008: How To Grow A Healthy Baby Brain w/ Maya Shetreat, MD


008: How To Grow A Healthy Baby Brain w/ Maya Shetreat, MD

Welcome to the Hey Mami podcast!

Our guest today is Dr. Maya Shetreat, a neurologist, herbalist, urban farmer, and author of The Dirt Cure: Healthy Food, Healthy Gut, Happy Child (Simon and Schuster, 2016), which has been translated into 10 languages. She has been featured in the New York Times, The Telegraph, NPR, Sky News, The Dr. Oz Show and more.

Dr. Maya is the founder of the Terrain Institute, where she teaches Terrain Medicine™, earth-based programs for transformational healing. She works and studies with indigenous communities and healers from around the world, and is a lifelong student of ethnobotany, plant healing, and the sacred.

Or listen on Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn | YouTube

In today’s episode we are talking all about growing a healthy baby brain. 


  • Dr. Maya’s story
  • How can parents-to-be help their babies have the healthiest brain possible?
  • Information about healthy fats
  • What is the most critical time for a baby’s brain?
  • Dr. Maya’s thoughts on choline
  • Why is movement important?

Important Links

Find Dr. Maya online here

Get Dr. Maya’s FREE Earth Healing Bundle

Healthy + Happy Mami Podcast ep. 004: How Can A Man Increase His Fertility? w/ Geo Espinosa, ND

Follow Dr. Maya on Instagram


“One of the big risk factors for having any kind of chronic condition, but especially chronic neurologic condition is epigenetic.”

“For a person who’s giving birth vaginally, that’s what’s going to actually seed their baby’s gut. And that’s the beginning of everything for that baby’s microbiome, which is going to influence gut, immune, brain and hormones, and more.”

008: How To Grow A Healthy Baby Brain w/ Maya Shetreat, MD TRANSCRIPT

Dr. Carrasco:                      Welcome back to the Hey Mami podcast. Our guest today is Dr. Maya Shetreat. Dr. Maya Shetreat is a neurologist, herbalist, urban farmer, and author of The Dirt Cure. She has been featured in The New York Times, the Telegraph, NPR, Sky News, The Dr. Oz Show and more. Dr. Maya is the founder of the Terrain Institute, where shae teaches Terrain Medicine, earth based programs for transformational healing. She works in studies with indigenous communities and healers from around the world and is a lifelong student of ethnobotany plant healing and the secret. We are so happy to have Dr. Maya on our show. Not only is she an amazingly accomplished colleague, but she’s also a very good friend. So welcome Dr. Maya.

Dr. Shetreat:                      I am thrilled to be here. Thank you for having me.

Dr. Carrasco:                      Thank you. Thank you. All right. So first and foremost, can you share with our audience why you do what you do. You have such an interesting, I guess so many accomplishments and they’re all very diverse and varied. And so, can you share with us why you do what you do and how it all ties together?

Dr. Shetreat:                      It was like a whole lifetime of therapy work. For me, I was originally way back when I was a kid who was very interested in nature and making my own little potions and making pretty little kind of alters with bits of nature. And I did all of that until, I don’t know, I’d probably got to middle school or high school when it became clear that achievement and intellect kind of really were what were valued. And I loved geeking out about science. So I went that route for a long period of time and then made my way to med school. And I really went to med school because I was a whole pretty holistic thinker. And I thought I was interested in placebo effect and mind body things, and I wrote an essay about it and they let me into medical school somehow. I’m still not exactly sure why. I was an English major, but-

Dr. Carrasco:                      [inaudible 00:02:18] You do?

Dr. Shetreat:                      Yeah. So I was, I think they’re like part of their diversity, it was like, oh, well, [inaudible 00:02:25] different interests. And then I was really interested in brains, in children’s nervous systems and their brains because children’s brains are so plastic, they’re so responsive to different inputs and they can change. And then now we know so much more, even from when I first went to med school that really all brains can change and all brains are very plastic, but particularly with children, I thought, wow, what a way to have an impact. And I was very interested in autism and kind of the mystery of what was going on, which is still in certain ways in a mystery.

Dr. Shetreat:                      But I did spend well over a decade really doing deep dives and I think I do know a lot more about that, but ultimately the reason I think I got, I remembered that I wanted to do holistic work was because I went into private practice when I finished my training. And people told me in my attendings and people who, as I was graduating, they said, oh, you’re going to go into private practice. You’re just going to basically be prescribing Ritalin, that you’re going to be prescribing stimulants to kids. That’s what you’re going to do as a neurologist in private practice, have fun. And I was like, oh, no, I’m not going to be doing that. Not that I thought I would never do it, but I thought there’s got to be a better way. Like I’m not going to give those medications to children without having something that I’m going to offer before that to little children, because we really didn’t do that, that much in my training, because we were more doing hospital medication for severe seizures and things like that.

Dr. Shetreat:                      So I went into private practice and I started looking at nutrition and diet and botanicals and I just went into the science of it. There’s a ton of literature. And then I started doing the work and I started to see miracles happen. What felt like miracles truly. I don’t, oh, now it’s much more few and far between to see absolute miracles. I felt like the universe was showing me, this is what you’re supposed to do Maya, don’t do anything but this, focus on this, because it was just amazing to see the kind of healing on a daily basis that I saw. So yeah, that’s kind of was the beginning of the story.

Dr. Maren:                          Wow. That’s very cool story. It’s such a journey through med school and I think Alex and I have the same sentiments. We went to medical school feeling like, well, we graduated and got out of residency feeling like, oh my gosh, somehow I shifted all the way to one side. And that whole piece of me that started medicine that really wanted to be holistic and looking at all those pieces and you had to go learn all that stuff. So I think all of us kind of had that similar background, but obviously with you as a neurologist, how many years of residency?

Dr. Shetreat:                      Neurology it’s three years, well, it’s two years of peds and-

Dr. Maren:                          [crosstalk 00:05:38] Okay. And then you did three of the sub-specialists?

Dr. Shetreat:                      Yeah, but you do adult and peds neurology.

Dr. Maren:                          It’s a lot of training. So for people listening, that is so much training but awesome.

Dr. Carrasco:                      [inaudible 00:05:52] amazing expert here.

Dr. Maren:                          Yeah.

Dr. Carrasco:                      So, our audience runs the gamut of the mommyhood spectrum, but what we really want to focus on and pick your brain about is how can we help women grow healthy baby brains when they’re pregnant? What can they do, I suppose, during the preconception period or during pregnancy, or even beyond to help their babies have the healthiest brains possible?

Dr. Shetreat:                      I’m really glad you’re asking that. And I know your audience is women, but I want to say that in the many years that I did work as a pediatric neurologist focusing on preconception, I really focus on both the mom and the dad. And I think that has to do, first of all, it’s because the science really supports that. For example, we know that one of the risk factors let’s say for autism is actually advanced paternal age. And I feel like moms just really get the short end of the stick as far as the blame game goes, so what’s new, right? It’s like a long standing tradition in our patriarchal society, but really it’s always how’s the mom taking care of herself and what is she eating, and did she take this and are you having a glass of wine and, all these kinds of things, and no one is really looking at the dad. And yet we know that one of the big risk factors for having any kind of chronic condition, but especially chronic neurologic condition is epigenetic.

Dr. Shetreat:                      And epigenetic is just so, I’ll say very briefly, even though maybe you’ve already deeply educated your audience on this, so it’s not like your DNA, which is pretty stable generation to generation, but it’s how your DNA is read. There are labels that are based on your environmental exposures, what you eat and the toxins you’re exposed to. And even if someone’s exposed to famine or a very high stress situation or trauma changes, actually certain little labels on your DNA that make it manifest differently. The proteins read it in different ways and it translates differently. So epigenetics are really where I focus as much as possible in my work. And that just has to do with mom and dad. And that’s just one way. I know I’m coming on really, kind of hitting hard on the get male responsibility here, bur-

Dr. Carrasco:                      No, 100% we’re on board with you. We’re all on the same page.

Dr. Maren:                          Yeah. And we actually interviewed another friend of ours, Dr. Geo Espinosa, who talked a lot about paternal health as well. So we believe it’s definitely a partnership. So we need both parents on board and as healthy as possible.

Dr. Shetreat:                      It is. And I say this again, not because obviously what the mom is doing isn’t important, but just because I think even if it was possible to do “everything right” as the mom, which it’s not because we’re human beings living in human reality and it’s challenging to do everything right. And even what we think is right, is not always right. So we do the best we can. That’s the first thing. But then even if we did, if the dad is not doing the things required to also take care of his body and his sperm and his epigenetics, then you could do everything right and you still would potentially run into problems. And when I did preconception work in a really intensive way, I would always do testing on both the mom and the dad.

Dr. Shetreat:                      And the other thing I would say that I just want to add to that is it’s not just epigenetics, it’s also microbiome. And so the microbiome is a really, really, now we know so much more even how important it is for our own health, our own gut health, our own immune health, our own brain health. But it’s also of course so important for let’s say even the vaginal environment because there’s a microbiome that’s particular to the vagina. And for a person who’s giving birth vaginally, that’s what’s going to actually seed their baby’s gut. And that’s the beginning of everything for that baby’s microbiome, which is going to influence gut, immune, brain and hormones, and more and more. And the microbiome is something we share. So we share it with our partner, we share it with our kids, we share it with our pets and that’s actually probably a good thing, not a bad thing. We share it with the land we live on, the natural world around us and how much we’re in contact with that. And the diversity of that microbiome is critical to body and brain health and development.

Dr. Shetreat:                      So I say all this, just because it’s a team effort. And I will talk about now, the things that the mom can do or the mom and dad can do, but I just really wanted to emphasize that in the beginning so that we know that everyone has to show up and not just the mom. But that’s it. I think if I thought about the top things that I would recommend, just really generally speaking, I’d be thinking about diet, so what people are eating and I would want it to be high fat and high cholesterol because the brain is made 60, 70% of fat and also the brain, the developing in particular concentrates cholesterol, it’s so important to concentrate cholesterol in the brain, that there are specific enzymes in breast milk that actually concentrate cholesterol, help to digest, absorb, and concentrate cholesterol in the brain. 90% of the cholesterol goes to the developing brain.

Dr. Shetreat:                      So I say that in particular, because people think fat and cholesterol are bad, but if you are, and they’re not, period, especially, there are healthy fats more than, you don’t want to necessarily go to McDonald’s for your-

Dr. Carrasco:                      [crosstalk 00:12:48] For a transplant diet.

Dr. Shetreat:                      Exactly. But if you’re talking about eating pastured meat and eggs and even dairy, if that’s something you tolerate and butter, those kinds of things, all of those are incredibly beneficial to having healthy brain and a healthy brain that’s developing well. And if it’s pastured in particular, I just want to add this, and this isn’t because I’m being really elite and being like, oh, only have organic pastured, whatever, but because there’s real data, well, I take seriously the idea of access and privilege. And I think it’s a really important thing for all of us in medicine to be thinking about how this can be something that’s accessible to literally every single mother or person who might want to become a mother or might become a mother, whether they want to or not, we need to be all eating this.

Dr. Shetreat:                      But pastured dairy, pastured meat has high Omega-3s, so the essential fatty acids that are really, really, really important for brain, immune cell health. It’s also higher in Vitamin D, again, another really important component of immune health and all kinds of other, basically 2000 different gene transcription factors turn on with that Vitamin D. So this is like basically, when you’re having pastured animal products, you’re basically getting a whole multivitamin in a sense of, and things that you may not even get so easily through a supplement, just one supplement.

Dr. Carrasco:                      Yeah. And I think a lot of what people talk about when we talk about fat and pregnancy is DHA, which you mentioned omega-3 fatty acids. And so, a lot of prenatals are higher if we have a prenatal [inaudible 00:14:55], it’s formulated specifically for women who are pregnant, often it’s hiring DHA. But a lot of what people aren’t talking about is the saturated fats. Can you dive into, do you think saturated versus monounsaturated, does it matter? Obviously it does, but what should we aim for when we’re trying to be healthy in that preconception or even during pregnancy?

Dr. Shetreat:                      Here’s what I would say, our cell membranes are made largely a fat and there are over 200 different kinds of fatty acids in the cell membrane to have a healthy cell membrane. And we can talk about, wow, we have our, cholesterol provides the structure and the sort of stiffness, the omegas do more of the fluidity, but really we want a lot of different kinds of fats, what we don’t want, our trans fats, which we discussed. Just like we don’t want oxidized cholesterol. So that’s like your processed products are more likely to be made with powdered eggs, which means the eggs might’ve been subjected to very, very high heat, which is going to oxidize the cholesterol. And that is harmful. Trans fats, which are artificial fats are harmful, but all the other kinds of fats you want in variety.

Dr. Shetreat:                      Something that we struggle with so much in our society is moderation. And that’s for many reasons, but let’s say having a diet that’s varied, as long as that’s something that’s possible is I think smart, you know what I mean? So that means don’t rule out a particular food because it has some component in it that we think is bad or that’s been vilified. I can promise that any food that’s been around since ancestral times is going to have benefits to us. Again, in moderation, not in extreme amounts. And that goes for fatty acids. I don’t really like saying this fatty acid is good. This omega is good. This part of omega is not good or whatever. I think it all has to do with being in balance. And that’s for me, what helps is to be in balance.

Dr. Maren:                          Yeah. I think Dr. Maya has this amazing book called The Dirt Cure. And I think part of it and part of what you’re saying, Dr. Maya is that the world has created on this seasonal system. And so truly, we’re not even really meant to eat the same things over and over again, because there are seasons and seasons kind of determine the growing seasons of food. And so it’s just kind of in the earth program to eat a variety of foods, although humans have taken it to a different level and figured out ways in which we can eat the same thing over and over and over again.

Dr. Shetreat:                      Right, because it’s so tempting to be in a routine and to be in sameness, it’s very comfortable, we don’t have to think so much. Where I live, there are real seasons, we have the snow and we have the whole thing, we have hot summers. But even in places that don’t have as significant seasons, there’s still periods of the year where trees fruit or flower and periods of the year where they don’t. And so traditionally would be, if it’s winter time, people are not going to be eating a lot of fruit and lettuces, but they might have preserves. I’ve just started this year really more aggressively preserving and fermenting foods. And I made my sauerkraut and pickled beets.

Dr. Shetreat:                      We just had a power outage. So I went really, really crazy with preserving a million different things. So my house looks almost like a little chemistry lab with all its jars, but those are the things that traditionally people ate in the season where things weren’t growing as much because they were getting some of the nutrients and microbes, if it’s fermented food, that would serve them through the winter months and help actually balance the immune system. And of course now, where we’re talking about preconception, I would say you probiotics, however you get them, which can be fermented food, or you can take a probiotic supplement. But that’s another thing I think is critically important in the preconception period for a healthy brain. Because the immune system is, now we understand. We used to think brain is in its own little separate area, nothing could get to it, there’s a blood-brain barrier and it’s an inner sanctum and it’s totally protected. Now we know that’s not totally true. We know that more things cross that blood-brain barrier than we maybe thought before, and that’s true for the developing brain too.

Dr. Shetreat:                      And so, one of the things that really determines how well that blood-brain barrier protects the brain developing or otherwise is having a healthy immune system. If you have a really overly active immune system, an immune system that’s incredibly out of balance. And so that would look like allergies, autoimmunity, things like that, which many people walk around with these days chronically, then having something that’s going to be balancing to the immune system is critical for growing a baby with a healthy brain and a healthy nervous system. So making sure that your immune system as a mom is going to be as balanced as possible, which means, and I still include fats and cholesterol in that because that’s important for the immune system too, but also having a diet really rich in microbes. So eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, [inaudible 00:20:53], miso, if soil is something to tolerate, yogurt, if you can do yogurt, kefir, all of those different kinds of foods are excellent.

Dr. Shetreat:                      And what I love, I’m kind of pushing those a little bit just because, it’s not that they’re free, but you can make your own sauerkraut, it’s actually so easy. You basically need, let’s say cabbage and garlic or something and salt and water, that’s it. So because supplements can feel intimidating or expensive, I just like bringing that up because nature is so filled with these natural probiotics. Also just getting outside and gardening or taking walks in nature, you’re getting through your nose, on your hands and in your mouth, you’re getting soil and all the awesome microbes of nature that are very diverse and diversity of microbes is the key to having a balanced immune system.

Dr. Carrasco:                      So I guess from a PD neuro perspective, when you’re thinking about baby’s brain health, is there a particular time when the baby’s brain is developing, I guess the most critical time for a baby’s brain? I know we always talk about first trimester being so important for women, which can be a little bit daunting, especially if you have regular periods where you don’t know that you’re pregnant or you’re having an unexpected pregnancy and it’s just not on your radar. So we’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

Dr. Shetreat:                      The answer is the whole time. The brain in particular, I think is really, it’s just the whole pregnancy the brain is developing and growing. And obviously in the first trimester, there’s some of the most profound structural foundations built at that time. But beyond that, the brain is developing and developing and growing in size all the way through. I know that might sound daunting, but the good news is that our bodies are actually pretty fantastic at taking care of this issue at our expense sometimes, but our bodies really, we’re as a species evolved to really do well by our babies. So I don’t think it’s anything to panic about. And I think women are so conditioned to put themselves last, that for me, it’s actually kind of preconception and talking about preconception is a really beautiful thing, although I wish it weren’t about making another being healthy because I just wish women in general felt more invested in doing wonderful things for their bodies, just because they deserve to feel wonderful.

Dr. Shetreat:                      But that said, I think it is the whole pregnancy that the brain is developing. But I think we have give, you know what I mean? Usually, there is reserve. The one thing I will say that’s a little just, I think I should bring up fish because that’s something, and actually I wrote a whole chapter about fish in my book which is not solely about preconception, but it’s about having a healthy family and a healthy kid in general. And fish is a complicated issue, it’s really still unclear from a science perspective. What we know is that almost all fish, at least in the United States and probably most places, are contaminated with mercury. We know that that is true. Rivers, streams, oceans, fish that you think, we all think tuna or short fish if we think about mercury contaminated fish, no, it’s really all fish.

Dr. Shetreat:                      And the side point of that is that actually our ocean systems are really being overfished. So just from an ecological standpoint, which I believe is part of our whole health too, we really should be eating less fish or figuring out ways to get fish from more sustainable sources. But that said, what we know, and it’s very controversial in the scientific literature, whether eating fish or not eating fish, because fish have these omega, many of the fish at least have these omega-3 fatty acids that are so critically important for brain health and brain development. But on the other side, mercury is definitely one of your biggest hazards that we can easily measure and detect when it comes to what’s happening in the mom’s body and what’s going into the baby’s body and brain, because mercury basically it makes its way for the brain.

Dr. Shetreat:                      So what I would say is I tend to recommend really limiting fish during pregnancy and focusing on getting the omegas from either supplements, which are usually third-party tested if you’ve got a good quality supplement, and or I would say the pastured eggs I think are excellent and pastured meat and potentially pastured dairy. So that’s where I would really focus on getting the omegas as much as possible because of that mercury issue. And that’s something I usually will recommend if I see a mom in preconception. In the preconception period, I will always look at mercury levels in that mom, and it’s [inaudible 00:26:54] want to reduce levels. That’s not always something we want to do in the moment [inaudible 00:27:01]. So we can talk about that if you want to go there, but at least to look at the diet and say, where could mercury be coming into the diet and more often than not, it is fish.

Dr. Maren:                          Yeah, that’s super interesting. I don’t want to go off on too much of a tangent, but I got to ask you, what are your thoughts on women who have amalgam fillings? For the listeners, those are silver fillings.

Dr. Shetreat:                      Here’s what I would say. On the one hand, if I could safely take out those amalgam fillings, particularly if you have many. I wouldn’t do it with a biological dentist who really knows what they’re [inaudible 00:28:00] appearance, I would not recommend having that dentist remove amalgam fillings because when you, this is true [inaudible 00:28:14] on the body any way. Our body is actually pretty good at sequestering things like heavy metals and other toxins, usually in our fat, but in the case of heavy metals, not always. It’s when they’re on the move in the body that they really cause the most harm. So you’re going to remove fillings, I would definitely not do it right before you’re planning on getting pregnant. I would want to create a space of time also because people who want to get pregnant have a hard time sometimes not doing it, assuming they don’t run into any problems. So it’s one of those really upsetting things as a doctor, which I think probably happen to most of us where we’re trying to kind of prepare someone for pregnancy, but it’s really not safe yet to get pregnant. And then they get pregnant and then you’re like, crap.

Dr. Shetreat:                      So basically, I don’t recommend removing those amalgams if you’re pretty determined to get pregnant in the next, let’s say month or two months, but if you have a little bit of time and I love when moms would come to me with that timeline, where you have, let’s say, in six months, I’m thinking of it or in a year, I’m thinking of it. It’s something to consider removing amalgam fillings. It’s costly. You have to have the right people supporting you through it, including obviously the biological dentist. And you want to have a span of time before you’re going to get pregnant so that you can clear out whatever you’ve just unleashed in your body.

Dr. Maren:                          Yes. Thank you for going there with us. So another question that we have for you, one of the, well, another kind of, I guess, side conversation here is that one of the things we talk about a lot [inaudible 00:30:07] is choline, and choline is a nutrient wasn’t even recognized really until 1998. By the time when we were all in medical school, probably, I didn’t learn anything about it. I don’t think it was actually, it hadn’t made like the textbooks yet or the lecture circuit. But that is such an important nutrient for brain health as well. And I don’t know if you have any opinion on it, or if you have anything that you want to share. But for us in our practices, it’s really helped our postpartum patients with mommy brain, a lot of our moms who are super brain fogged when we reintroduced choline typically through a supplement, we see some big changes in cognition and memory. So I don’t know if you have a perspective.

Dr. Shetreat:                      Yeah, I’m a huge fan of choline. I think it’s tremendously important for the developing brain. And there’s a study that I present in talks that I give, in an animal study actually where, it was I think in rats that they gave choline to some rats during pregnancy. And they were able to identify which pups had been born to moms who had gotten choline because they were smarter. They were actually smarter. They were able to do tasks better and more quickly and so on and so forth. And what’s interesting is they were able to identify which pups were given choline during pregnancy, even when they were old, the cognitive benefits lasted through their lifetime. So that’s just, and there’s a lot of really great data on how important choline is for intelligence and for the developing brain and for any brain, honestly.

Dr. Shetreat:                      Choline is one of the components of acetylcholine, which is really important for memory and learning. It’s also really important for epigenetic health. So going back to what we talked about in the beginning. The way our DNA’s labeled, choline is one of those things that labels the DNA. So it’s incredibly important so I recommend. so Good sources of choline are liver and eggs. So I’m a huge fan of getting liver, again, hopefully from a healthy animal that was pastured because you’re again getting all those benefits, but it’s high in cholesterol which we talked about and I could geek out about cholesterol for a long time, but I’ve done enough already. But it’s really, really important in just every way including for the immune system. And then it’s really high in choline. It’s very high in choline. And eggs are kind of second after liver.

Dr. Shetreat:                      And it makes a huge difference, a huge difference. As you said, in moms, it helps and also for the developing brain as well.

Dr. Carrasco:                      So a question for you, because I know that a lot of our listeners are, this generation is just a little bit more averse to liver than say our grandparents generation. My grandparents ate liver all the time. Do you have a favorite way of cooking it?

Dr. Shetreat:                      I always give my patients a few different options. I don’t love liver myself, but I’ll tell you something funny. My mom had liver cravings when she was pregnant with me, and she ate liver, one of the only things that she wanted to eat every day was liver. And I was like, wow, I have a complicated relationship with my mom, but she did right by me in the liver department at least.

Dr. Carrasco:                      She built that brain up good.

Dr. Shetreat:                      A lot of people like chopped liver, actually in something you can spread like on a cracker on a piece of bread. And a lot of people are surprised to find that they like that. Another way that people will do liver will be chopping it up. And like, sautéing it with onions. That’s a popular way that some people really enjoy it. And then the other way that I have people sneak it in for their kids and also sometimes for themselves is actually to mash it with a hamburger meat. And so just like a little bit, because with liver, you don’t need to eat massive. You don’t need to eat like a hamburger’s worth of liver. You just need-

Dr. Maren:                          [inaudible 00:35:02],

Dr. Shetreat:                      Yeah. Some people love it. Some people really do love it. So putting a little bit in the hamburger or meatballs or something like that is another pretty good way to get it in. And I think like once you figure out the way you like it, eating it a few times a week is not necessarily that challenging. The other thing I will say is you can get liver capsules. And I just want to say that because I know, especially when people are pregnant, like when I was pregnant, I was vomiting quite a lot. And if you would’ve told me to eat liver, I probably would have punched you. So liver capsules are also a thing.

Dr. Maren:                          Yeah. Cravings are such an interesting thing. It just reminded me with my, I think with my second, there was one thing I wanted all the time and it was eggs. And now I’m like, oh, it’s the choline, egg yolks are easy to eat when you’re pregnant for most people. It’s like they’re pretty mild, but I ate a lot of eggs. So pregnancy cravings are one of those things think about, what does that meaning for you? Obviously if it’s a craving for sugar, probably, I don’t know, that’s [inaudible 00:36:15] balancing your microbiome or something else, but some of those cravings, I think you can really understand like, oh, you might need more choline, listen to your body.

Dr. Carrasco:                      I had crazy cravings for fish when I was pregnant with my second. Some fatty acids. And also I have to kind of backtrack to what you said five minutes ago, about the piece of like, our bodies are intelligent. We do well by our babies, but it comes at our own expense. And I think that’s really our whole mission here with Hey Mami is like, we want to take care of moms. Of course it’s critically important to take care of our babies, but nobody takes care of mom and we miss and lose and sacrifice so much physically, emotionally, all aspects of our life really change when we’re having babies and breastfeeding. And for just purely talking about nutrients, it’s like your baby steals the DHA. And then why do we think moms have this thing called mommy brain? Because your, say cholesterol-

Dr. Shetreat:                      It’s your choline.

Dr. Carrasco:                      Your choline and your DHA, like the baby ate it.

Dr. Shetreat:                      Great. Of course nobody cares once the baby is out about [inaudible 00:37:31]. And neither do you as mom very often because you’re [inaudible 00:37:37] with this new role in your life that’s [inaudible 00:37:39] demanding.

Dr. Carrasco:                      Yeah. Another sacrificial role, I suppose. Then that’s really why we started Hey Mami because after our third babies, Christine and I were like, oh my God, how is there no good information on the internet or how is there not a resource that really supports women with questions about all these different things after you had your kid and we’re doctors and we still have questions. So we were like, we have to fill this void somehow.

Dr. Shetreat:                      Well, right. And what to expect when you’re expecting is like we should have a big book burning party with that. I don’t know if that was one I thing I should have said, but [inaudible 00:38:16] so it’s out there now.

Dr. Carrasco:                      Let me ask you this. Let me ask you another question. So for our listeners out there, from a lifestyle perspective, I know we’ve talked about nutrition. But more from a lifestyle perspective, activities that you can choose to do in your life, what can you do to help build a healthy baby brain in the preconception stage and also during the pregnancy stage? What are a couple things that people can do that really is impactful?

Dr. Shetreat:                      I want to just be kind of that almost everything that’s important for a good baby brain is good for a good baby body and is also good for your body. So this is all very like win-win, it’s just kind of committing to doing those things is maybe what the challenges, but for me, I would say lifestyle-wise, moving your body is important in whatever way. For me, I’m not talking about losing weight or getting in shape or whatever, but just literally moving your body. And that’s because the brain is really sensitive to toxins and our bodies are actually usually pretty good depending on certain variables are pretty good at getting rid of toxins, we’re all exposed to them. That’s normal. That’s been always, and now we have probably more toxins than we did before, let’s say 500 years ago, but there were toxins then too.

Dr. Shetreat:                      So we have good mechanisms to get rid of it. And one of them is our lymphatic system, and our lymphatic system is a hydraulic system. So it doesn’t have muscles that pump arteries, let’s say, that move the blood. So this is our lymph, which is a different kind of fluid. And it basically drains the crap that our cells basically get rid of, metabolic byproducts and toxins and other things that go into what we call the extracellular space. And then it’s sort of picked up by our lymphatic system along with the fat, and it’s kind of carted out, but it’s not really carted out by anyone but us. So the way that the lymphatic system really moves things out is largely by our own movement. When we take deep breaths, part of what we’re doing is moving all the lymphatics network that moves through our thorax through our chest area. So taking a deep breath is actually detoxifying in more than one way with whatever we’re releasing from our lungs, but we’re also moving lymphatics through.

Dr. Shetreat:                      So what we want is to move everything to our liver, liver and spleen essentially, so that it can be filtered and then waste goes to waste and everything else is recycled in our body. And moving our bodies just in any number of ways, whether it’s yoga or Pilates or walks or runs or weights, whatever it is, that’s really important. So whatever, dancing, whatever it is that people want to do and might enjoy, that I really recommend. And I think it’s important as detoxification. If we need a reason to do those things, then that’s a reason. Obviously, being in good cardiovascular health and stretching and all those things is important too.

Dr. Shetreat:                      So that’s a big one. I think being in nature is really important. Obviously one of my big missions is to get people into nature or back to nature, I should say, but there’s so many benefits to it. For one thing, there’s all this data about forest bathing, like going into the forest. And I don’t think it’s obviously just being in the forest, but we have better focus, better memory, better mood, better executive function, so we make decisions better and more easily.

Dr. Shetreat:                      Our immune systems are more balanced. We have a better non-specific immune system. So whatever thing comes our way that we’ve never seen before, we’re going to do better with. We have increase in anticancer proteins. So there’s a million ways that it’s benefiting our bodies. And then at the same time, it’s regulating our nervous systems. We feel less stressed. That’s what I want to say. We’re getting obviously microbes from nature. We tend to feel happier, more relaxed, sleep better, all these things. There’s no such treatment or pill that can do all of those things besides being in nature. So that is one part of it. But I think also just being in a place of mindfulness and being present, being in a place of wonder, being in a place of awe, all of those things are actually incredibly important for our, well, for our sympathetic and parasympathetic balance is how I’ll say this.

Dr. Shetreat:                      I could talk about this from a lot of angles, but I’ll keep it pretty technical. But basically that idea of not always being in fight or flight and being in sympathetic overdrive, which so many of us are feeling like we have to push, we have to achieve, we have to get these things done, we have to check things off the to-do list and rather finding this other side of, which helps us to be resilient in the face of stress to have those moments of just being and have those moments of feeling like we can relax and digest where all of the blood is flowing to our organ systems and nourishing our organ systems rather than pumping out to our limbs so we can run away from the lion.

Dr. Shetreat:                      And so, I think being in nature does that. We know we measure, we look at cortisol levels, they drop when we’re in the natural world. But also that could be a lot of things. It can be listening to beautiful music, it can be meditating. It can be just having a nice bath or just any kind of ritual that keeps you in a place of mindfulness and being in the present moment. I really cannot overemphasize how valuable that is for developing a healthy baby brain. It’s not just about, it’s not just like, oh, this is nice, go get a spot treatment. It’s like taking care of your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system and finding that balance, finding that sense of wonder and awe is like all the things that are going to make you physically more resilient and give you this healthy, physical, emotional, and even spiritual terrain, which is basically what we, when we’re growing babies, we become terrain. You know what I mean? We become the terrain of the baby.

Dr. Shetreat:                      So when you take care of yourself, it’s not only helping you, of course, which is valuable in itself and should be an end in itself. But in addition to that, you are now the garden in which this baby is going to grow, and you’re going to be a rich and lovely and wonderful garden when you’re taking care of all these parts of yourself emotionally and spiritually and physically.

Dr. Maren:                          Oh, that’s so beautiful. That is super beautiful. Things so true like all those things movement and being in nature and stress and really just like trying to get more in that parasympathetic states all make us more fertile too. It turns out. And I kind of love that word fertile when we’re talking about like our garden.

Dr. Shetreat:                      That’s beautiful.

Dr. Maren:                          It makes sense, right?

Dr. Carrasco:                      Well, this has been just such an enlightening conversation and I’m so, so happy Dr. Maya, that you came on. But what I’d love to know is I know that we have a free gift to share with our audience and we’re going to share the link. But can you tell us a little bit about that and then also, how can folks find you online? How can they find you on Instagram or get in touch with you?

Dr. Shetreat:                      Yes. So the best way to find me is just that my website,, D-R And I have all of my free resources there including an earth medicine healing bundle, which is different meditations, practices, grounding, all different kinds of things that people can use an access whenever they want, and just download to help them get into that sympathetic-parasympathetic balance in an easy and quick way.

Dr. Shetreat:                      And then they can find me also on Instagram @drmayashetreat like the word she and treats put together. I’m also on Facebook and YouTube, so they can look for that on all of those platforms as well.

Dr. Carrasco:                      And they can find your book on Amazon, The Dirt cure, your selling book.

Dr. Shetreat:                      Yes. And they can find my book. They could find it on my website as well. And yeah, it’s on Amazon and most-

Dr. Carrasco:                      [crosstalk 00:47:43] Booksellers nationwide.

Dr. Shetreat:                      [inaudible 00:47:47] my PR.

Dr. Carrasco:                      There you go. Well, again, thank you so much for being here with us. Christine, do you have anything you want to add?

Dr. Maren:                          No, thank you so much for all your wisdom.

Dr. Shetreat:                      It was a pleasure to be here. Thank you for that.

Alejandra Carrasco M.D. and Christine Maren D.O.

Hello! We are Alejandra Carrasco M.D. and Christine Maren D.O. We founded Hey Mami because we felt a lack of support for fellow mamis. As physicians, we see women every day who struggle with fertility, are forgotten about postpartum, and have put their health on hold for years while they raise a family. We’re here to change that.

Download free nutrition tips for a healthy + happy mamihood


Sensible + sustainable nutrition tips headed your way!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.