Before digging into nutrition recommendation for postpartum, it is helpful to understand what happens with your hormones during and after pregnancy. Keep in mind that this is just a portion of the hormonal imbalances that occur after birth.
Estrogen and progesterone both play a significant role during pregnancy including the birthing process. Placenta increases the production of progesterone during pregnancy. So with birth, as you lose your placenta, your body will go through a sudden drop in progesterone levels.
At the same time, estrogen will peak in levels around 24 hours after birth. Both of these events will create a hormonal imbalance in your body that can be referred to as estrogen dominance. Since both hormones are vital to a healthy postpartum recovery, this shift is less than ideal.
Estrogen dominance often shows itself with increased irritability, low energy, mood swings (even depression) and bloating! This hormonal imbalance can typically be linked to most postpartum issues but the good news is, what you eat can help you re-establish some balance.
Like in pregnancy, focusing your diet around whole, natural foods is best. Some food items in particular though can provide some added bonuses when it comes to dealing with this excess of estrogen!
Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes all have a couple of things in common. They are all a great source of fiber which can help increase excretion of estrogen. They are also a good source of phytoestrogen.
These phytoestrogen are typically a plant based estrogen that can help trick the body into thinking it has produced enough estrogen which will in turn reduce its production of the hormone.
Soy is known for having high phytoestrogen content but unfortunately can be hard for the body to process. Avoiding a heavy soy based diet especially one focused around processed soy like soy formulas, drinks and meat-like or dairy-like soy products is highly recommended. Fermented soy, like miso or tempeh, on the other hand is much better tolerated and easier to metabolize!
Cruciferous vegetables like kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts can also be very helpful at blocking estrogen production. Just be mindful that they can sometimes cause problems with breastfeeding.
Eating organic foods where possible especially for meat and the “dirty dozen” is important as pesticides can mimic estrogen in the body affecting hormone levels.
Other things to pay attention to would be adequate protein intake and Omega 3s which you can find in flaxseeds, chia seeds, fatty fish like salmon and fish oils.
Some supplements may also be helpful. What I usually recommend would be the following:
- Multi vitamin (Finishing off your prenatal vitamins are also fine)
- Vitamin D (Especially in the winter)
- Omega 3
- Vitamin C
Adaptogen herbs can be great for hormonal balance, especially maca root. But not all of them are safe for breastfeeding so make sure you check with your health practitioner before adding them to your daily routine.
Sometimes, with all these changes, we forget about ourselves as mom. The focus is on our newborn, as first time parents trying to adapt to this new life, or as parents of multiple children trying to cope with the new baby, lack of sleep and busy older siblings! But it’s important to remember to listen to our bodies and give it the additional support it needs to recover. Giving birth is no joke! So to finish, here are a few extra tips that could help you get your hormones on track.
- Regular exercise: Going for some light walks at your pace and when you feel ready will definitely help.
- Get enough sleep: Haha I know how funny this is but sleeping when you can is important should be a priority in the beginning.
- Exposure to sunlight: This can be tricky in our climate especially in the winter, but trying to soak up those rays will really be helpful.
- Waiting to start back on birth control as the common contraceptive pill can wreak havoc on your hormonal system.
- Avoiding using plastic in the microwave: You might have heard about this before, but heating plastic this way can have a negative effect on your hormones.
- Other things like acupuncture and having a good stress reliving technique can help with hormonal imbalance!
Claudine McTeer is a Certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant who specializes in fertility, pregnancy and postpartum nutrition. You can find out more on her website www.nourishflourishcherish.ca or check out her Instagram page @nourishflourishcherish
My name is Rachelle and I am the owner and founder of Momentum Health & Wellness . I am devoted to inspire and promote health and wellness to individuals and families. I want to create a community where people feel motivated to share their wellness journey and to encourage one another to be positive role models in their home, at work and in the community. I offer prenatal fitness classes, postnatal fitness classes, fitcamp, personal training, injury rehabilitation, events and corporate wellness.
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