masks the problems and in fact leads to more disturbances. Fortunately there’s a fabulous natural product that works to balance levels of all hormones across the board and it has full double-blind clinical trials to support its use. Great product in the same range for older women wanting to avoid HRT by the way Jeff!
Going back to another of those building blocks you mention Jan – purified water
Water is a primary detoxification measure Again, implementation of this one simple step – at least 2 litres of purified water every day can make a big difference to how efficiently your body gets rid of toxic by-products. AND the best quality water filter will ensure the optimal environment for every step of reproduction… from conception through to breastfeeding!
So purified water promotes efficient detoxification. But apart from toxic metabolic waste that the body produces what exactly are you trying to get rid of, what toxicity are you trying to avoid?
Whew, Jeff, that’s the subject for another interview, but let’s summarise like this. WE ARE ALL exposed to an absolute COCKTAIL of chemicals – and there’s no doubt of the potential for harm to eggs, sperm and a developing baby. Now I don’t say that to frighten couples, but rather to alert them to the importance of avoiding whatever they can and to the importance of all of the protective measures that are available.
Let’s consider the food supply – 20,000 chemicals used in food production and manufacture, 4,000 chemicals added directly to the food supply (but only 10% listed on labels). That’s why I say, healthy food grown on healthy soil!
Then consider common lifestyle habits. Alcohol is a direct testicular toxin and of course there is NO KNOWN SAFE LEVEL of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. That’s why Foresight advocates total avoidance of alcohol in the preconception period.
Then what’s in your bathroom (skin care, cosmetics, shampoos etc)? The average woman using 12 products daily will expose herself to 175 chemicals! So you can reduce that exposure simply by switching to a range that is certified organic.
OK Jan, we’re running out of time, so let’s just back up a bit. The Foresight Association in the UK has carried out a huge amount of research, you’ve been promoting this approach to a healthier next generation for thirty years, but it’s not a new idea is it?
Certainly NOT, although it does come as a complete surprise to many couples. But do you know, even the Ancient Greeks and Romans knew that alcohol, drunk before and around the time of conception, was damaging to the fetus. They placed a ban on the drinking of alcohol by young women and newly-weds.
Many tribal societies fed special diets to their young women (and young men) of child-bearing age. In the 1930s, Dr Weston Price (a dentist) studied communities from around the world and clearly established the link between consumption of a refined Western diet and poor reproductive outcomes.
The Great Dutch Famine at the end of WWII showed that women exposed to the food shortages before and around the time of conception, had poorer reproductive outcomes than the women who suffered food shortages during their pregnancy. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The next generation was shown to be prejudiced if the mother was in utero during the first trimester when her mother was exposed to food shortage.
This introduces us to the exciting emerging field of epi-genetics. Research in this field demonstrates that the effects of deleterious physical and emotional traumas are carried down through generations, but what’s really exciting is that the converse holds true, which is what makes this work so incredibly exciting and worthwhile!
What you’re saying is fascinating Jan. These days we’re reading so much about DNA tests and I saw something this week suggesting couples could now be tested for 448 diseases before they conceive. What you’re suggesting is an effect that goes beyond an individual’s actual DNA profile.
Exactly Jeff – in fact “epigenetics” literally means beyond genetics and it’s exciting research – about 20 years old now – and it has turned conventional genetic “wisdom” on its head. That means we can no longer hold our DNA entirely responsible for our weight issues or our heart disease or our diabetes or whatever. We might have a genetic tendency to these or other conditions, but there is additional imprinting that can be both negative or positive, and there are triggers that can switch a genetic variation off or on. For example, new evidence indicates that the current epidemic of childhood obesity, is in part linked to the high fat diet of the father-to-be.
So what preconception care endeavours to do is to remove any of those negative triggers and ensure that the positive ones only (and that includes positive mental and emotional effects) are the ones that will ensure the healthiest possible egg and sperm and the healthiest possible environment for the developing embryo and in that, the opportunity for the child to enjoy his full genetic potential.
Jan, I’d like to thank you for being with us today. Let’s give listeners the link to Pure Health Direct website where they can purchase The Natural Way to Better Babies and all your other books, they can order the NFM products, the zinc taste test, Femmenessence or Revolution for hormone balance, Carmaje toxicity-free skin care and Wellness LivingWater as well as other products that you recommend and of course they can contact us at www.purehealthdirect.com for product purchase or for a health care professional who can assist with this vitally important preparation for pregnancy!!