Natural Fertility & Healthy Pregnancy with Living Foods

Conceiving Naturally at Age 48:  My Story

LaDonna Braun

(published March 31, 2010, Lotus Fertility online resource)


I was childless and 48 years old when an unplanned pregnancy
rocked my world.

I’d given up on the idea of having children when I turned 40 and never gave it a
second thought.  Before then I’d always assumed I’d have a child someday, but it just
didn't happen and I was okay with that.  I had reached a real point of equanimity on
the subject - I knew there were lots of great things about being childless, just like I
could see there were lots of great things about having a child, and that was that.  For
two years I’d been dating a man who was the father of teenage twins, and he made it
clear when we met that having more children wasn't in his game plan:  that was no
problem for me.   

My gynecologist told me that I probably wasn't ovulating anymore, so I was bracing for
the changes of menopause.  I had struggled with some hormonal issues in the previous
couple of years and had experimented with various solutions.
 In the past, always
having been a healthy person who thought diet was important,  I'd been surprised
when I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) in 1992, which my doctors
said had no known cause or cure. My own research for solutions had eventually led me
to a healing retreat  at the Optimum Health Institute (OHI), which exposed me to a
live food diet. After suffering from CFS for 18 months and going to doctors who had
nothing to suggest but Prozac, I began feeling better in a matter of weeks on the OHI
regime.  During my various healing retreats at OHI through the years, I met people
with conditions ranging from rheumatoid arthritis and pancreatic cancer to mental
health issues, and I heard many amazing success stories in addition to my own full
recovery from CFS.  I was more than convinced of the merits of this diet.

A raw or living food diet is mainly plant based (although some raw foodies, like me,
also include unpasteurized dairy from a trusted source) and includes uncooked fruits
and vegetables (often deliciously marinated), fermented foods, and sprouted nuts,
grains, and seeds.  Dr. Gabriel Cousens’ book,
Conscious Eating, chronicles the
research of the pioneers in this field:  

I often strayed from a strictly raw food diet over the next 13 years leading up to my
unexpected pregnancy.  No one would call me a purist in that sense.  I would say that
between times of more serious focus on raw foods, I ate a standard (mostly cooked)
vegetarian diet about half the time and a more standard “food pyramid” diet the rest
of the time.  

In 2005, several months before conceiving my daughter and while experimenting with
solutions to my hormonal balancing issues, I started back on a vegetarian diet that was
about 50% raw.  About two weeks after conceiving,
but before I knew I was pregnant,
I went for a two week retreat at the Optimum Health Institute.  Their program is
designed to detoxify the body by eating only the most easily digested raw foods,
fasting on fresh squeezed juices, drinking several ounces of wheatgrass juice per day,
and further cleansing the body with daily colonics and enemas. As you can imagine,
this is clearly NOT the kind of vacation a woman would typically choose if she knew
she was pregnant and wanted to stay that way!  In addition to the fasting and colonic
regime, I jumped on a mini trampoline three times a day to facilitate lymphatic
drainage, and did yoga daily with lots of torso twists!  

Any pregnancy symptoms I may have had were camouflaged by detox symptoms, which
typically include fatigue, loss of appetite, and “brain fog”, just to name a few. After
learning I was pregnant a couple of months later, I realized how healthy my body and
tiny developing baby were during this time and how supportive living foods really are,
in order for my pregnancy to have withstood this vigorous regime. (For the record, I’m
not recommending this or any type of detox program during pregnancy.)  When I got
home, I was more determined than ever to figure out how to make a raw food diet
work for me from a practical everyday standpoint.  My goal at this time was to lay a
foundation for moving through menopause as painlessly and gracefully as possible.

I’d been to OHI three times before and had always come home refreshed, energetic,
and weighing eight to ten pounds less.  This time I was puzzled by the fact that I still
wanted to sleep more than normal, didn't have great energy, and my clothes weren't
as loose as I thought they should be, especially around my waist.  I decided “old age”
was creeping in, regardless of my health habits.  (My diet was 95% raw at this point).  I
also noticed my breasts were sore and at least a size larger.  I thought that was really
strange until I remembered that I had stopped taking my thyroid medication when I
was at OHI.  Oops.  I remembered the hormonal problems I’d experienced two years
earlier, including breast and abdominal swelling, before supplementing my thyroid.

I met my friend Liz at Starbucks for coffee one day and she asked if I’d secretly had
breast implants when I was supposed to be in OHI for those 2 weeks!  I shared my
hormonal woes with her and told her I felt pregnant - we nearly fell out of our chairs
laughing.  It was clearly a mistake to stop my medication like that, I thought.

I finally decided to see my health practitioner.  When he asked what my symptoms
were, I again said that I felt pregnant – ha ha ha.  I told him about stopping my
medication and he agreed that this was the most likely explanation for my lethargy,
hormonal weirdness, and beautiful breasts.  Neither of us considered that I could
actually be pregnant – I was too old!

I knew that it could take several weeks or more to regulate thyroid function so I
accepted my symptoms while waiting for the medication to kick in. One day I started
having food cravings for things I didn't normally eat, like pizza and hamburgers. On the
other hand,  I was not able to even think about having a glass of wine in the evening –
something I’d done for years – which now tasted like vinegar.  To add to my growing
confusion, I couldn't motivate myself to keep up with my Yoga practice.  I’d make
plans to go to a class and then flake out at the last minute. (I later learned that doing
unmodified Yoga asanas aren't advisable during the highly sensitive first trimester).  
My body was telling me what it needed and I was complying, but I wasn't feeling like
myself at all.  Little did I know that I wasn't JUST myself anymore!  

One night at about ten o’clock, after succumbing to a two-day craving for a buffalo
burger, it struck me like a lightning bolt:  Oh my God, maybe I AM pregnant!  Even
though I’d joked about it repeatedly, the thought was so shocking and bizarre that I
couldn't think straight or sit still.  I drove straight to the nearest pharmacy to buy a
pregnancy kit.  It was positive - yikes! I still couldn't bring myself to believe it.  I did a
fairly good job of convincing myself that I could be one of those rare false positives.

Since my insurance at my new job hadn't gone into effect yet, I decided to wait
another couple of weeks until it was in place before seeing a doctor. Remembering
what I had been told by a doctor four years earlier when asking about birth control, I
realized the pregnancy might just take care of itself before then anyway.  I knew the
odds of someone my age getting pregnant, much less being able to carry a baby past
the first trimester, were pretty slim. And part of me still thought I had just royally
messed up my hormones by stopping my thyroid medication.   At my appointment two
weeks later, my gynecologist didn't think so.  She scheduled a sonogram for the next

When I first looked at the sonogram monitor, I was amazed and awed.  My little baby
already had arms, legs, and a heartbeat that looked like a star twinkling with each
beat.  I was staring at this tiny image, trying to get my brain around my new reality
when she kicked her little leg straight up like a yogi! I was about 11 weeks along

Although it was a great shock, I felt this pregnancy was meant to be – a miracle,
actually – but I was having a hard time allowing myself to get excited.  My whole life
would change – my relationship, career, lifestyle - and I knew there was still a lot that
could go wrong with my pregnancy  too.  I was advised to undergo genetic testing and
was constantly reminded that I was high risk because of my age.  

Though I was quite reluctant and fearful to undergo invasive and sometimes imperfect
testing, truthfully, as a future single mother, I just didn't think I could handle a
severely handicapped or terminally ill baby, plain and simple.   And I was very relieved
when the results came back normal.
I finally began announcing the shocking
but miraculous news to my family and friends
and allowing myself to get
more excited.  By this time I was four and a half months pregnant.

I decided right away that I would stay on a raw food diet throughout my pregnancy
and would listen to my body and respond when I had other cravings. (as long as they
weren't clearly unhealthy, like Milk Duds or pork rinds.)  During my pregnancy I had
four or five organic buffalo burgers, eggs about once a week, and a half dozen slices of
veggie pizza.  I was eating 85-90% raw after the first trimester.  

I searched many raw food books for advice about pregnancy but only found one
chapter on pregnancy in Dr. Cousens’
Conscious Eating.  I wasn't sure if the dearth of
information out there was a fear of liability or just that very few women had gone this
route.  Still, I felt strongly that living foods had a great deal to do with my getting
pregnant and I wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth now by abandoning this
diet.  I allowed myself to follow my intuition which grew stronger every day.

I already had a good juicer and I added an Excalibur Food Dehydrator (dries fruit and
soaked nuts at low temperatures) and a Vita Mix (a fast, very powerful blender) to my
kitchen appliances.  I experimented with smoothies, nut butters, and raw dehydrated
cookies and crackers.  I made tons of guacamole, delicious juices of all kinds, and
created fabulous salads.  I learned about online places to shop for quality raw food
products like organic sun-dried raisins, dates, raw nuts, seeds, and grains.

For those of you that can't wait till the end of the article to find out what I was
eating, this is for you.  Although this list is by no means complete, some of the things
I ate before and during my pregnancy, as well as while nursing included:

*Carrot/beet juice – fresh squeezed - one pint minimum per day (beet juice is a
natural blood builder)

*Nut/seed milk – I typically make my milk with almonds, sesame seeds, and sunflower
nuts (raw sesame seeds are high in calcium and nuts have good omega oils among
other things)

*Smoothies with mostly raw ingredients: Hemp seed protein powder, homemade
nut/seed milk or unpasteurized kefir or milk from a trusted local dairy farmer, banana,
mango and other fruits, raw chocolate, spirulina, kelp powder, bee pollen, ground flax
seeds, and fresh Thai coconut or raw coconut oil.  I also included a number of
products from Premier Research Labs that are on their pregnancy and nursing program
that I think are very high quality.  My smoothies were not for the faint of heart, but
were most definitely power-packed with healthy nutrients. (and many days I had more
than one of these!)

*Avocado – every single day in salads, guacamole, sandwiches, or alone (they’re a
great plant protein and lots of important essential fatty acids)

*Apple or banana with raw cashew or almond butter

*Dates (low-heat or sun dried) with unpasteurized cheddar cheese was a favorite

*Nuts that were “sprouted” or soaked overnight in purified water (I also blended
these into a paste and ate with apples and bananas)

*Real old-fashioned dill pickles – raw and fermented without vinegar – a great
probiotic food  (get these in the refrigerated section of your local healthy grocery
store – Bubbies is a popular brand)

One of the main known benefits of eating raw and living foods are the enzymes, which
are protein complexes and bioenergy reservoirs, according to Dr. Cousens.  He
explains that, “Live foods come with their own enzymes, which aid digestion when
we ingest them.  If the food is cooked, then these enzymes are inactivated.  In order
to compensate, our bodies must use more of our enzyme stores to digest the
incoming food.  The result is accelerated enzyme depletion.  Cooked and processed
foods actually take energy from our bodies in order to properly assimilate them.”

Dr. Edward Howell, who many consider the father of enzyme research, taught that
enzymes are living, biochemical factors that activate and carry out all the biological
processes in the body, such as digestion, nerve impulses, the detoxification process,
the functioning of RDA/DNA, repairing and healing the body, and even thinking.  His
research revealed that on the biological level, how we utilize and replenish our
enzyme resources will be a measure of our overall health and longevity.  His studies
showed that there is a correlation between our age and enzyme count – babies have a
very high count and as we age the count steadily decreases until death when our
bodies are devoid of enzymes.  Enzymes are destroyed at temperatures of
approximately 118 degrees Fahrenheit, which means that all processed and cooked
foods are devoid of these vital “nutrients”.  

Dr. Ann Wigmore, the mother of the raw foods movement in America and founder of
the Optimal Health Institute, stated that, “enzyme preservation is the secret to
health.” (and attention to increasing digestive enzymatic power is also found in
ayurveda principles and certain Yoga practices).

My obstetrician was a good sport where my diet was concerned, but another one of
my doctors told me emphatically that it really didn't matter what I ate,  my baby would
get all the nutrients it needed from my body.  Holy cow!!  I’m absolutely convinced
that this sort of ignorance in the medical profession regarding the very real link
between nutrition and optimal health causes devastating and unnecessary
complications in all areas of health, and perhaps especially in pregnancy where optimal
maternal nutrition, particularly for those over the “ideal” age, can make a huge
difference in both the short and long-term health of mother and baby.

I craved salt during my pregnancy and ate lots of unprocessed Celtic gray sea salt,
which has over 75 trace minerals that our bodies need and are very difficult to get
from other sources. (Remember, ALL life began in the sea!  Also, Himalayan salt, which
comes from the primordial oceans of 250,000 years ago, has a whopping 84 minerals).  
High quality unprocessed sea salt is NOTHING like table salt, which is bleached and
dried at high temperatures, stripping it of all nutrients, so I avoided table salt
completely.  I never had swelling or blood pressure problems - even when I flew late in
my pregnancy and even in the days after my vaginal birth involving bipovocaine
epidural administration, when I was told by the nurse that I’d definitely “puff up like a
marshmallow” because of the anesthesia.  I didn't even have any uncomfortable
swelling or excessive “engorgement” when my milk came in.

I believe that because of my living foods nourishment, many challenging physical
changes that are considered typical didn't affect me.  I learned firsthand the
difference between what is known as “normal” and what is apparently “natural” in a
truly healthy pregnancy.  Besides having no swelling issues, I had no morning sickness,
no blood pressure issues, no constipation, no broken veins, no dental deterioration,
and no stretch marks even though I gained over 35 pounds on my small frame. (5’4”
and 110 lbs) AND, with the additional metabolism of breastfeeding, I was delighted to
be back in my favorite jeans six months after giving birth, with
no extra effort (unlike
the gals who do grueling personal training many hours a week or are struggling to keep
up with stroller jogging).

I had great energy during my entire pregnancy (with the exception of the first
trimester when I needed more sleep than normal) and the only concern of any kind
was a minor issue with a fibroid tumor that I had long before I was pregnant.  I had my
daughter 11 days 'late', considered normal for a first birth and in stark contrast to many
pregnancies, especially high-risk ones, which typically end early, risking full
development of the baby.  

My obstetrician wanted me to pick a day for the birth and allow her to induce labor
any time after my 38th week, which is technically considered full term in modern
medical culture (though there are midwifery and anthropology reports that indicate
"normal" gestation can range from 39-44 weeks, depending on a variety of factors such
as nutrition, stressful events, phase of the moon, genetic tendencies, the fact the
some women conceive during their menses and thus two weeks earlier than they may
think, and the fetus's own brain chemical triggers).

I was determined to let my baby decide when SHE was ready to be born and not allow
some predetermined number of weeks or the irrelevant number of my age make that
decision for her.  My obstetrician wasn't happy that I planned to wait until I went into
labor naturally and, at 9 days late and counting, she threatened that if I went more
than 12 days over my due date she would refuse to attend the birth. (She didn't end
up attending anyway because my labor didn't coincide with her work schedule.)  

Doctors aren't used to dealing with healthy pregnant women my age - not to mention
stubborn and well researched ones.  My obstetrician's recourse was to continue to
remind me in a serious tone that I was “high risk.”  Never mind the fact that I did not
have one single high risk symptom my entire pregnancy.  I believed and still believe
that because of my extremely nutritious living foods diet, my age was NOT a factor
and my body and baby had everything they needed to function optimally, which they
did at every stage.  I also exercised daily and had ample rest, which are important.

I had my daughter, Sunny Grace, on a Thursday afternoon with the support of her
father and an experienced doula, along with a room full of nurses and a doctor I’d only
just met that day.  I had turned 49 years old a week and a half before. My baby was
beautiful and rated a 9.9 on her APGAR test (on a scale of 1-10), which has to do with
a baby’s vital signs, appearance, and general state of health right after birth. After she
was placed on my stomach, we watched with amazement as she literally began
crawling up, mouth searching, until she found her new “breast friends”.  How did she
know where they were or what to do?!  

My precious daughter began smiling when she was less than one week old (no, it
definitely wasn't gas) and is an extraordinarily happy child.  She had no jaundice, colic,
infant acne, diaper rash, fevers, or earaches; she never spit up, or suffered any of the
other common issues that the typical baby often experiences.  I took her to three
well-baby visits right after she was born and she hasn't been back since. I continued
following a relatively strict raw food diet after she was born, especially during the
time she was exclusively nursing. She got her first illness, a minor cold, at 22 months.

As for her diet, I added fresh raw juices to her eating regime when she was four
months old (most mixed half and half with breast milk) and at six months she began
eating raw foods such as avocado and banana.  I gradually added a variety of organic
raw fresh fruits, grains, nuts, vegetables, and dairy to her diet.

I nursed her until she was 2 ½ years old. (Yes, I was still lactating at the ripe old age of
51.)  I introduced a few cooked foods to her diet that winter, like baked acorn squash,
sweet potatoes, and brown rice with baby lima beans, and a few fermented foods,
such as miso, kombucha, and unpasteurized sour cream.  Her diet at age 2 was about
85% raw and mine was probably 65-70% raw. We tend to eat a higher percentage of raw
foods in the summer when more produce is available and the weather is warmer.  

Perhaps this is just a proud mother talking, but my daughter started walking at 8 ½
months, began talking very early, and by 20 months was forming sentences - in two
languages (her nanny speaks Spanish and her father is bilingual).  She’s always had a
great appetite and is a very adventuresome eater to this day.

And she’s also got a great sense of humor, although that may not have anything to do
with her diet. :)


For those who want to explore the health benefits (and happy surprises) of Living
Foods,  raw/living foods gourmet eating establishments can be found in many major
cities these days (such as Beets Cafe, in Austin).   Here are some very helpful books
and websites:

Conscious Eating by Gabrielle Cousins, MD

Fresh Vegetable and Fruit Juices by N.W. Walker D. Sc.

Eating for Beauty by David Wolfe

Enzyme Nutrition by Edward Howell (Optimum Health Institute) (Jaffe Brothers) (Premier Research Labs) (video)
cotton and pig farm in west Texas
where she got a relatively healthy
start with parents that restricted
commercially processed foods,
LaDonna Braun was raised on a
especially those with sugar, and
grew much of the food the family

She’s a sales professional who, after
living in Los Angeles for 12 years,
now lives in Austin, Texas with her
daughter Sunny Grace, who is also
loved and co-parented by her
father, Gary; and nanny, Norma.
founder, the [then] world-famous Max Bircher-Benner, M.D., discovered the power of
raw foods when he experimented upon himself for his own healing…When [he] began
to investigate the properties of live foods, he found that regardless of the seriousness
of the disease, the living-foods treatment was a powerful healing approach.  Based on
these principles, his clinic became one of the most respected healing centers in the

In the early part of this century another great physician, Max Gerson, M.D., also
discovered the healing power of live foods – first for the healing of his own migraines,
and then later for the supposedly incurable disease called lupus.  He then applied this
approach to every sort of medical disease, from clogged arteries to mental disorders.  
Gerson believed that a live-food and live-juice diet was more than just a specific cure
for certain diseases.  He said that consuming raw foods was a way of eating which
restored the diseased body and mind’s ability to heal itself.  Dr. Gerson recognized
raw foods as a way to rebuild the vital regenerative force of the total organism.”