Healing Foods Postpartum
Nourishing your body after having a baby is such an essential part of the healing process as you transition into motherhood. It’s not just the first weeks postpartum (though still important) but the first few years that we really need to replenish and allow the body to heal. Some studies have shown that it can take up to three years for nutritional stores to be restored (Morell & Cowan, 2015).
Being a busy mama can definitely make it tricky to eat well and some days to even eat much at all! But it is so important for so many reasons. What we eat has an impact on mood, hormones, energy levels and the body’s ability to heal. This is especially important for mamas who are experiencing any pelvic floor dysfunction (pelvic pain, diastasis recti, pelvic organ prolapse, incontinence) as well as for prevention of the above symptoms. Chronic pelvic floor dysfunction has actually been associated with deficiencies in B1, B6, B12, folic acid, vitamin D & C, magnesium, iron and zinc (Pastore & Katzman, 2012).
So what types of nutrients & food support healing of the tissues?
Vitamin C – has a significant impact of collagen and tissue repair. Eating a variety of fruits and veggies will give you a good amount. Camu Camu is also very high in vitamin C and can be added to smoothies.
Vitamin D – This has a significant impact of both muscle function and strength. “A study published in the April 2010 edition of the “Obstetrics and Gynecology” states that one in four women in the United States have some form of pelvic floor disorder, and higher levels of vitamin D may reduce the risk of conditions such as pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence (Parker- Autry, Burgio, & Richter, 2012)”
Zinc- Grass fed beef, lamb, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, cashews, yogurt, kefir, chicken, spinach.
Magnesium- Spinach, pumpkin seeds, almonds, chard, black beans, yogurt/ kefir.
Collagen – This is essential both for the healing of tissues and energy levels. Broth is a wonderful source (which also contains many minerals) and collagen peptides can be a source as well.
Protein – Vital in tissue repair, healing, & energy levels. Chicken soup is wonderfuly healing food as it contains amino acids as well as collagen for tissue repair, gut health and decreasing inflammation.
Iron – Food sources include grass fed meat, dark leafy greens, black beans, lentils, dried fruit, peas
Pantry Essentials & Tips for Mamas
- Broth and warming soups – Broth and warm, nourishing soup filled with broth are some of my favourite healing foods. Broth is rich in minerals, contains collagen, and many amino acids such as glycine, glutlamine, proline which are essential for gut health, tissue healing and decreasing inflammation. You can sip it alone or have a hearty, nutrient rich soup. Chicken soup is great because the chicken provide lysine which is also important in the healing process. If you don’t have time to make your own there are many great quality options now (especially here in Calgary).
Collagen Peptides – Collagen is essential in the healing of tissues. Throw this is into smoothies, baking or even your coffee. It’s such an easy way to increase your protein & collagen intake. Vital proteins is a great option.
Healthy Fat- Make sure to add healthy fat into each meal. This could include ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, avocados.
Avocados - They are a lifesaver as a mama because you don’t have to prepare anything. I simply slice and add some sea salt and maybe a little sauerkraut as a snack.
Nut/ Seed Butters - Great to have on hand if you're needing an energy boost or adding a healthy fat to a smoothie. Pumpkin seed butter is a great way to add some zinc.
Additional add ins such as hemp hearts, chia seeds, bee pollen, nutritional yeast can really boost nutrition to whatever it is you’re eating!
Smoothies –These are lifesavers as a mom. You can pack these with so much amazing nutrition. I try to have some protein (collagen peptides, hemp hearts, bee pollen), healthy fat (nut/ seed butters, avocado, coconut butter, ghee), something green (spinach, kale, lettuce) . During the cool months or earlier postpartum try a warming smoothie which can be really nourishing.
Hydrate Mama! – This is a basic one but so important. Try drinking from a large cup or jar with a straw. Drinking from a straw is just easier with little ones around and you also won’t have to refill as many times if you drink from a larger cup or bottle.
Food Prep – Try to view food prep as a form of self-care. I try to take an hour, listen to some music or a podcast and have a glass of wine while getting a few things ready for the week. Figure out what works for you but this is what I usually do:o I usually cook up food to have hand for lunch. For me if there is a meal that gets missed it’s lunch.
o I cook a quality source of protein so it’s ready to grab for the next few days.
o Chop a massive kale salad and add different veggies (in the winter I sauté it for lunch with some ghee or olive oil)
o Chop sweet potatoes, squash, or cook up some quinoa to add to a warm salad, soup or have on hand for a quick meal.
Supplementation – Even when you are eating really well, taking a good quality supplement and continuing to take a prenatal vitamin can help further replenish nutritional stores. The demands being placed on you as mama such as lack of sleep, breastfeeding, anxiety or stress often require a little extra help from some good quality supplementation.
Support - Ask for help or accept offers for help whenever you can. We weren't meant to do this alone and having someone come by to help watch the kids or bring by a meal can make such a difference.
Just eat real food and enough food
I have broken down individual nutrients in regards to how they help the body heal. But the bottom line is as moms we need quality nutrition, real food. It doesn’t have to be complicated but just emphasize eating whole food and eating enough!
I get how hard it can be. I have days where I’m missing meals and grabbing the kid's leftovers instead of taking time to eat but keep trying mama because you deserve to feel amazing!
Yours in health,
Morell, S. & Cowan, T. (2015) The Nourishing Traditions book of baby & Childcare. Washington, DC : New Trends Publishing Inc., Pg. 212.
Parker- Autry, C., Burgio, K., & Richter, H. (2012) Vitamin D Status – A Clinical Review with Implications for the Pelvic Floor. International Urogynecol Journal; 23(11): 1517–1526.
Pastore E, & Katzman W. (2012) Recognizing Myofascial Pelvic Pain in the Female Patient with Chronic Pelvic Pain. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing. 41(5), 680-691.