Hey mamas – this is for you!
After pushing through the delicate stages of the fourth trimester, probably way too quickly, we all start to feel that post-natal crash that seems to last – well, forever. We usually drop down from that oxytocin-induced cloud around week six postpartum, and that’s when the fatigue, pressure and emotions take over. Although there are days that are normal-ish, the feeling of never really being able to catch your breath often becomes the constant. Why is that? What can we do, mamas, to support our health while walking the tightrope of motherhood?
As mothers, we’re running on empty. We’ve become so accustomed to functioning on fumes, we don’t even notice it. We carry the domestic mental load; we’re often the lead parent and many of us do this while working part-time or full-time. We can tick through a Top 10 List of why nutrition for mothers is important, but I want to focus in on this, superzoom if you will, and apply it specifically to a metabolic reaction in the body. I’m talking about ‘fight or flight’. Two of the main symptoms that I see in clinic, particularly with mothers, are stress and fatigue which are both related to the fight-or-flight response. This longterm state of being will compromise our health, specifically our adrenal health.
Stress and our body
Our adrenal glands sit right above our kidneys and help to regulate our stress and sex hormones. They excrete the stress hormone cortisol, which is essential to modulate our body’s response to internal and external stressors, which we now deal with hundreds of times a day. Fight-or-flight happens when our body perceives something as a threat to our lives, with certain death as a result if we don’t run free. In ancestral times, this was the likes of a sabortooth tiger (watch the animated film The Croods, you’ll see what I mean).
Fight-or-flight, although meant to be an acute stress response, is now chronic. A recent survey found a significant increase in stress levels in the U.S. with the current political status to blame. With Brexit on the horizon, a similar tone in the UK is in the air. But national unrest isn’t the only thing causing humans’ stress levels to spike. Nature created fight-or-flight as a survival mechanism and now it’s killing us. It’s become our societal ‘norm’ to spend the majority of our waking hours in fight-or-flight mode, through everyday occurrences like dealing with sleepless nights and early morning work meetings, trying to feed your toddler in a rush after an epic Ikea shop or nurturing that monumental hangover while trying to get kids out the door for school. These are all modern day stressors that can trigger a sophisticated and complex chain of reactions, wrecking our sleep, our mental health, our work lives and relationships and leading to lifestyle health conditions and requiring important lifestyle changes – nutrition being one of them.
Nutrition for stress and fatigue
When considering recovery, energy and mental health, a diverse and colourful diet can provide us with the right amount of nutrients for good health and wellbeing. Brightly coloured foods contain essential nutrients, like vitamin C, calcium and magnesium, as well as nonessential phytonutrients – derived from plants – that act as antioxidants, anti-inflammatories and immune enhancers, which when we’re exhausted and under pressure, we need. So, aim to create a plate that resembles a multicoloured spectrum of light in the sky – that’s right, eat the rainbow.
- Focus on dark green leafy vegetables: spinach, rocket, kale, broccoli and cabbage – these will provide you with some lovely adrenal-loving nutrients.
- Increase your nuts & seeds: pumpkin seeds, cashews, almonds, walnuts – make these your go-to snacks which will give you a good dose of important B vitamins, essential for the energy cycle.
- Keep an eye on your vitamin C intake, as this is a super important nutrient to help regulate our stress hormones. Increase your vitamin C: red pepper, berries, lemon and papaya.
I think I’ve managed to include almost all colours of the rainbow there!
Remember to make food choices that are nourishing and mindful, that way food can do what it’s meant to do, support our body in all of it’s complex metabolic functions. If you’re feeling fatigued, lethargic, brain fog and/or struggling to shift the weight and need support to get your health back – get in touch. Let’s look after ourselves and each other!
Much love Mamas!