Most of us would love a healthy start to the day with a solid breakfast, time outside, grounding, and a moment of peace before tackling the tasks at hand. But what would it be like to have a healthy start on life itself? Sally Fallon Morell, the President and Founder of the Weston A. Price Foundation, today covers how to give babies the healthiest life possible, right from the start.
Sally gets into specifics about preparing the body for conception, how much time is needed to detox the body beforehand, and what dietary changes are recommended for both women and men for optimal fertility. Among other things, she also discusses which vitamins are most needed to build a baby’s body, including those found in nutrient-dense foods like liver, butter, and egg yolks. In sum, Sally shares ideas for how to have a healthy pregnancy gleaned from the traditional foodways of the healthiest peoples around the globe.
Listen to the episode here:
Within the below transcript the bolded text is Hilda
This is episode 284 and our guest is Sally Fallon Morell. Sally is the President and Founder of The Weston A. Price Foundation who focused on wise traditions in food farming and the healing arts. Sally talks to us about how to give babies the healthiest start possible. She talks about a subject that isn’t often covered in health circles much and how to prepare the body for conception. She discusses the importance of detoxing the body and preparing for pregnancy for 6 months to 2 years before conception.
She emphasizes the need for dietary changes for both men and women that enhance fertility and support a healthy pregnancy including liver, butter, and egg yolks. She also discusses which vitamins women need the most to build a baby’s body, both during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, and where to get those vitamins from. In short, Sally shares ideas gleaned from the traditional foodways and practices of the healthiest people around the globe.
Welcome to the show, Sally.
Thank you, Hilda. I’m happy to be here to talk about our 11th principle which is what separates the Weston A. Price Foundation. It sets us apart from other organizations that have to do with diet and health.
I don’t think other organizations are putting this emphasis on preparing for pregnancy and special foods during pregnancy lactation and growth but all traditional cultures did this. The genius of Weston Price as he saw this in other cultures and asked the right questions. What do you eat to have healthy babies? All of these cultures understood the principle that you needed to have extra nutrition during that period of conception and growth because that never comes back. You only have one chance to get it right.
The man and the woman would eat special foods, is that right?
These were special nutrient-dense foods. We call them sacred foods that both the man and woman ate to have a healthy baby. They continue these foods especially the pregnant woman, the nursing woman, and the growing children.
You said we never get that back. What do you mean?
We only have one chance to feed the baby properly during that critical period of conception, formation, and growth. We can get to adulthood and improve our health by changing our diet but we can’t change our structure. We can’t change the way our organs, bones, teeth, and brains were formed. That’s there and that’s what we have to live with and to deal with.
What do you think most people do to prepare for pregnancy?
There’s little emphasis in our culture on preparing for pregnancy. Even if they talk about that or special diets for pregnant women, it’s the wrong advice. It’s not what we need. We need nutrient-dense foods. These are foods that are high in the fat-soluble activators, A, D, and K, and also high in minerals. We want foods from well-mineralized soil. The pregnant women were told not to eat like liver, egg yolks, butter, animal fats, fish eggs which were considered important, cod liver oil, raw milk, and whole raw milk, these are all the sacred foods that we need to prepare for pregnancy and then to continue during the pregnancy.
These give the babies building blocks they need to have strong, healthy bodies, not in the womb but as they grow as children once they’re out and about, right?
If the mother is nursing, her diet is important. Again, the information that women get is that your diet has nothing to do with how healthy your milk is. This is not true. We have seen a lot of babies come in with rotten teeth, every tooth rotten, fully breastfed. Usually, it’s because the mother is a vegan or vegetarian and the baby is not getting enough nutrition from the mother’s milk. The nutrition of the mom while she’s pregnant and nursing is critical for the growth of the baby.
If I’m hearing you correctly, it’s important to have this good nutrition when we’re pregnant and nursing but even before conception.
This was the amazing thing about all these cultures separated by thousands of miles all over the globe that Dr. Price visited, they all had this idea and principle that you prepared for pregnancy. For example, in the Swiss Alps, the couples, before their marriage, would eat this special butter that came from the cows. When they first went to pasture in the spring, it was a nutrient-dense butter, high in Vitamins A, D, and K.
In other cultures, like in the South East, they ate the fermented shark liver oil and that was considered important for having healthy babies. In other cultures, it was fish eggs, liver, or certain organ meats. Fermented foods and egg yolks are considered important too. In Africa, they did not want the women to get pregnant until the rains came and the cows were eating green grass so that the milk that they drank would be nutrient-rich. We think we should be eating all of these foods before pregnancy and preparing for at least six months before conception.
What role does birth control play in how healthy our babies will be?
We are now finding out that if you’re on the pill or hormonal birth control for any length of time, it might make it difficult for you to get pregnant. The pill also depletes a lot of nutrients that we need for fertility, conception, pregnancy, and healthy babies. If you have been on the pill, we suggest you get off the pill and take a little longer to prepare to build up your nutrient stores.
I’ve seen online and talked to folks who seem to think that detoxing before they conceive is important. What do you think of that, Sally?
We want to live in a nontoxic home to avoid contact with a lot of toxins. If you have been exposed to a lot of toxins like mercury fillings, for example, eating the standard American diet which contains a lot of toxins yes, we think you should take longer to prepare. We’ve had letters from couples who had no conception about healthy diets for eating the standard American diet. They switched to our diet and they waited two years. They went through this nutrient-dense food diet and detox for two years before conception and then they had beautiful babies.
That reminds me, there is an importance to spacing our babies because your body can be depleted of nutrients. If you can see right away, the child is starting behind the starting line.
In these traditional cultures in Africa and the South East, it was considered shameful to have a child more than once every three years. They had various ways of doing this. Some cultures had natural methods of birth control and the men had multiple wives. When a woman had a baby up to the age of two, she wore a special necklace that said, “I am not available.” He had relations with his other wives. In some cultures, they practiced complete abstinence. It was monogamous culture but the couples did not have relations from the sixth month of pregnancy until the baby was two. That’s real love for the next generation. We have other things that we can do. We don’t recommend the pill but we do recommend you do what it takes, you and your partner or husband sit down and talk about it. How are we going to prevent pregnancy until our baby is at least two years old?
I also was thinking about a lot of folks take prenatal vitamins and hope that will help them shore up their baby’s health. What do you think of that, Sally?
If you’re pregnant, you go to the obstetrician or the doctor. If you’re six weeks pregnant, it gives you a prenatal. First of all, it’s too late for that prenatal to do much good in the critical weeks of formation. The first organ that forms in the fetus is the heart and the heart starts forming at about three weeks before you even know you’re pregnant. The heart forms because Vitamin A gives a signal to the stem cells to become heart cells. If you don’t have enough Vitamin A stored up, those stem cells are not going to get the right signal and the heart might form with a hole in it or might not form at all. You have a miscarriage or the baby is defective when it’s born.
You see the wisdom of these traditional cultures. They were eating foods like liver, butter, fish, eggs foods that are high in Vitamin A before conception. When the moment of the conception came, there was plenty of Vitamin A to send those right signals for building a healthy heart. This is true of all the organs. It’s right after the heart starts forming, you’ve got lungs, spinal column, nervous system, and skin. All of these things start forming. Vitamin A is the concertmaster of fetal development. It’s what tells the stem cells what to do. If you don’t have enough Vitamin A, that’s not going to happen.
Don’t some people say Vitamin A is toxic?
Pregnant women are told to avoid Vitamin A and not eat liver. This is about the worst advice that they could be given. They need to eat natural Vitamin A, not Vitamin A in the supplements, and the liver does not cause birth defects. Many studies show that higher Vitamin A consumption is fewer birth defects in women. Getting back to the prenatal. At about six weeks, a doctor said, “You don’t have to worry about anything else. You take this prenatal.” That was the worst advice. For one thing, the prenatal don’t have true Vitamin A in them. They have carotenes, which you have to convert. It’s difficult for a lot of women to do that. They have folic acid, not folate, which is what you need. They have a lot of synthetic minerals or minerals that are hard to absorb. You need to be getting these vitamins and minerals from your food.
Let’s talk about what that diet would look like here in our Western culture predominantly.
We don’t like weird foods here. If you want to get pregnant, you would not eat processed foods so get off the sugar. I would also say and this is hard for some people to get off the caffeine. You want to stop smoking, cut way back on your wine, beer, or whatever you drink. You want to eat the sacred foods so lots of butter and raw milk. We recommend a quarter day for a preconception and pregnancy. Liver, several times a week. I recommend the poultry liver. It says it has a better balance of fat-soluble vitamins than the calves’ liver, duck, goose, chicken, and turkey liver. Poultry fat is also good. Red meat is excellent. You want to get used to fermented foods, things like kombucha would be nice to have when you’re pregnant. They’re detoxifying. You want to get used to the kombucha before you conceive.
Some women are afraid of some of these raw products. What would you say to them?
There’s no danger from the raw milk. What they’re concerned about is Listeria which can make you have a miscarriage. They’ve never found Listeria in raw milk. It never caused a problem but you can get Listeria from soft cheeses whether raw or pasteurize and from luncheon meat. Those are the two foods that I caution pregnant women about. Hard cheeses are wonderful for pregnant women. They’re nutrient-dense and nutritious. We’d also recommend lots of broth. It’s our whole diet. Someone accused me of not wanting pregnant women to eat fruits, vegetables, and high fiber foods. You would include those foods also but the emphasis is on these sacred nutrient-dense foods.
I remember one pregnant woman saying to me, “I can’t eat that much food. It sounds like so much food. What should I do?”
First of all, you want to cut back on the things that are not nourishing you well. All the junk food, white flour, sweeteners, and all that. Let’s take those two egg yolks. It’s not hard to eat two egg yolks a day. Even if you’re a tiny, petite woman, you can have an egg for breakfast and then you can put an egg yolk in your sauce, soup, in a smoothie. Egg yolks are such wonderful food to prepare for pregnancy. We recommend a quarter of raw milk. Have a small glass of milk with each meal. That’ll get you to a quart.
This is not the quantity, also the quality, right?
The quality is number one. If you are a tiny person, a tiny eater and you can’t eat that much food, that’s fine. Those are the foods you should be eating.
Why do you think Dr. Price found that it was both men and women that had to eat sacred foods to prepare for conception?
We know that the diet has a huge effect on the quantity of the sperm and the quality of the sperm. You’ll have far fewer broken and damaged sperm if you’re eating this way. I always come back to Vitamin A. You need Vitamin A for sperm and testosterone production. That’s important for the men as well as the women.
The fact that this information is not out there, it’s one reason there’s such a problem with fertility in our country.
Women are being given such bad advice. For any woman who’s being prescribed the pill, the doctor needs to say, “If you want to have children, this might not be such a good idea.” Soy foods, for example, can affect fertility. There needs to be warnings and women are not getting these warnings, unfortunately. When I was having my babies, we still remember the thalidomide thing. The doctor said, “Absolutely no drugs while you’re pregnant.” They seem to have completely forgotten this. Now, women are given antidepressants, morning sickness pills, and antibiotics. The side effects of these drugs often show up in children. I heard a story of a child who had severe epilepsy. The mother had taken antibiotics all through her pregnancy. Afterward, she read the package insert for the antibiotics.
One of the side effects was epilepsy. The child had manifested the side effects, not the mother. We can visit these things on our children almost unwittingly. It’s always best to err on the side of caution, no drugs during pregnancy. Hilda, in our culture, we are casual about bringing children into the world. There’s no special preparation. The advice that women are given is mostly wrong. Our culture is permeated with drugs and they’re given willy-nilly to young women and pregnant women. When something goes wrong, if the baby is sickly or if it has a defect, we blame it on what I call the three Gs, Germs, Genes, and God.
If the baby gets sick, we blame it on the germs whereas a good immune system can handle any germ. We blame it on the genes whereas a good diet will ensure the right genetic expression. It’s not about the genes, it’s about epigenetics and how the diet influences the expression of the genes. There’s also the attitude where it’s God’s will. It’s God’s will that this child was born this way. I don’t buy that. I don’t think it’s God’s will that any child is born into this world with less imperfect health. That is the design of the blueprint print that we have. The human blueprint is for perfect health, attractive, keen minds, and a happy personality. We have to do our part in this. God created the genetic blueprint and now it’s up to us to provide the building materials for this blueprint.
I’m glad we’re getting this information out. It breaks my heart when I see young moms with kids with acid reflux and babies taking thumbs. I’m not kidding you, things like that. It seems fairly common, “My baby had that too.” It’s because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s normal or when health is their birthright.
It wasn’t common or normal many years ago. All of this is coming with each generation of processed food. The children get weaker and it’s the children who suffer from the mistakes of the parents. This is not normal and it can be avoided. All can be completely avoided. People don’t realize how much this affects family life. I have a nephew who had a baby born with a so-called genetic defect and it broke up the family. Nobody could cope with this. It’s mostly the grandparents who are coping because they have better coping skills. I don’t think grandparents were banking on having to do that in their old age but this is what we’re ending up with. We have more children who have these horrendous special needs that require constant care. It saps the lifeblood of the family.
I told you that story of when I was going on a camp trip with some teenagers. They’re at the registration desk. As we were getting all the campers together, a friend of mine was collecting all of the meds for all of the kids. I thought, “I’ve taken youth on trips before and it didn’t use to be like that.”
Forty percent of the kids are on inhalers and EpiPens. They have life-threatening allergies. This is because the immune system, blood, and gut didn’t form right. I read an article about the role of Vitamin A and forming the blood. We cannot form proper blood cells without Vitamin A. If you’re short on Vitamin A, you’re going to be tired all the time and permanently anemic. It’s not a question of taking more iron. It’s a question of getting more Vitamin A. It comes back to getting the most nutrients that we can into our diet and maximizing the nutrients.
It’s well and good for us to discuss this, Sally. How do we know that it’s effective?
I wish that someone would do a study on our babies but I can tell you, it is effective. We get letters weekly from proud parents, happy parents, grateful parents who had the wisdom to follow our advice and who cared enough about the next generation to prepare for this and to exercise restraint and proper choices in their diet so that their children could be healthy. A lot of these pictures are in our healthy baby gallery. We have several babies every quarter and they’re all up on our website. These healthy children are our hope for the future.
Not only do they have beautiful round faces that show that their dental RX are perfectly formed because they have enough nutrients but they’re happy. They’re not colicky and crying. It brings joy to the family as opposed to difficulty.
Think a little extra care in preparing for pregnancy and feeding that baby the first year, you’ll have a baby that can eat anything. They can handle any infection who’s got a high tolerance for stress and can handle these challenges that we find in the modern world. The parents don’t have to work so hard at it. It happens these babies are healthy and happy. Put good food in front of them and they’ll eat it because they’re not picky. They’ll grow into happy, healthy adults.
Tell us your personal story about your children.
I needed braces, a lot of dental work. I had terrible allergies as a child. None of my kids needed to have their teeth straightened. They all have naturally straight teeth. I didn’t have to spend a penny at the orthodontist and that can add up. None of them had allergies. I have to wear a strong contact lens prescription. We didn’t quite make it with the eyes. They all need glasses but a less strong prescription than I have. If they follow these principles for their children, they won’t need glasses. We will get over this four-eyesight thing and they’ll take two generations. As a matter of fact, I do have three grandsons. None of them has any cavities, they have straight teeth and none of them needs glasses so far.
You’ve told me they’re rough and tumble. You were describing these strong sturdy kids who don’t require much precaution and care.
They like to get around, get down on the ground, and wrestle. They get into some trouble. All three of them are amazing athletes. My youngest grandson was riding a two-wheeler without training wheels when he was three. They are well coordinated. Who knows? We might have a famous baseball player out of them.
What we’ve been describing is a strong foundation for these children. If your house has a strong foundation, some strong hurricane or wind that comes around is not going to knock it over. If it’s weak in the foundation, it will easily be toppled over. That’s what we don’t want for these children.
We want the bodies of our children to be like strong, beautiful palaces or mansions. What we’re ending up with is children living in bungalows that need a lot of repairs. That’s not necessary. We can put every child in the palace.
What a beautiful thought. I want to ask the question I often ask to tweak it a little bit here at the end of the episode. If the audience could do one thing to prepare properly for conception, what would you recommend that they do?
Eat lots of butter. That’s always my recommendation. Butter is the perfect fat. It’s the fat nature for the nourishment of all growing children. It can’t be bad for you. The parents need to eat it to prepare it all through the pregnancy. It’s the healthiest fat.
That sounds like a wonderful and tasty prescription for them. Thank you for this time, Sally.
Thank you, Hilda. Thanks for having me and thanks for doing this series. It’s great that people can read it.