Nutrition Hacks for Early C-section Recovery - Part 1: HEALED
By Kirstie Vesseur
So you’ve just come out of the oh so traumatic experience that is birth and for some of us, the ride has not been smooth sailing. We’ve now got this precious little bundle to take care of, our hormones are a mess, we’re feeling exhausted, potentially traumatized and like we’ve just arrived on PLANET MUM with a one-way non-refundable ticket.
Now, don’t get me wrong this new world is beautiful, vulnerable, and intimate but at the same time, perhaps a sense of loss or mourning for the old you, the old life, the sense of identity you had lingers.
At least this was my experience, and given this, I retreated.
I pulled back from work, from my friends, I intuitively knew my energy and body were in a place of needing to heal.
But how do you heal when you have ZERO TIME, ZERO SLEEP, POOR DIETARY HABITS (The “I’m pregnant” excuse is no longer relevant dammit), and the demands of life to contend with??
After dealing with many many clients over the years, I’ve come to understand that it’s not about perfection, heck, sometimes it’s not even about progress! It's about radical acceptance for the season that you're in. It's about coming back to gratitude for the little things, and not getting overwhelmed by the road ahead. It’s about taking the journey one precious day at a time.
So let's agreeeee that from here on in, in this journey, we will practice radical acceptance for our beautiful AMAZING bodies and take each day as it comes in gratitude for the precious little souls who have just joined us earth side.
Let me introduce you to a concept you may or may not be familiar with, that is, you are now in what is called the ‘fourth trimester' (the 12 week period directly after birth) where your body has just gone through the most incredible process that it can experience - growing another human being and delivering that human into the world. This places big demands on your nutrient stores.
And now that the growing and delivery is over, you’re responsible for caring for an entirely dependent new person!
During this time, your body is depleted and needs not only extra nutrients but calories in order to fuel your breastfeeding and heal your depleted body.
Now is NOT the time to be going on a fad diet like keto or intermittent fasting etc.
If you're breastfeeding you will need to add another 500cals or an extra meal or two extra snacks to your day to adequately fuel yourself and even more, if you are exercising also. If the body suspects food scarcity during this time (and this can include a shift in macros) it will downregulate milk production as a consequence.
The body is always asking ‘am I safe?’ So pushing it too far in any direction will have unwanted consequences.
Cool so what does radical acceptance look like come mealtime?
Well, it’s about listening to what your body wants (food), and knowing how to give it the right food to heal and support your body and mind.
Below is a little information on how each of the macros works and how to build a healthy plate and eat lots of yummy, good food.
Protein creates the STRUCTURE of the body (1 palm/hand full per meal)
Proteins aid in the growth of new cell tissues and help the healing process. Protein-rich foods facilitate tissue repair and maintain muscle strength after surgery. You can eat fish, eggs, chicken, dairy foods (if tolerated), meat, peas, dried beans, and nuts. These foods provide high-quality protein, help you burn fat. It helps with proper wound healing, keeps your energy stable, keeps you feeling full, and it also supports feel-good chemicals that fuel the brain. (dopamine, serotonin, melatonin, norepinephrine, and epinephrine)
PRO TIP: Aim to include protein sources, like hummus, nut butter, or lean meats and fish with every meal and snack.
Fat creates STRUCTURE and is FUEL for our body (1-2Tbsp full)
Your cell membranes are made up of fat molecules. Therefore, it is important to include adequate good fats in your diet to help with the following: insulation and protection of our major organs help absorb fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K), keeps you feeling full and your energy stable, fights inflammation, which is especially useful after surgery as there is significant inflammation in your body. Lastly and ideally, avoid hydrogenated cooking oils which are toxic to our bodies- these include oils such as Canola, Corn, Cottonseed, Soy, Sunflower, Safflower, Grapeseed, Rice bran. These oils are very high in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), which promote inflammation and the accumulation of toxins in body fat. Instead, use coconut oil for cooking, dress salads and veggies with olive oil and cook meat leaving the fat on. It’s full of nutrients, not to mention flavor!
Starchy root vegetables like potato and kumara or grains like rice
Think of ‘roots’ like anything that grows underground. These are FUEL for our body, so use appropriately based on activity levels (1 closed fist or 2 if breastfeeding)
The major role of almost all carbohydrates in the body is fuel (they do however play some important roles in cell signaling in conjunction with proteins - 'glycoproteins, they are almost exclusively an energy molecule, And whilst you certainly do need a lot of fuel to breastfeed and heal after birth, I know you probably have a small desire to lose a little bit of weight after birth. So if you like, you can apply the 1-2 fist method to your carbohydrates (depending on whether you are breastfeeding-in which case you’ll need an extra 500cals approx. of fuel anyway) which could be potato, kumara, or rice for example. Non-starchy fruits and vegetables
Don’t skimp on the fruits and veggies!
Fruits and veggies are filled with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and FIBER! It’s especially important for you after your C-section to incorporate fruits and veggies as It’ll help to regulate blood sugar.
It keeps us fuller for longer, reduces cholesterol, removes toxins including hormonal byproducts, helps with sleep and mood by sending happy, feel-good chemicals to the brain annndddd improves digestion and digestive function.
This ladies, is an important one, as constipation is relatively common after giving birth, either vaginally, or via C-section.
This can be caused by new mamma’s lack of mobility, as we are stuck on the couch or with our wee ones and too exhausted to move! pain medications, dehydration, lack of dietary fiber, iron supplements, or even a fear of tearing stitches from straining.
Therefore mamma’s, make sure to include lots of fiber in your meals by getting in those fruits and vegetables, 5-7 servings of veggies, and 2 servings of fruit a day! OR half a plate of vege with every meal. Other good sources of fiber could also include whole grains, chia seeds, and oatmeal
PROTIP: Oatmeal is a galactagogue, meaning it helps with milk production and supply).
Let's put it all together...
PRO TIP: Getting your bowels moving! By drinking more water.
Regardless of whether you are breastfeeding or not, hydration is absolutely key! It will help you feel more awake and energized, it will help speed up the healing process, and it will also help keep your bowels moving, which as discussed above, women have a hard time getting this going again immediately after birth. Both fiber and fluids help to keep stool softer and moving through your system. You can help up your fluid intake by drinking water or tea, making smoothies, or eating soups.
That's it for this week’s blog.
Next, we’ll talk about the ‘RESTORE’ portion of the course, which will be jam-packed with what specific micronutrients you can lean into to help you move further along your journey. Aaannnnnnndd, as always, a few little words of wisdom, tricks, and hacks to help your recovery, healing, restoration, and to build strength in your body, whilst practicing radical acceptance for the amazing mamma you are and the beautiful woman who’s now the caretaker of your wonderful new baby and precious little soul.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Kirstie Vesseur is a Clinical nutritionist specializing in women's hormones-PMS, PMDD, Infertility, Endometriosis and other hormonal issues. She puts the pieces of the puzzle together using symptomatology, diagnostic testing | analysis and a route cause approach. Get in Contact with Kirstie: www.legacynutrition.co.nz email: email@example.com Call: 021 588 681