Nutrition for optimal post-natal healing
Let’s imagine for a moment that you are a professional football player – and you’ve become injured. Your job, finances and career all rely on you getting rehabilitated quickly.
You’d seek out the best exercise programme to help, rest to allow your body to recover and fuel your body with optimal nutrition and hydration to support your healing
In your role as a mum or a new mum nutrition is incredibly important and one of the most overlooked parts of the recovery puzzle.
A cut or trauma to the body (of any kind so let’s think about a graze to the hand for example) takes approximately a year to fully heal all those layers of tissue, skin and internal structures. So if we are trying to heal pelvic floor, diastasis recti or recovering from a C-section our nutrition is key to supporting that.
Muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia are made up mostly of collagen so if we support collagen repair we can have a helping hand in speeding up the recovery process for the body. So if we are thinking of healing diastasis recti then we need to look at how the collagen repair is being fuelled.
What do we need for optimal post-natal body and collagen repair?
Hydration – a collagen molecule is made up of approximately 70% water and dehydration impairs oxygen delivery to wounded tissues
Protein and Amino acids – protein and amino acids are vital for collagen synthesis, tissue re-modelling, wound contraction and skin re-structure. Your body doesn’t store amino acids so it needs a regular daily supply of these daily building blocks
Bioflavonoids and anti-oxidants – these protect against oxidative and free radical damage and modify the body’s responses to inflammatory compounds such as allergens, viruses and carcinogens.
Vitamins and minerals –In particular vitamin A, E, C, copper, zinc to promote cell regeneration and repair.
Essential fats to provide energy (so protein can be used for wound repair) and aids the absorption of vital fat soluble vitamins including vitamin A
Nutrition and post-natal depression
The body’s response to stress (and lack of sleep!) hormone cortisol is elevated during pregnancy, birthing and in the post-natal period. Cortisol inflames the system and therefore stress management is essential in all of these stages.
Vitamins B12, B9, B6 and fish oils have a role in mood stabilisation and mental health as well as reducing inflammation.
Zinc and copper deficiencies have also been linked to post-natal depression
We’ve just touched above on the body’s responses to stress. Sleep deprivation is a given for new parents and something everyone can resonate with. Ever put your car keys in the fridge?
Sleep deprivation affects several hormones and metabolic processes in the body and studies have shown that just a week of sleep deprivation can cause significant alterations in glucose tolerance (how easily your body can recognise sugar in the blood stream and put it into the cells of the body where it will fuel activity). Impaired glucose tolerance can make you more likely to develop diabetes and cardio-vascular disease as well as cause weight gain as the body will store more fat (a normal response if you take yourself back to the caveman times where you’d need fat stored to take you through times of famine and conserving the energy supplies you do have – but equally not helpful in a modern society where food and water is readily to hand)
Sleep deprivation also increases your appetite stimulating hormone Ghrelin (again taking us back to caveman times – if you were lacking in energy you’d require more fuel). Continuous sleep deprivation seems to irregulate levels of cortisol which play havoc with your quality of sleep and fat storage.
So throw the lavender oil on to the pillow and tuck yourself in for an 8 hour recharge...
Oh if only if were that simple!
Sleep deprivation is a given for new parents (parents full stop actually talking from personal experience) so given all that information it’s easy to see how the odds are stacking against your body. When you then consider the nutrition for a new parent includes short-term boosts from sugar, caffeine and non-nutrient dense foods it’s easy to see how you could get caught up in a permanent merry go round of tiredness.
So what’s the answer?
Foods that fuel, foods that repair and hydration, hydration, hydration. I’m not going to tell you that eating a biscuit because you’ve been stuck under a feeding/sleeping baby for 3 hours and you can’t get to the kitchen or wolfing a cake down in a coffee shop because you’ve not even managed to brush your hair today let alone think about having lunch is the wrong thing to do (again we’ve all been there!) but being mindful more often than not about your nutritional intake is the key to better energy levels and getting off the caffeine.
Nutrition for many people especially new mums can be very black and white – you are either being “good or bad” – but if you stopped trying to be perfect and worked on being more mindful by 50% you’d find that your healing, mood levels and energy would also increase by that 50% and if someone could bottle a pill that boosted anyone’s energy levels by 50% they’d be making a killing!
So that one is really down to you. Just remember it’s not about being perfect and certainly not about getting yourself on a weight loss programme – it’s about fuelling your body for energy, health and healing – the aesthetics benefits will come as a matter of course regardless if you have those at the forefront of your mind.