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Have Swollen Ankles? Take This Supplement for a Healthier Pregnancy

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Pregnancy brings along with it a host of uncomfortable side effects like nausea, heartburn, and swelling. But what if you could reduce or even eliminate pregnancy swelling? Studies show taking chlorella can reduce pregnancy edema. Find out more below.

Should you supplement with chlorella algae during your pregnancy? The nutrients in chlorella can provide many benefits during pregnancy, one of which is reducing the side effects of swelling and edema, according to a recent study from Japan.

Edema is common during pregnancy, thanks to fluid retention, an increase of blood volume, slow circulation in the legs, and pregnancy hormones. Some swelling is good because it helps the body stretch to accommodate the growing baby. However, extreme swelling can be a sign of preeclampsia, which is a highly dangerous condition. Always discuss any swelling with your doctor to ensure you and your baby have the healthiest pregnancy possible.

What is Chlorella?

Chlorella is a type of green algae. The name comes from the Greek word chloro-, a combining form of green, and the Latin suffix -ella, meaning small. The algae was first brought into popularity in the 1940s and 1950s. Then, it was thought that using chlorella as a food source could potentially stop global hunger. Chlorella contains 45 percent protein, 20 percent carbs, 20 percent fat, 5 percent fiber, and 10 percent minerals and vitamins. This distribution of ingredients is part of a healthy diet, which is why so many scientists wanted to cultivate the algae as a food source.

However, after studies in the 1960s, it was found that chlorella was a little more difficult to produce and process than thought in the past. Studies showed that the algae was difficult to produce in a natural setting, and was actually quite expensive to produce on a large scale. Most chlorella also contains tough cell walls, making it difficult for humans and animals to assimilate the nutrients contained inside. Because of these difficulties, chlorella production was largely abandoned, and it is now mainly used for animal feed, in cosmetics, and as a supplement.

Today, most chlorella is sold either in soft-wall form or with the cell walls broken to enable humans to digest the nutrients inside the algae. Depending on the manufacturer, the cell walls could be broken by milling, softened with bleach, rapidly heated and frozen to break the walls open, or using sound vibrations to crack open the walls and expose the nutrients contained within the algae. The book “Methods in Cell Biology,” edited by David M. Prescott, states that the most efficient method for breaking the cell walls without killing the nutrients is the vibration method.

Nutrients in Chlorella

There are many beneficial nutrients in chlorella that help reduce pregnancy-related swelling and edema. Many of the other nutrients inside chlorella are also beneficial during pregnancy. You will find the following nutrients in chlorella, although in varying levels, according to Web MD. Most chlorella supplements will have between 7 and 88 percent protein, 6 to 38 percent carbohydrates, and 7 to 75 percent fat.

Chlorella Nutrients
  • Protein
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B12
  • Folate
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Phosphorus
  • Vitamin B2
  • Vitamin B1
  • Vitamin B3
  • Palmitic acid (an essential fatty acid)

How Chlorella Fights Edema

The nutrients in chlorella are extremely beneficial during pregnancy. In fact, many of the nutrients inside chlorella supplements are exactly what a pregnant woman needs to retain health and help her baby grow strong and healthy. Many of these ingredients are essential throughout a pregnancy, but they are particularly helpful during the first trimester when a baby first starts developing.

There have been few scientific studies that look at why chlorella benefits edema. However, many of the ingredients in chlorella are known for their inflammation and swelling-fighting ingredients. Magnesium, for example, is known to help manage fluid retention. A 1998 study published in the Journal of Women’s Health showed that women who take magnesium supplements of 200 mg per day saw a reduction in fluid retention as well as other PMS symptoms. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, iron and B vitamins are known for their edema-reducing abilities. These nutrients help fight fluid retention and promote healthy circulation. The antioxidants in chlorella also help fight inflammation and keep swelling at bay.

Chlorella Fights Pregnancy Edema

One Japanese study from 2010 proved that supplementation with chlorella was a highly effective method at reducing pregnancy-related edema. The research was conducted at Saiseikai Nara Hospital in Nara Japan. The study looked at a total of 70 women. 38 women were in the control group and did not take chlorella supplements. 32 women took 6 grams of chlorella tablets each day from the 12th through 18th week of pregnancy until delivery.

At the end of each trimester, all the women were given a blood test, urine test, and visual leg edema test to determine if they showed signs of edema. The results are as follows:

After the first trimester, women who supplemented with chlorella tablets had zero percent leg edema, along with the control group. After the second trimester, 6 percent of women in the chlorella group had leg edema, and 18 percent of women in the control group had leg edema. At the end of the third trimester, 9 percent of women in the chlorella group had leg edema, and 44 percent of women in the control group had leg edema. Clearly, there is a vast difference between women in the control group and women in the chlorella group.

Women can easily cut down on their pregnancy-related edema simply by supplementation with chlorella even if they do not take any additional steps to prevent pregnancy-related edema.

Other Benefits of Chlorella

The Japanese study also showed that pregnant women benefited in other areas after taking chlorella. Women who supplemented with chlorella also showed a reduction in anemia. 60 percent of women in the control group were anemic by the end of the third trimester, while only 31 percent of women taking chlorella were anemic. Women also had safer levels of protein in their urine after taking chlorella. A high concentration of protein in the urine can lead to eclampsia and is often a sign of preeclampsia.

In the control group, 23 percent of women had high urine protein levels by the end of the third trimester. In the chlorella group, only 6 percent of women showed high protein levels by the end of the third trimester.

According to Web MD, chlorella can also be used to fight radiation during cancer treatments, to restore bacteria levels in intestines, for treating ulcers, to reduce metal poisoning, to stimulate the immune system, to increase white blood cell counts, to make the flu vaccine more effective, to fight colds, to treat constipation, for the promotion of mental health, to increase energy, reduce symptoms of fibromyalgia, bad breath, to detoxify the body, and much more. However, according to Web MD, much of the evidence surrounding these benefits is inconclusive and should be studied more to determine if it is truly beneficial for these uses as well as to treat conditions like edema.

Suitable Doses for Pregnancy

Chlorella is safe to take during pregnancy. You can start taking chlorella as soon as you find out you are expecting. According to the American Cancer Society, doses between 2 and 3 grams are usually prescribed (which is about a teaspoon). The women in the Japan study took 6 grams of chlorella tablets per day. Some herbalists recommend taking up to 15 grams per day. However, if you want to try taking more than 6 grams a day, discuss any potential risks with your doctor or midwife. Since it is simply algae extract, there shouldn’t be any major side effects, but it is possible that it could cause problems or interfere with other medications or supplements that you are currently taking.

Other Steps to Reduce Pregnancy Edema

Edema is an annoying and potentially dangerous problem that many women face during pregnancy. Just by taking chlorella supplements you can greatly reduce your edema symptoms. However, it is also helpful if you take other steps to prevent swelling during pregnancy. Other helpful steps include:

Elevation

Once swelling starts, it can be hard to control. Try to keep your legs and feet up as much as possible to promote circulation. Raise your feet up as high as you can for maximum effect, but take care not to sit in a position in which it is easy to fall.

Compression Stockings

Compression stockings can help prevent leg swelling if you have to be on your feet all day (such as in a retail job). Compression stockings force the fluid out of your legs and keep them relatively fluid-free.

Exercise

Exercise is extremely beneficial during pregnancy. The more you get up and walk around, the less fluid retention you will have. Exercise helps the baby remain in the correct position, stimulates the circulatory system, helps your body eliminate excess fluid, and helps you remain at a healthy weight during your pregnancy. Speak with your OB or midwife about the appropriate amount of exercise for your pregnancy.

Diet

You can help reduce pregnancy edema with changes to your diet. Avoiding high levels of salt is one simple way to prevent swelling and fluid retention. Other methods include drinking plenty of fluids, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, avoiding processed foods, and sticking to nutrient-dense, high-protein foods (like meat, eggs, dairy, and fruits and vegetables). Anti-inflammatory foods, like berries, citrus, fish, whole grains, and dark leafy greens are especially helpful beneficial during pregnancy.

Edema-Fighting Foods
  • Whole grains
  • Dark leafy vegetables
  • Berries
  • Tomatoes
  • Fatty fish
  • Nuts
  • Dairy
  • Peppers
  • Eggs
  • Beets
  • Ginger
  • Turmeric

Supplements

Supplements can be an excellent source of nutrition during pregnancy, especially if you have food aversions or constant nausea. Look for supplements derived from natural foods sources rather than chemical simulations of the vitamins and supplements for maximum nutritional value. Take the following supplements recommended by the University of Maryland to promote a healthy pregnancy and avoid edema:

Supplements that Fight Edema

A multivitamin with many of the above supplements can help prevent you from having to swallow several pills at once, which can be difficult with a sensitive gag reflex during pregnancy. Talk with your health practitioner about which multivitamin is best for you during your pregnancy and that will meet your individual nutritional needs. Also, discuss with your OB or midwife if you have any difficulties swallowing pills or eating nutrient-dense foods.

Keep Pregnancy Swelling at Bay

No pregnant woman wants to face swelling during her pregnancy, especially at the end when every movement is uncomfortable. With the right diet and supplements, however, you do not have to worry about pregnancy-related edema. Any swelling you have will be greatly reduced, and you may find that you can continue your entire pregnancy with barely a swollen moment. When you can still fit into your pre-pregnancy shoes and rings a few weeks before the baby is born, that is something that makes the last weeks of pregnancy just a little more bearable. You will also have a much higher chance of having a healthy baby and pregnancy, and avoiding dangerous pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia, if you can keep swelling at bay.

Next Article: Edema Diet: Foods to Avoid for Edema