Oh sweet teeny tiny humans…they bring out a ferocious protective instinct within us to do everything in our power to protect them from the day we know they’re conceived. We’re created that way intentionally. This “mama bear” or “papa bear” instinct unfortunately can cause us to take opinions at surface value without looking into the evidence behind the opinion. If you’ve had a baby and done any kind of research into what is potentially harmful or beneficial for your growing nugget, you know that there are a WIDE range of opinions out there. Raw milk for instance…some say it’s the most dangerous thing you can drink while pregnant and others stand behind it’s healing and incredible nutrient density for mama and baby. The list goes on regarding conflicting opinions and beliefs.
Today, I wanted to set the record straight regarding the safety of Shakeology during pregnancy and breast feeding. First, let me say, I am not your OB Doctor. I am not a midwife. I know nothing about you or your specific situation, so please don’t take this as medical advice. It’s always smart to get the opinion of a medical professional and make your own educated decision for you and your babe.
Here’s a quick background on me and why I even have an opinion.
I’m a Registered Nurse with my Bachelor’s in Nursing. I am a certified Health Coach. I have spent the past 8 years researching holistic health, nutritional therapies, integrative medicine, Chinese medicine, homeopathy, and how to heal the body at a foundational level. I also have an 18-month old son who I stopped breastfeeding one month ago and I am 12 weeks pregnant today growing our next tiny human. So, my heart is in this with you because the health of my babies depends on me doing the best research possible to protect them. I don’t take this lightly.
Shakeology & Pregnancy
First, let me address the most common 4 reasons I hear as to why someone should NOT drink Shakeology while pregnant:
1- Too much Vitamin A or (Vitamins in general)
This is probably one of the more common questions I get. Studies have shown that too much Vitamin A in the form of retinol are correlated to birth defects. This is where most people stop researching and throw the baby out with the bath water (no pun intended). They see that each serving of Shakeology contains 100% of the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of Vitamin A at 5000 IU. Let me specify the HUGE difference here. The Vitamin A found in Shakeology is in the form of Beta-Carotine from a whole food source, NOT from Retinol. There is no correlation of birth defects with beta-carotene. If there was, that would mean we should have warning labels on eating too many carrots during pregnancy. See more on this here. So, when people use this reason as an argument as to why they won’t drink Shakeology during pregnancy, they should also be worried about carrots.
For those of you “sciency” peeps like me, you can refer to the U.S. Government’s official research on the difference between preformed Vitamin A (retinol) vs. Beta Carotene Vitamin A related to birth defects on the NIH (National Institute’s of Health) website here.
It should also be mentioned that the vegan formulas of Shakeology are probably the best and most gentle during pregnancy for a couple reasons. One is that it’s the most gentle on the digestive tract. Pregnancy comes with it’s own set of digestive issues, so we need all the help we can get in this area. The second reason is because the vegan formulas are unfortified. A fortified food means it has vitamins, minerals or other nutrients not normally present in the food added to it during processing. Since the vegan formula is unfortified, it ONLY has the vitamins and nutrients that are naturally present in the whole foods that they used to formulate Shakeology. We don’t go around counting the vitamin content in the food we’re eating, afraid that we’re going to overdose on our vitamins, do we? Of course not because it’s pretty much impossible! In fact, the Beachbody website has a specific note regarding this topic-
On a completely unrelated topic of nutrition and safety, the vegan formulas also TASTE DELICIOUS! They’re now available in Tropical Strawberry, Chocolate, Café Latte, & Vanilla. Taste is a big deal for a preggo woman. Our taste buds have a friggen’ mind of their own! I literally cannot eat vegetables…which is SO weird for me. I’m so thankful I can drink a chocolate milkshake and get all my nutrients in that way!
I will say, I personally use my Shakeology in place of my prenatal vitamin and I supplement with folate. Some mama’s choose to supplement with added iron as well. I would say talk to your doctor about this decision and see where your blood levels are to see if you need a supplement. Your daily dose of nutrition in Shakeology is equivalent to a prenatal vitamin minus the added folate. That’s amazing news for me!
I know you might be thinking…what the frick is “Ash-wa-what?”. Lol… Ashwagandha is an amazing superfood! The argument regarding safety during pregnancy here basically comes down to Western Medicine opinion vs. Ayurvedic/Holistic/Herbology Medicine. In Western Medicine and on the NIH website, there is a warning that if this herbs is consumed in very high doses it may cause premature birth (Please resist the urge to go gnaw on all the ashwagandha bushes you see all around you, k?). Note that this opinion is based on HIGH doses of Ashwaganda. The amount in Shakeology is nowhere near the doses necessary to cause preterm labor. This herb traditionally has been used for thousands of years in countries like India to actually strengthen the uterus before and during pregnancy and prevent miscarriage. It is also interesting to note that Ashwaganda is used in India as a galactagogue—a drug to increase milk production in breastfeeding women! Traditional herbalists who have used this herb for years with no side effects say that it actually helps prevent a miscarriage. Another major benefit is the stress balancing effects of this herb. Ashwaganda is known to be an adaptogenic herb. Herbs that fall into this classification help the body return to baseline (when you’re anxious or fatigued) and become more resilient to stressful situations, which pregnancy itself can be. When it comes to fertility and pregnancy, this herb is also considered an aphrodisiac, helping improve the health of the reproductive tissues and to awaken and enhance sexual energy. This is beneficial for obvious reasons when trying to conceive. 🙂 Lastly, studies have shown ashwagandha has anti-inflammatory and immune-protecting properties and antioxidant activity, reducing damage from free radicals in the body. You can read more about all of these benefits here.
Moringa is another exotic superfood most people don’t know about. Western Medicine warns that Moringa can cause miscarriage through stimulating the uterus to contract. It is important to note that “Moringa” may be referring to Moringa leaf (as in Shakeology) or Moringa bark/root. All the studies I reviewed regarding Moringa’s use as an abortifacient or contraceptive was when Moringa BARK/ROOT was used, not the leaves. I couldn’t find any studies linking Moringa LEAF to either of these uses. In fact, once again, I found evidence of use of Moringa throughout pregnancy both in Ayruvedic medicine and African medicine as well. In a US study, Moringa leaves have been recently proven to be safe during pregnancy and lactation and to even decrease cholesterol. Refer to the study here. In fact, there are phenomenal studies that can be found on this superfood at pubmed.gov. In a separate study, Moringa was proven to be effective at safely increasing a mother’s milk supply, specifically after giving birth to a premature infant before 37 weeks. For the full study, visit TOXNET here.
Moringa leaves are known to contain over 90+ nutrients, many of which we are lacking, either due to poor diet or the need to heal our bodies because we are not absorbing nutrients properly. From what I can find out it seems to have seven times the vitamin C found in oranges, four times the calcium in milk, four times the vitamin A in carrots (beta-carotene, not retinol) three times the iron in spinach, three times the vitamin E of almonds, three times the potassium in bananas, and two times the protein in milk. (source)
As you can see, this one superfood in Shakeology is pretty badass and could be incredibly helpful to anyone, including a pregnant or nursing mama.
4- Don’t use a meal replacement or cut calories while pregnant
This is fantastic advice. When you’re growing a human, you need all the healthy meals and nutrients you can get. It wouldn’t be smart to be on a diet and use a meal replacement while pregnant or breastfeeding. The solution? Don’t use Shakeology as a meal replacement. Use it as a supplement on top of your meals. For my clients who are continuing to exercise using the Beachbody programs and who are trying to still follow the meal plan programs, we bump them up a calorie bracket to ensure adequate calorie consumption while maintaining a clean and nutritious lifestyle.
Now that we have all of that out of the way, I have a couple more points I’d like to make in my pro-Shakeology during the human growing process argument. 🙂
1- Delicious, Convenient, & Easy nutrient density for mama and baby.
Let me just say as a currently pregnant woman: Hormones. Are. Powerful. Just ask all the baby daddy’s out there! Haha… I have always been a health nut, choosing quinoa, sauerkraut, and broccoli over pizza and ice cream any day. Since my super hormones kicked in to grow this babe, I haven’t been able to eat quinoa, salad, or most vegetables. I’ve been craving Cheetos, pizza, and chocolate shakes. My husband literally looked at me in disbelief and thought someone else had taken over my body. Well, someone did! It’s my tiny baby boy who is currently the size of a small plum, but wow is he powerful! It can be TRULY DIFFICULT to eat healthy foods only when you’re preggers. I have very strong will power, but even I succumb to the pizza cravings. The fact that I can have a chocolate peanut butter shake that provides my body with over 72 incredibly dense ingredients is MAGICAL! Why would you NOT want to drink this daily?!
2- There are MUCH more dangerous and harmful ingredients in the foods most preggo mama’s crave and eat every day.
This is not to “mom shame” ANYONE. Nor is it intended to scare you, but to inform you. I guarantee probably 90% of baby growers are not scrutinizing every single thing they put in their body. Back to the hormones…they’re powerful suckers that can empower you to down half a pizza and half a bag of Cheetos in record time. It’s ridiculous. Those who are worried about the ingredients in this nutrient dense formula should be much more worried about the fast food, processed food, high sugar, preservatives, hydrogenated oils, and artificial ingredients they’re eating usually on a daily basis. GMO’s are a real threat to our growing babies and they’re in pretty much ALL processed non-organic food. Artificial sweeteners as well as high sugar diets can lead to diabetes for mom and baby. Aspartame, MSG (monosodium glutamate), excess fluoride, mercury, and aluminum are all neurotoxins (they’re toxic to brain cells) that people consume daily that can effect the growing baby inside of you. We haven’t even touched on the chemical pesticides on non-organic produce or the hormones and antibiotics in all non-organic animal products. Ya…I know. Overwhelming.
Aside from food & drinks, chemicals that we put on our skin go to our blood stream, and can also effect baby. It’s SUPER important when pregnant to use as pure, natural, and non-toxic products as possible. Here’s a list of top toxins to avoid while pregnant. It’s a great idea to start switching over to non-toxic alternatives while you’re pregnant, so when baby arrives, you can use all non-toxic products on their little bodies. A great resource and website to check the safety of your cosmetics and skin care products is www.ewg.org/skindeep
3- Don’t be discouraged if your doctor says not to drink Shakeology during pregnancy and nursing.
While, I always encourage talking to your doctor before making any changes to your health regimen. Know that most medical doctors are very smart and educated in MEDICINE. That’s what they know. In medical school, you get 1 small basic course on nutrition, that’s it. The rest is pathophysiology and pharmacology. Usually, they don’t take courses on herbology, integrative medicine, preventative health, and more holistic modalities, so this may be out of their comfort zone. When it comes down to it, you are your best advocate. Do your research and you make the best decision for you and your growing babe.
4- New perspective on “Eating for Two”
One of my biggest pet peeves is when I hear women say “I can eat for two now!” as they shove not one but two McDonalds double doubles down their throat with a diet soda and super sized fries followed by 10 snickers bars. There are cravings…and then there is a lack of knowledge on what’s best for baby. Again, I don’t say this out of judgment, but out of passion to grow healthier babies in our country. When you find out your pregnant, it isn’t an excuse to eat whatever the heck you want. It’s a reason to get as many nutrients into your body as possible and to do the best you can to avoid all potential toxins. Granted, I am not perfect at this, but I do try. What you put into your body are the building blocks of your baby’s insides and outsides. That realization alone should make you want to down all the superfoods possible! Yes, eat for two in the BEST way! You are now your baby’s advocate. It’s up to you starting NOW on what your child’s foundation of their health will be built of. Ya..that’s a crap load of pressure! Welcome to parenthood! That feeling never goes away! Haha…
I hope this analysis was helpful for you and maybe helped clarify some incorrect preconceived notions flying around out on cyberspace about Shakeology and pregnancy. Here are some additional blogs that I found helpful on this topic:
Have an awesome day and thanks for reading my research! 🙂
- The Health Patriot