Herbs and Veggies and Books, Oh My! A Conversation with Lena DeGloma

lena_bio photoBy Beth Miranda Botshon

 

We’re happy to have Lena DeGloma teaching with CEAMNY for the next workshop, Optimal Nutrition for the Childbearing Cycle. Lena is an experienced doula, lactation counselor, childbirth educator, massage therapist and clinical herbalist. I had the chance to sit down with her recently to talk about her work.

 

 

How did you get into the field of childbirth? Did you always want to do this?

In most of my younger adult life, I didn’t think or know I would be doing work in the childbirth field. I had a background in psychology, women’s studies and community organizing. Interestingly enough, this work is a blend of a lot of psychology, understanding that as it relates to birth, and of course women’s studies and activism. I think women’s autonomy too often gets overridden when it comes to birth. Part of what motivates me to educate is to be sure that couples are going in informed and empowered to advocate for themselves even if the system isn’t set up to support physiological birth or conscious decision making….But I got into this in an organic way – first via my work as a massage therapist – some of my prenatal massage clients asked me to be there at their births, then I went on to become a certified birth doula, then a childbirth educator and lactation counselor…

You’re a clinical herbalist too? 

Yes, I hold an MS in Herbal Medicine and right now I’m finishing up my post graduate work in herbal medicine and nutrition -doing my clinical hours. But my first forays into natural health and wellness started when I was living in an herb farm in Costa Rica 8 years ago. I lived in a tent and started studying tropical herbal medicine there as well as nutrition, massage, permaculture and tropical organic gardening. It certainly informs the rest of my practice, understanding the body as a whole.

So what’s your favorite or most versatile herb?

I really like Shatavari. It’s Indian Wild Asparagus Root. It’s a nutritive and nourishing immuno-modulator. It’s often used as a women’s herb for fertility and as an aphrodisiac. It also soothes the digestive system. You can take it as a powder and it tastes really good.  I also love Tulsi. It’s Indian Holy Basil. It’s super tasty and good for everything!  I could drink it everyday and not get sick of it. It’s funny that the first two herbs that came to mind are traditional Ayurvedic herbs! I’m primarily trained as a traditional Western herbalist, although I do, of course, incorporate herbs from Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese medicine into my practice. One of my favorite Western herbs is probably Stinging Nettle – a long overnight infusion (tea steeped overnight) extracts tons of nutrients and minerals and it is also anti-inflammatory and a kidney tonic. It’s a great pregnancy herb to get in extra nutrients along with Red Raspberry leaf, another nutritive but also a traditional uterine tonic.

What’s your general go-to recipe?

Generally for this time of year and during pregnancy and postpartum, I think foods that are warming, nourishing, dense and easily digestible are really great. Long cooked stews, soups, nice curries – things we’d put in a slow cooker along with warming spices like cayenne, ginger, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon, and so on – I love the aromatic spices! Especially on these cold days are really great.

What advice would you give to ladies out there about optimal nutrition? 

It may sound trite and basic, but one of the nutritional issues that most US women deal with is just needing more basic veggies. So if I am advising someone on how to modify their diet to include more veggies – instead of saying “This that you’re eating is bad for you and you have to stop eating it”, I say, ”Ok, how about adding in one extra serving of greens per day?”Then once people start adding the good things, they begin to stop craving the bad things. This way they don’t really feel like the bad stuff is being taken away, and it’s easier.  So you can add in veggies with yummy sauces, like a quick pesto with raw garlic, fresh herbs, good quality nuts and seeds and then quickly steam up some green beans or asparagus and toss them in that pesto. Or you could make a quick ginger tahini dressing with apple cider vinegar and garlic and toss that with steamed greens like mustards or kale. There’s so much calcium from the sesame seeds and the leafy greens and it’s such good quality fats! So you decide,”Ok, I’m hungry – I’ll eat this veggie dish first” and then it ends up crowding out the other not so healthy stuff like processed foods. What plagues US women really are the sugary things and simple carbs - which is one of the reasons gestational diabetes is on the rise, so we want to crowd out the simple sugars and processed foods with lots of veggies and often extra protein as well!

Sounds like you’re great in the kitchen! What else do you do for fun?

I like to play around making fun herbal concoctions, face creams and lotions and even herbal toothpastes and other products. I also really yearn to get back to playing my guitar and traveling when I have a little bit more free time!

What are you reading right now?

I recently finished a fiction book (!) called The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. I loved it - it’s a historical fiction that spans over a century following the adventures of a family of botanists involved in the early international herbal medicine trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. I also recently read another great historical fiction called The Birth House about a young midwife in Nova Scotia in the early 20th century – the story took place in the part of Canada where my family is from and where I spent a significant amount of time growing up.As for my favorite author for birth books, I love and highly recommend anything by Aviva Romm, who writes about natural wellness and herbal medicine for pregnancy, postpartum, babies and kids.

Find out more about all of the wonderful services Lena offers at her website: www.redmoonwellness.com