With this article I intent to share some useful materials about the so-called “postnatal depletion syndrome”, which, to a greater or lesser extent, every woman feels when she becomes a mother.
All the information I’m sharing is obtained from the book “The Postnatal Depletion Cure. A complete guide to rebuilding your health, and reclaiming your energy”, written by the doctor of functional medicine Dr. Oscar Serrallach. He recommends this books for mothers of newborns, toddlers and young children.
For the first time, I learned about this postpartum recovery guide from Gwyneth Paltrow, the founder of the Goop portal, where her team shares modern research, interviews with top-notch professionals, and many useful tips on various health-related topics.
The author of the book gives detailed recommendations on the optimal level of trace elements that is necessary for a new mom’s body to meet her health needs and the needs of her baby. He also shares the specific supplements and dosages (with this data, you could discuss them with your doctor and work out a recovery scheme together).⠀
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What Is Postnatal Depletion?
The female body is unique: growing a baby inside a woman’s body requires a huge amount of resources. We are programmed to give the baby in the womb everything we can, very often at the expense of our own supplies. Pregnancy and childbirth, namely, physiological and hormonal changes, strayed circadian rhythms together with the emotional swings, stress and depression – this is what makes a cocktail of reasons for postnatal depletion syndrome.
This problem is especially prevalent in the Western world, when it is believed that a woman should return to her normal life immediately after giving birth, dropping all her extra weight in a couple of weeks like no big deal.
On the contrary, in almost all oriental and tribal cultures, there are traditions of very caring attitude to the new mother, which include complete postnatal care for her:
- cooking special foods (more on that below)
- ensuring lack of visitors
- minimizing movement (up to constant staying in bed) for 2-6 (!) weeks.
Women prepare traditional nutritious meals:
- in China – chicken, soup, eggs, and milk. Cold food is prohibited;
- in Korea – algae soup. Raw and cold foods are also prohibited;
- in India – fish that is cooked with a lot of spices (garlic, ginger, pepper, dill), as well as almond and pistachio dishes;
- in Tibet – milk, meat broth, bone broth, ghee oil.
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Signs of Postnatal Depletion Include:
- digestive problems after the baby is born,
- constant fatigue,
- apathy, confusion, heavy head, brain fog,
- excessive sensitivity to light and sharp sounds,
4 pillars of Health, According to Dr. Serrallach
- Full restoring sleep;
- Meaning (personal mission, self-interest, place in the world);
- Physical activity;
Micronutrients that need to be checked after delivery and most often restored:
- B-vitamins, especially Vitamin B12
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin C
- Fat-soluble vitamins A, E, K2
- Other Minerals: Copper, Magnesium, Iodine, Selenium, Molybdenum
How to Check and Restore Your Vitamin-Mineral Resources After Childbirth?
Now I’m going to give you the specific recommendations from Dr. Oscar Serrallach on vitamins, minerals and trace elements that should be checked after childbirth.
I hope for your vigilance – take vitamin and mineral complexes or any other supplements only based on the results of blood tests and after consultation with a specialist.
The characteristic signs of iron deficiency are fatigue, anemia and lack of energy. In childbirth, a woman loses a fairly large amount of blood, so anemic conditions happen quite often in the postnatal period.
On average, a person is able to assimilate only 18% of iron from animal products and 10% from plant foods (and this is taking into account the fact that you are very good at chewing foods, otherwise the numbers will be even lower).
In the US, 18 mg of iron is considered the minimum daily intake for a healthy woman.
To understand this better, let’s see how much iron we can get through our diet:
- Shellfish (for instance, 100 gram of clams) – 28 mg of iron
- Leafy greens (like 200 grams of fresh spinach) – 0.9 mg of iron;
- Meet (60 grams of beef) – 2.4 mg of iron.
Dr. Serrallach considers ferritin levels to be optimal at 50 mcg / l.
In the United States, a serious iron deficiency is treated with iron sucrose droppers, or with vitamin A — iron glucose.
Learn about other natural sources of iron you can get from food here.
Signs of zinc deficiency can be white spots on the nails, wounds in the corners of the mouth, weakened appetite, a large number of stretch marks on the skin after pregnancy. To study the status of zinc in the body, plasma is preferred. Dr. Serrallach considers the optimal level of zinc to be 15 umol / L.
According to statistics, 82% of pregnant women suffer from zinc deficiency. For the treatment of this deficiency, the doctor recommends to take zinc picolinate or citrate.
FOODS RICH IN ZINC:
seafood, chicken, meat, eggs, nuts.
3. VITAMIN B12
Checking your blood for this vitamin is especially vital for vegetarians and vegans.
A single shot of Methylcobalamin B12 is considered to be the most effective way to restore the deficiency. Another quite effective form of B12 your body can absorb easily is a sublingual spray.
When the level of B12 in the body is restored to normal blood values, you can kinda forget about checking it up to two years. This is exactly the time your body will have enough of vitamin B12 to meet the needs of your body.
FOODS RICH IN VITAMIN B12
- Clams – 84.1 mcg per 3 ounces
- Beef liver – 70.7 mcg per 3 ounces
- Salmon – 4.8 mcg per 3 ounces
- Trout – 3.5 mcg per 3 ounces
- Milk – 1.2 mcg per cup
- Eggs – 0.6 mcg per hard-boiled egg
4. VITAMIN D
Why having enough vitamin D is so crucial after childbirth?
- Vitamin D is a “good mood” vitamin. According to the research, vitamin D may help women recover from postpartum depression. More information about vitamin D and PPD is here.
- It protects your bones against fractures and helps to ingest calcium.
- Vitamin D strengthens your immune and nervous system, which both tend to be shattered after childbirth.
- It protects your body from cancer.
How do I get enough of vitamin D?
It’s no secret that the most natural way to get vitamin D is expose yourself to the sunlight. But this is not that easy. There are several conditions that must be observed:
- the sun should stay at 45 degrees above the horizon (there are even some apps that can send you a reminder about this).
- you have to stay under the sun for at least 15 minutes.
- Your arms and legs should be bare (without clothes).
- You shouldn’t wear sunscreen anywhere but the face (we ain’t get younger, right? So you’ve got to protect your face from early aging).
- Don’t take a shower within 10 minutes after you’ve been exposed to the sun. You can actually wash off the vitamin D.
If you follow all the rules listed above, your body can generate up to 20,000 IU of vitamin D after one short sunbathing session.
Most typically, women after childbirth suffer from copper toxicity rather than deficiency. High levels of cooper may lead to anxiety, depression and aggravate all the health problems you already have (like headache, for example).
When you check your blood for copper you should also test zinc levels. If the copper-zinc proportion is over one unit, you have copper toxicity.
This problem is easily treatable by including zinc and molybdenum supplements into your diet.
6. VITAMIN C
This vitamin is vital for the production of collagen, health of the adrenals and immune system. You can easily get it though food sources. For example, one orange contains a daily amount of vitamin C.
Here are other food sources of vitamin C.
7. FAT-SOLUBLE VITAMINS: A, E, K2
Important thing to remember. These vitamins tend to build up in the body, so don’t take them in high doses and for a long time.
A blood test will easily show the deficiency.
However, you can also check whether you’re deficient in the following way: if your front teeth are a little transparent on the bottom, it means you are deficient.
Vitamin K2 is easier to get from foods. Make sure to include eggs, fermented foods and aged cheese into your diet – these are the best sources of vitamin K2.
Dr. Serrallach’s Advice on Nutrition, Balancing Hormonal and Energy Levels.
Oscar Serrallach suggests adhering to the following principles of nutrition. The diet should be:
✔️Rich in supplements and superfoods
Determine the vitamins and minerals your body needs with the help of a blood test and restore the body supplies.
✔️Close to traditional foods
In other words, the diet should include plenty of products and dishes we ate in the childhood as these foods has formed our gut microbiome. Thus, in order to get back to balance, you have to remember what your mom fed you with.
✔️Inspired by the paleo protocol
That is, as our ancestors ate during the late Paleolithic (before the agrarian revolution). This diet excludes not only sugar and processed foods, but also cereals, dairy, and legumes.
Dr. Oscar Serrallach, however, is not so judgmental: he allows his patients to include gluten-free grains (like quinoa, rice, amaranth, buckwheat) and legumes (properly prepared and only if a person can digest them well) into their diets.
One man’s meat is another man’s poison. Every person is unique, and our diet guidelines can and should be different. ⠀
Make a choice in favor of local and environmentally-friendly products. ⠀
For example, the iron content in spinach can differ up to 1500 times, depending on the soil it was grown in, the use of the fertilizers (if any) and the cooking method. Another good example is this: there are 100 calories in the farmer’s egg and in one cookie, however, the nutrients saturation of these two products is striking.
The Ideal Proportion of Macronutrients:
- A large amount of healthy fats (50-60%): ghee oil, cold-pressed vegetable oils (olive, linseed, hemp), nuts, and avocados;
- An average amount of protein (20-25%): organic fish, eggs, legumes, nuts, and chicken;
- A low amount of carbohydrates (20-30%): gluten-free grains and legumes, fiber and berries.
According to the doctor’s experience, women with postnatal depletion syndrome are rapidly recovering with minimization and even complete elimination of grains from the diet; all carbohydrates during this period are best obtained from bright starchy vegetables, for example, sweet potatoes and pumpkin. It really reminds me of something between a keto / paleo diet with a lot of vegetables.
The doctor recommends to have three full meals a day, without snacking. If there is a need for a snack, it would be better to make a choice in favor of vegetables, nuts, and boiled eggs.
Don’t forget to hydrate your body and drink 8 glasses of clean water every day (10 glasses, if you are breastfeeding).
Sleep, rest, proper nutrition and movement are quite an effective combination to restore hormones after childbirth. But what kind of a good quality sleep can we talk about if there is a newborn in the family?
It seems to me that after childbirth, the most important thing is to set up priorities. A rested and happy mother can give the family much more than a tired out and dissatisfied one. So your number one priority should be to find time for your own sleep and rest (day and night).
It is easily achieved if you attract help from your relatives and close friends. The idea is to delegate the cleaning and cooking part to other people so that you’d be able to have more time to spend with the baby, sleep, eat and walk outside.
You can make a schedule and organize the so-called meal train. The idea is this: friends and relatives bring homemade meals to a new mom leaving them by the door (without disturbing a new mother).
As to me, the idea with a meal train is genius, at least because a new mom is so overwhelmed with the new role in her life, can still be in a lot of discomforts both physically and mentally and the last thing she is capable of is hosting guests in her house.
I know for myself I’d like to have the whole postpartum experience differently the second time around as with my first baby I was too absorbed in cleaning, cooking, hosting guests, which brought tons of discomforts and aggravated my emotional state. I felt weak, depressed, sleep-deprived and failed because my expectation were too high and I thought not much would have changed after the baby arrived.
RELATED: 5 HABITS OF A HAPPY MOM
How wrong I was! The baby changed EVERYTHING! So there’s no need to act as a “perfect” mama having it all done by yourself. It’s the fastest way to postnatal depletion, actually.
You can also try some alternative medicine to restore your energy levels. The following things may work wonders:
- adaptogens, especially ashwagandha and rhodiola;
- revitalizing yoga;
- breathing practices;
- quality sleep.
And That’s A Wrap!
I hope the recommendations I gave above (based on a great book written by Dr. Oscar Serrallach and my personal postpartum experience) would be of some help to you.
I would love it if you share your own postpartum experience in comments below and what you did to make it easier.