770.720.7733
Voted "Best OB-GYN" in Towne Lake, Woodstock and Canton

Category: Dr. Hale’s Blog

November 1, 2016

woman-choosing-food

It’s common knowledge that smoking, drinking or misusing drugs can be harmful to a growing fetus. It’s also becoming widely known that a proper prenatal diet is vitally important to a baby’s health and development.

We consider diet such an important factor in pre-pregnancy planning and prenatal care that we offer the options of both regular and holistic plant based prenatal nutrition information to all our patients. Our providers can help advise you on a regimen that works for you, based on your specific needs and preferences, even allowing for any budgetary limitations you may have. This service is available before, during, and after pregnancy.

Two of our physicians, Dr. Britton Crigler (MD, FACOG), and Dr. Kathryn Hale (MD, MPH, FACOG), are practicing vegans and pegans, respectively. Their expertise and input into prenatal holistic nutrition can prove invaluable should you choose to follow a plant based diet while pregnant.

What is Holistic Nutrition?

Holistic nutrition is eating foods that are as close to nature as possible. None of us would dream of walking into a lab, grabbing random test tubes, and drinking the contents. Yet, in essence, we do something similar to this every day by ingesting foods saturated in chemicals, additives and preservatives. Grocery store shelves bulge with genetically altered meat, produce, dry goods and beverages that make them look, sound, or taste more appealing.

The list of ingredients on most packaging has become so long that one almost needs a microscope to read the fine print. Even someone with 20/20 vision needs a PhD to decipher the multisyllabic contents on a box of crackers.

Your baby is completely dependent on you to provide her with the nourishment she needs to grow healthy and strong while she develops inside your body. Her bones, muscles, tissue and organs are sensitive to every bite you eat and every drop you drink, so if you opt for holistic nutrition, your baby also benefits from the purity of unprocessed, unrefined and organic food.

What’s the Difference Between a Vegetarian, Vegan and Pegan Diet?

A strict vegetarian diet consists of grains, seeds, nuts, vegetables and fruits, with no fish, meat, poultry, game or shellfish. In some cases, vegetarians will eat occasional dairy products and eggs, but emphasis in this diet is on the exclusion of all slaughtered animals. Less strict plant-based diets may include fish, dairy products, eggs and poultry. Most vegetarians exclude meat, but some include it infrequently.

A vegan diet is entirely plant based with no animal products. Emphasis is on seeds, nuts, fruits, grains and vegetables.

A pegan (paleo-vegan) low-glycemic diet consists of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, and eggs. It omits dairy products, processed foods, grains, sugars and legumes.

Although these sound like contradictions of each other, they’re not. All three place importance on a natural plant based diet, and all are beneficial to good health, prenatal and otherwise. Though the pegan diet includes meat, it is in extremely limited quantities.

How Can Any of These Diets Help Me and My Baby?

Dr. Hale’s and Dr. Crigler’s diet regimens vary somewhat, but both stress the benefits of natural plant based nutrition to you and your baby. As a vegan, Dr. Crigler avoids meat completely and encourages eliminating it. He states:

“… A plant based diet has multiple benefits for women’s health…Even for our pregnant patients, a vegan or plant based diet free of dairy and meat can be very healthy for both baby and mother.”

As a pegan, Dr. Hale, who holds a plant based nutrition certificate, is not opposed to a scant quantity of organic meat or low toxin fish, but only considers inclusion of it as a second choice. Meatless pegan is her first. She also affirms:

“…Contrary to what many people think, pregnant women can be completely meat-free and get sufficient protein to support a healthy pregnancy…”

Both also agree that protein can be derived from other holistic sources.

Dr. Hale recommends taking B12 and DHEA if you opt for pegan. Dr. Crigler prescribes B12 and Vitamin D if you prefer vegan. These supplements round out a healthy regimen, supplying the body with everything it needs to maintain optimum prenatal performance.

Both are also in total agreement that vegan and paleo-vegan nutrition help prenatal and postnatal women in the following ways by:

    • Decreasing preeclampsia risk
    • Providing antioxidants
    • Producing more beneficial, purer breast milk
    • Preventing breast, colon and ovarian cancer
    • Minimizing incidents of allergies to your baby
    • Lowering exposure to additional or harmful hormones.

Holistic nutrition can also alleviate the symptoms of chronic conditions and diseases such as:

    • Endometriosis
    • Lupus
    • Acne
    • Irritable bowel syndrome
    • Heart disease
    • Type 2 diabetes
    • Constipation
    • Systemic inflammation
    • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
    • Heavy menstrual periods
    • Menstrual cramps.

Additionally, holistic nutrition has been known to enhance mental clarity, improve energy and help with weight loss.

Isn’t it Dangerous to Suddenly Change My Diet While Pregnant? Am I Not Eating for Two Now?

Pregnancy is one of the best times to address the subject of nutrition. In a sense, you are eating for two, but this doesn’t mean double the amount. It means that you have to fuel two growing bodies with the vitamins, minerals and nutrients they both need to remain healthy.

A developing fetus can not only sap your energy by absorbing all the ‘goodness’ it needs from the food you ingest, it can deprive you of what you need to remain strong and fit enough to handle all the physical, emotional, and hormonal changes that are going to happen during the next few months.

Proper nutrition replaces what the fetus depletes, preparing the two of you for the intensity of labor and delivery. Holistic nutrition counseling can help make the choices that are right for you.

For more information on high risk pregnancy, visit Northside Hospital-Cherokee.

To schedule an appointment to discuss your needs, call 770.720.7733.

December 16, 2015

dr-hale-sunburst-pngTalking Veggies with Dr. Hale
We recently sat down with Dr. Hale to chat with her about her nutrition journey. Always a proponent of healthy eating, Dr. Hale began eating a plant-based diet last fall. She was enthusiastic about the positive results from her new eating habits, and shared the surprising connections between diet and “classic” female health issues, ranging from polycystic ovaries to adult acne, and even heavy, painful periods.

Pegan Dish PhotoThe Unhealthy Vegan – Go “Pegan”
Specifically, Dr. Hale’s diet can be referred to as a whole food, plant-based diet with an emphasis on whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. “This is an important clarification,” she said, “because it is often confused with a vegan diet.” Her diet is not vegan; as vegan diets can still consist of a lot of processed, unhealthy foods.

A “pegan” diet is low glycemic, still high in vegetables and fruits, but allows for a small amount of high quality organic meats or low mercury, low toxin fish. Here, meat is used more as a condiment rather than the main feature. This is Dr. Hale’s second choice as an ideal diet. Her preference is still a completely plant based diet.

What advice would you give to others for transitioning to a plant-based diet?
The big thing is to consider food as medicine. (There’s lots of emerging evidence on this topic.) So if health is a priority, you need to be more attentive to what you’re putting into your body. If you try to have a more plant-forward diet (having more of your meals and more of your plate consist of vegetables), you are likelier to get a healthy dose of antioxidants and other things that help your body naturally detox.

Pegan Dish PhotoWhen I’m counseling patients about making a lifestyle change, I get them to look at lifestyle changes that will improve their health in the long-term.

When I was younger I had very heavy, painful periods. One of my main goals for transitioning to a plant based diet was to improve my periods as well as my overall health.

What are the benefits for women who choose to eat a plant-based diet?
While not everyone is guaranteed to have the same results, women with endometriosis can benefit from avoiding red meat and dairy as a means to reduce inflammation in their body. Many women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) can improve their hormone balance through a low glycemic, plant based diet. A plant based diet is also a great strategy for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. It also can reduce their risk for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for women in the United States.

Are there any downsides to not eating meat?
I personally don’t think so. Contrary to what many people think, pregnant women can be completely meat-free and get sufficient protein to support a healthy pregnancy. They should, however, supplement with B12 and DHEA since these nutrients are harder to get naturally on a completely plant based diet.

dr-hale-running-picWhat are the first things you noticed happening to your body/mind after you changed your diet?
An increase in energy was the most noticeable change. Excess sugar sucks my mental clarity. Also, my menstrual flow wasn’t as heavy with hardly any cramps. As an added bonus I
also lost about 20-25 pounds.

How soon did you notice a difference after you switched up your diet?
In terms of my cycle, I noticed changes within a few months. A lot of people do notice that their skin clears up because you’re removing those inflammatory foods. That aspect for me has been a slower process since I’m working through multiple food sensitivities which I’ve learned also affects acne in adults.

How do you view your role for patients looking to make a dietary change?
I see my role as trying to help patients attain and maintain long-term health. Improving your nutrition is a way to be proactive about your health and do more than just depending on pills. I encourage patients to focus on the things they can add to make positive lifestyle changes rather than focusing on what they can’t have or do. Making small changes over time can help produce more sustainable change in the long term. This also helps fight an all-too-common diet “crash-and-burn.”

Do you have any suggestions on how to make the changes easier?

Having a buddy makes it easier. I have a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition through the T. Colin Campbell Center of Nutrition Studies that I feel equips me to support patients wanting to make positive changes in their diet. Dr. Crigler has many years of experience with a plant based diet so is also a good resource. There are also numerous resources available including websites, books, movies and more. While the New Year is a common time to make lifestyle changes, there is never a bad time to improve your health.

Below are a handful of resources that Dr. Hale recommends:

21daykickstart.org – free meal plans by the Physician Committee for Responsible Medicine in addition to numerous informative articles
Yum Universe – the blog that got Dr. Hale started with tasty plant based recipes
T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies – articles, inspirational stories and recipes
The China Study – a book based on a landmark study in nutrition and disease.
Happy Herbivore encouraging blog and low-cost meal plans
Forks Over Knives – inspirational film, app and meal plans
Food Matters TV – hungry for change movie
Mark Hyman, MD – a proponent of the pegan diet
Plant Pure Nation – movie released earlier this year. You can join a “pod” in your area for support for your healthy lifestyle.

Dr. Hale on Vacation! Staying Healthy – Mind, Body and Soul
With all that hiking and fresh air, it’s clear to see that Dr. Hale not only talks the talk, she walks the walk!

Dr. Hale Vacation Photos

 

 

November 10, 2015

By Kathryn A. Hale, MD, MPH, FACOG

Dr. Hale photoI was blessed to have a unique training opportunity as a medical student at St. George’s University School of Medicine: I was given the option to complete certain clinical training blocks in the United Kingdom (UK).

In the UK at that time, labor and delivery was largely run by nurse midwives. I chose to complete my rotation in Obstetrics & Gynecology at Poole General Hospital in the south of England. The OB/GYN only became involved if there was a medical complication, fetal distress or the rare major perineal laceration. This meant that I spent the majority of my time working with and under the supervision of midwives, even though I was training to become a medical doctor.

Learning To Support a Natural Process
Midwifery approaches pregnancy and birth as a natural process. There is a focus on empowering the mother to harness her own strength to achieve the beauty of birth, and a shift away from medical interventions. In my training at Poole, patients were assigned one midwife who followed that patient throughout her entire shift. I was often assigned to a patient who may not have had a doula or family member present. I became her support. I spend much of my time listening to and encouraging the patient, and less time examining her.

When the time for delivery came, there was no sterile draping or gowns as if preparing for a surgical procedure. We simply donned a simple plastic apron and gloves. The bed wasn’t broken down. We just supported the mom in whichever position felt right to her body for birthing her child.

Healthy and Holistic Pregnancy Options
That experience helped lay the foundation of my transition to a more holistic approach to OB/GYN in general. It gave me a more compassionate and patient approach to coaching women through their pregnancy and birth, and strengthened my belief in supporting the mother in doing what she was made to do. This includes being attentive to a patient’s unique emotional needs and desires – so that she feels empowered rather than helpless during this critical period.

The midwifery experience during my training opened me up to patients who desire more natural options as they approach pregnancy and birth. I’ve also felt led to pursue more education in the application of options such as chiropractic care, herbal medicine and essential oils in pregnancy.

In our practice, my colleagues and I are fortunate to have the skills and experience of our Certified Nurse Midwife Susan Griggs as part of our OB team. Empowering our patients with knowledge and healthy options is what makes caring for women the amazing experience that it is, every day.

August 4, 2015


Dr. Hale talks about what inspired her to become an OB/GYN and what she feels is important in life.

Dr. Hale arrives with a glowing smile for her interview at the bakery Smallcakes, where she orders a gluten-free cupcake. She’s brought a colorful journal, a Whitney English Day Designer, the cover of which says “Life + Business + Creativity.” A glance at the pages reveals Dr. Hale’s closely written thoughts and ideas.

Question: When did you know you wanted to be a doctor? What was your inspiration?
Dr. Hale: My mom tells the story that when I was a young child, I said to her doctor, “When I grow up, I want to be a “obb-ta-trishun.”

I’ve always felt called to be a healer. My life took many turns, but eventually I ended up pursuing a combined MD/MPH (Masters in Public Health) degree at St. George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada, West Indies. I did half my clinical rotations in the United Kingdom and half in the U.S. I particularly enjoyed the U.K. Obstetric rotation where I primarily trained under midwives. I believe that influenced how I approach birth today.

Question: That’s so interesting, because I’ve heard you’re called “a gifted surgeon,” yet you have this streak that takes you into more holistic approaches. What got you started studying plant-based nutrition?
Dr. Hale: It was partly for myself. As a young woman I suffered with horrendous periods. My cycles had been controlled with oral contraceptives, however after getting married I began to research more natural solutions for menstrual health. I had a great deal of success with following a whole food plant-based diet. My experience motivated me to obtain more formal nutrition training to better equip patients to transform their health through diet.

Dr. Hale recently earned a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.

Dr. Hale recently earned a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition through the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.

Question: That’s a beautiful journal. What can you tell us about it?
Dr. Hale: This journal is really about working out who you are – what you believe, your values, and how you bring it into your life, day to day. When you’re on purpose, it reflects in the gifts you bring to your work and the people around you. For me, it’s very important that my purpose, my faith, my family, and my work all align. And that I communicate that in my words and actions. “Breathe in love, breathe out life”

An original personal motto Dr. Hale has posted in her office

An original personal motto Dr. Hale has posted in her office

 

Click here to learn more about Dr. Hale’s experience and credentials.

Request a Consultation

Recent Posts

Categories

Testimonials

“Dr. Litrel was a fantastic doctor. I had my first exam with him, although at first I was skeptical about a male doctor for my GYN. But after I met him I’m glad I kept an open mind, and I couldn’t have dreamed up a better doctor. He cares about you as a person and not just a patient. The front desk ladies and nurses were very friendly and it’s a great office, very clean and not intimidating. I highly recommend Cherokee Women’s Health.”
- Vicki