One of the hardest parts of the first trimester of pregnancy is working out what you can and can't eat.
Some things are pretty obvious, like cutting out alcohol, smoking, and limiting caffeine intake, but others can be a bit surprising. One of the foods you might not expect to be on the no-no list is licorice root.
Licorice is a flavor that everyone either loves or hates, but did you know that, according to a study in Finland, the consumption of licorice root during pregnancy can put your baby at risk of developmental issues? Sorry to any big licorice fans who are expecting, but here are all the reasons why you should avoid licorice root during pregnancy.
What you eat and drink can impact your baby's health. We all know that alcohol, smoking, and excess caffeine can be harmful to a baby's growth, but certain herbal remedies can also be harmful to babies as well. This is why, if you are thinking of taking herbal remedies to treat any illnesses, it is important that you consult your doctor first. Natural remedies can sometimes have negative effects on other drugs you might be taking and they could possibly harm your baby if you're not careful, so be sure to seek medical advice.
If you find this article helpful, you might also like our article on [hypoglycemic pregnancy] or our article on [intrauterine infection].
What Is Licorice Root?
As you may have guessed, licorice root comes from the root of the licorice plant, also known as the Glycyrrhiza glabra, which grows across Europe and Asia. Licorice is most commonly known as an ingredient used in various candies and foods, but licorice root is also one of the oldest herbal treatments in the world, used for soothing various areas of the body.
The root is sometimes used as a herbal remedy for conditions including indigestion, bronchitis, and jaundice. It also contains anti-inflammatory properties and can be used on the skin to treat conditions such as acne. It is also said to be useful for anti-aging and fighting viral infections. It can be used as a powder, gel, supplement, or tincture and it is also found in herbal teas.
Despite these benefits, pregnant women will definitely want to avoid using this root for their health and their baby's health.
Is It Safe During Pregnancy?
While licorice is usually considered safe as an ingredient, when it comes to pregnancy it is a different story. Essentially, mixing licorice root and pregnancy is not a good idea. Using licorice root for pregnancy ailments is definitely not recommended as it has the potential to lead to all sorts of problems.
Glycyrrhizin is the major active component of licorice that is responsible for the healing qualities of the root and its unique flavor, but it is also responsible for what puts your child at risk. Studies have shown that glycyrrhizin can have harmful effects on your baby's development. It is not known what amount of licorice is safe to consume during pregnancy, so it is best to avoid it altogether. Care also needs to be taken to avoid any herbal tea with licorice root in pregnancy and licorice root powder during pregnancy.
A lot of licorice products surprisingly don't contain any licorice root and use anise oil instead to get a similar flavor. So, if you're a big licorice fan, you're in luck as you might not have to give up that flavor completely. Make sure to check the ingredients on any packet you buy to avoid licorice root or licorice extract. There are some forms of licorice that have had the glycyrrhizic acid removed, known as DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice), but it is unknown if these licorice products have fewer side effects.
There is not enough substantial research in the area so pregnant women are not advised to completely avoid all forms of licorice. However, health organizations also specifically recommend that licorice root is avoided due to its high concentration of glycyrrhizin.
Unfortunately, organic and natural does not always mean safe. Herbal teas and natural remedies can be super powerful, so pregnant women should contact their doctor before eating any new or uncommon foods. If you have consumed any licorice root, it is best to speak to your doctor about what they think you should do to properly care for you and your baby.
One study by Finnish scientists found that consuming large amounts of licorice during pregnancy could be linked to children developing behavioral and developmental problems. The study also found that the children of pregnant women who consumed large amounts of licorice root were more likely to score lower on intelligence tests.
The results from the same study also showed that children may be more likely to test positive for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) if their mothers had high glycyrrhizin consumption during pregnancy.
It is also thought that consuming large amounts of licorice while pregnant could be linked to giving birth prematurely. It is still unknown if there are any side effects of eating licorice consumption while breastfeeding.
Decreased Potassium Levels
Another side effect of glycyrrhizin is lowering potassium levels in the blood. This can lead to high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, and even heart failure as a result of congestion. So, it is best that pregnant women avoid consuming for both their safety and their baby's safety.
Increased Blood Pressure
Consuming large amounts of licorice root while pregnant also poses problems for pregnant women as it can lead to increased blood pressure, which is a major concern for people with hypertension, or issues with their heart or kidney.
While more research needs to be done into the effects of licorice consumption in pregnancy, for now, it is best to avoid eating or drinking any licorice root remedies or licorice products (including herbal tea) during pregnancy just to be safe.
If you found this article helpful, then why not take a look at [what to do if you just found out you're pregnant] or [what leaking breasts in pregnancy means]?
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