The Newborn’s Liver
As I sit here this morning… much earlier than I'd like after a night without the kids… drinking an herbal energizing, cleansing, and nourishing tea blend… I start thinking about how many newborns are diagnosed with "reflux" without ever getting down to the root cause. I'm not really sure what prompted the thought, but nevertheless, here I write. Even many of us "natural advocates" lean towards the issue actually being breastfeeding related (like poor positioning, latch, and often tongue or lip ties) - but this morning, I wanted to go a bit deeper than that and share with you a perspective just as important as breastfeeding concerns… especially if I can reach you before you birth your baby (better yet, before you ever get pregnant).
Let's go back to pregnancy, shall we?
What do we know about a newborn's liver? In basic terms, it is in many ways immature and the more immature it is, the higher the risk for jaundice, right? Premature babies have higher rates of jaundice because their liver is immature and can't process the higher amounts of bilirubin from excess red blood cells no longer needed this side of the womb. Babies that are induced have higher rates of jaundice because they're often born before they're ready. Babies fed formula have higher rates of jaundice because they're constipated with irritated immune and digestive systems.
OK, so let's think about this for a minute - beyond the here and now, let's think about what we can control. The problem with most modern cultures is nutrition. Yup, nutrition nutrition nutrition. Have you heard this from me yet? What happens with processed nutrition? The body system gets clogged, digestion slows, and… you guessed it… the liver gets overtaxed and can't cleanse the body. Toxins build. What happens with "OK" nutrition? It might take a little longer, but after a little longer the body system gets clogged, digestion slows, and… the liver gets overtaxed and can't cleanse the body. What happens with nutrition that "seems" healthy but really isn't? I'm talking the diets where you might not eat a lot of store-bought processed foods, but you make all your own junk food like coffee, flavored coffee, sweet tea… even a diet where everything is raw and the vegetables you're eating aren't easily assimilated or don't release their toxins until they've been steamed a bit. Maybe you don't eat sugar, but you eat a lot of honey. Maybe you never soak your grains and beans - or more specifically, you never sprout them. Maybe you eat vegetables, but you just don't eat enough of them to balance your other foods - or most of your vegetables are in the form of carrots and celery and you eat a lot of fruit... not much balance to the nourishing and cleansing ability of vegetables. We can seem to eat well, but if we don't have an abundance - a large majority - of healthy, wholesome, dark, leafy, and *properly prepared* greens - then our body system is getting clogged, digestion isn't optimal, and the liver will get overtaxed and not efficiently clean the body.
In some way, all of us will fall within this spectrum. We think modern cultures are the only ones that deal with this, but that isn't true. Cultures with little access to - or, more often knowledge of - a variety of wild foods usually lack the herbs needed to cleanse their body. Cultures more dependent on farming and "civilized" ideals tend to have high rates of mono diets - diets filled with a majority of any one thing… for America, this is some of the worst - breads and meats without balance. These can be nourishing and life saving - but they are not the ideal majority on the plate. Consider the high rates of formula donations during natural disasters and to third world countries which illustrates both the nutritional and knowledge risks of "civilized" perspectives on nutrition. It is pretty hard to have a perfect diet - and I'm not even saying you should have a perfect diet. However, we should really start to understand just how we should be remedying things when they don't follow the ideal path.
Unfortunately, most families (new ones at least) fall in the partially-to-fully processed spectrum. Even before pregnancy, their body is overtaxed. Then, one of the things they will constantly hear - because they're being screened for it at every prenatal from home to hospital - is the risks of pre-eclampsia/eclampsia/toxemia. Hmmm… seeing where this is going, yet? On one side of the fence they're not told how to eat (because their provider isn't even taught this… and if they were, its going to follow the dreaded food pyramid) and then they're given a Rx prenatal vitamin - one that tends to be pretty hard on the system - clogs digestion… or isolated "nutrients" from plants - which is not better or healthy. How does this help filter the body? On the other side of the fence, a lot of moms are told "eat a lot of protein." Maybe they heard about Dr. Brewer. This can be a good thing if you consider that Dr. Brewer found out just how important it was to eat well during pregnancy. However, what they get stuck on is HIGH amounts of protein. This can be beneficial… it can also be detrimental. The Brewer Diet has high amounts of dairy (likely not raw, at that) - and in many of his resources, it doesn't matter a lot where the protein comes from, just as long as you eat high protein foods and then moms keep reaching for the steaks and don't often balance it out. Well, without a great balance of dark greens, minerals, and digestive enzymes for all that dairy and meat your body system gets clogged, digestion slows, and….. Yea…. So…. Good perspective to eliminate the processed foods, not a great follow through on good nutrition.
What in the world does this have to do with the newborn liver?
Before and after birth, moms and newborns are met multiple times with poor digestion, low activity levels (how many of you have a desk job?), environmental toxins, and overtaxed livers. Are the premature babies suffering from jaundice because they're immature - or are babies being born premature because mom's system is overtaxed with toxins and unnable to sustain a pregnancy? When a mom eats as well as she can, and for whatever reason has a premature baby, there is going to be a difference in her baby's health, too.
Do the reflux babies needs reflux medication, or do they need liver support to remove all the toxin built up in their system that are not allowing them to properly assimilate their food. What is mom eating now that is getting into her milk? It isn't just about "allergen foods" - its about REAL and HEALTHY food. And these are things that happen BEFORE moms aren't given adequate breastfeeding advice and told to supplement with formula… which usually doesn't help.
How can you reduce these complications? We're just talking nutrition here - not breastfeeding. Start NOW with herbal infusions. A tea is a type of infusion - it is steeped for 3-5 minutes. However, a nourishing infusion is often left to steep for 4-10 hours. This is perfect for all you who don't like to get up in the morning and start your metabolism with breakfast…. Break… Fast… breaking the cleansing fast from overnight. Part of that fast is to cleanse the toxins - most of which your liver should take care of at night if you're sleeping well - but you can't cleanse the toxins if you don't aid flushing them with healthy foods - healthy vegetables and fruits. So, the easiest thing you can do is just make an herbal tea. You don't like herbal tea, you say? Well, then think of it like a Rx and do it for your baby. Whole leaf stevia (NOT stevia that comes in a packet, or stevia extract even from your herbal store) is an excellent way of getting in your sweet (while not making your blood sugar flux) and making your herbal blends quite delicious. If you're going to do this every day, then make it taste good. Sure, put honey in it if you must, but I would encourage whole leaf stevia instead.
I mean, this is easier than fast food…easier than eggs. If you're a coffee drinker - you can simply just make a nourishing tea without any extra effort. You can even do it the night before, let it steep all night for maximum nutrition, and just tip it up and drink it as soon as you wake up. That's even easier than taking a pill!!! Get yourself a tea-to-go infusion glass and just add hot water. Go to bed, wake up, nourish your body.
OK, so now you don't have excuses. What do you use?
Here are a few - safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding - herbs that are simple and effective.
Red Raspberry Leaf - because its yummy, inexpensive, and nourishing to a pregnant momma.
Nettles - because its yummy, inexpensive, and packs a vitamin and nutrient punch like no other. Dark greens in and the sun isn't even up. Score! Your building blood, cleansing toxins, getting B vitamins and calcium and magnesium… Goodbye cramps! Goodbye swelling! Hello feel good. Wow, you might even feel like walking more now, right? These nutrients are also excellent for the blood supply.
Dandelion Leaf - Dandelion is your liver cleanser, diuretic/get things flowing without depleting potassium (actually adding it) herb. You can use the root, absolutely - you just typically don't steep this the same way as you do a leaf… so the leaf in this blend is just easy peasy. If you use the root, remember to get NON roasted… the roasted kind is just not as effective because of the roasting process. If you happen to like the roasted flavor - just mix 1/2 and 1/2 roasted and non roasted. I will warn you that this herb is not as tasty as the others. A pinch of whole leaf stevia really does make a difference if you just don't like the taste. Instead of putting this in your morning blend, you can use a tincture of this or capsules of the *whole* herb - do NOT use extracts of herbs… they are not as safe and don't work the same way as the whole herb. Just remember that bitters are a part of digestion, which helps the body's ability to cleanse itself.
Add a squeeze of lemon if you'd like and drop in the peel, too. Lemons are great liver-cleansers. Do it in place of the dandelion root if you must - a whole lemon, every morning. You can steep some stevia alone, squeeze in a good amount of lemon, now you have tasty lemonade you can chill and sip on all day. Add lemon slices to your water with every meal.
Now we have a mineral and vitamin building daily blend that will help nourish our body, build our blood levels (without crazy amounts of protein), aid digestion, cleanse our liver - and we can really increase our health options for our little ones.
OK, easy peasy. That's it. We're not going to try to get complicated here - but if you do want a well-rounded herbal pregnancy and postpartum blend - the Esali Birth Enciente blend is perfect for you - you can grab it in the Esali Etsy Boutique.
For your baby with reflux - check for latching difficulties. Go to someone who KNOWS about latching difficulties and WANTS to help you. Be sure they check for lip and tongue ties which create suction - and therefore air problems which are a big contributor to reflux. If you feel like it really is reflux, consider… research… drops of dandelion root infusion before adding in the Rx reflux medications. We don't like to encourage early solids - but we do like to encourage healthier alternatives to synthetics especially if that means more ability to exclusively breastfeed.