Today’s blog is a continuation of my women’s health and baby topics. Recently I talked about Lecithin and how important it is in the neurological development of the fetus during pregnancy. Today I want to expand on the topic by making a connection between a decrease in the likelihood of Neural Tube Defects and supplementation with Folate and Vitamin B12 during pregnancy.
So what are neural tube defects and how can we prevent them? Well it all starts with a tube. That’s essentially what the fetus looks like at the very beginning of its development when it changes its shape from a ball of cells to a tube-like structure. The tube is what will actually become the baby’s gastrointestinal tract.
On the surface of this tube a groove develops whose edges soon join together to make another tube. This tube will become the spinal cord as well as all the nerves running from it. At the very tip, the tube enlarges and becomes the brain. This whole process is extremely important for proper functionality of the nervous system. If anything goes wrong during this stage it will progress itself and exponentially grow in severity, affecting future stages of development.
The consequences are neural tube defects. There is a whole range of these and each one can vary in its level of severity depending on how much and exactly where the neural tube was not able to close. The least severe is where in one location (usually the lower back) the spinal cord is beneath the skin but is not enveloped by the bony spinal column. This version is usually harmless. The most severe version is where the entire brain is missing.
There are two things during this process that are most important. First, a lot of genes are turned off and on in order to properly coordinate the entire process. If this is not coordinated properly the tube does not close and we have a major problem. Second, because a lot of nerve cells are formed it is important to have a proper amount of building blocks available. These building blocks are mostly fatty acids like the ones found in Lecithin (Jamieson) or fish oil products (Jamieson Omega 3-6-9).
It is very important to remember that during pregnancy your usual diet does not provide nearly enough of the required nutrients and building blocks to help these processes move forward smoothly. The two most important supplements that are essential for the proper regulation of genes (and thus the proper coordination of neural tube formation) are Folate and Vitamin B12 (Jamieson). Thus it is of utmost importance to supplement with these Vitamins not only during the time when a woman is aware of her pregnancy but also when she engages in sexual intercourse and can become pregnant. Women typically do not become aware that they are pregnant until 4 to 8 weeks after becoming pregnant. This is actually the time when the neural tube develops.
It is also important to continue supplementing with Lecithin, fatty acids from fish oils and other healthy oils, as well as with Folate and Vitamin B12 during breast feeding. During this time the nervous system of the baby is still developing and growing rapidly and being nourished by breast milk.
Please also remember, because I cannot emphasize this enough, that during pregnancy (or during the time when a woman can get pregnant) abstain from smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, and using drugs, including prescription drugs that may be deleterious for the developing fetus. Consult with your physician which prescription drugs you are taking and if they could and should be continued throughout pregnancy. Also have a proper healthy diet rich in vegetables, good protein sources like chicken and fish, and healthy oils like olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil and flax oil. With all of this we can maximize the potential for the proper development of the baby. After all they are the future.