I have yet to meet a mom with young kids in my office who tells me that she has great energy and is getting plenty of rest. Fatigue is something we accept as normal in moms, but it doesn’t have to be this way! This is a great repost by Dr. Maggie Luther a co-contributor of mine on the NaturopathicPediatrics.com blog. Dr Maggie gives some great tips and information for regaining and maintaining your health through those early years of parenthood.
Alright, you are a new parent, or maybe you are a seasoned parent. Your days are long and your nights (of rest) are short. But the good part is that you can take a few key steps to ensure that when you are awake you have the energy you need to keep up with the little ones. And more importantly for those zzz’s you are getting, lets make them count!
Your diet is the most foundational, most important, most crucial part of your wellness plan. And for many of you, this may be the furthest thing from your mind. There are so many other things on the to-do list. But stick with me, I promise you will have a different perspective on this by the end.
Whether you want to stay healthy, or you want to get back to a good place of health, what you put in your mouth matters to your health. One of the worst things you can do is talk about “going on a diet.” I hear this a lot from new moms. They want to lose the baby weight and there are many ways to do it. Going on a restrictive diet is not one of them, especially if you are nursing. Remember nursing itself will help you gradually get back to a healthy weight. So for those of you who are still looking to lose a little weight, use the tips below to help ensure you are working your way towards there, safely.
And for those of you who may have older kids, and you are done nursing, but are looking for constant energy, and improved sleep, these tips are sure to help keep that sleep-wake cycle in balance and rejuvenated.
Your (Healthy) Diet
Your diet is at the heart of your medicine. Like Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” there is good reason for such a phrase. Think of food like the fuel in your car. You know that your car takes gas in order to run- so are you going to put water in it? Paint? Any other type of liquid? No! You are going to put fuel in it. Well, this may be a shock, but your body needs food to run- whole foods, which provide you with all the healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, proteins, and 100o’s of phytochemicals (nutrients, vitamins and minerals).
Your body does not do well on “food-like” substances. You know, the stuff that lines nearly all grocery store aisles.
And thus I bring you to the #1 Rule you should follow when grocery shopping. This is like your North Start for Health!
The Grocery Store Rule
If you were to walk into a grocery store and remain only in the perimeter of the store, plus the bulk aisle, you would find all the whole foods your body needs to stay nourished. You start in the produce, then to the fish and meat, chesses/dairy, deli and so on. You take a stroll down the aisle where you can get healthy oils, whole beans and grains, raw nuts and seeds and maybe a few odds and ends such as coconut oil or tamari. For the most part, your diet should only consist of foods listed above or located in the areas mentioned.
This action is vital to whole body health! Many moms will need some level of healing the adrenal glands, and to do that you need to provide your body with nutrients to fuel biochemical pathways daily! Yes, daily. No, not once a year when you decide you want to get healthy and have smoothies and juices for two weeks.
Every day of your life you have the opportunity to lay the foundation to your health and it starts with what you eat.
And to that point……
A Few Tenants of a Healthy Diet:
Eat Whole Foods
There is probably not much more to say on this one. If you predominantly eat whole foods: apples, asparagus, quinoa, wild caught salmon, etc, you will be well on your way to having a diet which supports your biochemistry, heals your adrenal fatigue, and keeps you healthy long into old age.
If you find that most of your shopping is done in the aisles, you are probably not eating mostly whole foods. You are eating mostly processed foods. Even at natural food stores, the aisles are filled with processed foods; gluten free treats often worse than the original, and food that just isn’t nutritious. Cereal is cereal, but oats are a whole different thing.
Eat Fermented Foods
Foods, which are fermented or cultured contain lots of living (and dead) micro-organisms that you could not survive without. You absolutely need to be giving your body and digestive system foods such as yogurt, kimchee, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, etc on a daily basis. There are many more foods that are traditionally fermented or cultured and I encourage you to explore and experiment. Plan on eating a little bit of cultured or fermented foods at least with one meal daily to start out, and as it becomes more habitual for you to eat these foods, start adding them to various meals throughout the day.
The health effects of regular fermented foods are astounding. Your body and mind’s health depends on the health of your gut, and when it is healthy and thriving, you too are healthy and thriving.
The best liquid you can drink is filtered water. You really can’t get much better than that, except maybe herbal tea, because then you are also giving your body some great medicine. You should strive for roughly half your body weight in ounces of water a day. If you are nursing you will want in upwards of 80-100 ounces of water daily depending on how often your little one is nursing.
You may find that with exercise and caffeine consumption you require more water. Liquids should not be consumed with a meal, as they dilute digestive juices and make it harder for your stomach and intestines to do the good work they are supposed to. Use liquids to wash meals down, but then enjoy them throughout the day between meals.
Other healthy liquids include: kombucha, raw milk, some alternative milks (i.e.; organic almond or hazelnut milk), organic green tea. Try to avoid soymilk, juices, sodas and too many caffeinated beverages. Even 100% fruit juice, unless fresh squeezed, has degraded and lost most of its nutrients due to sitting on a shelf. If you juice yourself, it is best to consume fresh pressed juices within 30 minute of making. If you are interested in juicing, a masticating juicer is a better way to go as it leaves much of the fiber in there making for a more “whole” juice. Smoothies are other options, but please try not to live off of smoothies, use them as supplemental.
5 Powerful DO’s in the DIET to Help Improve Adrenal Gland Function:
So, you are a mom.
In our super-busy society, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Long work hours, home and family obligations, and everyday stress can make anyone feel tired. Add to that relationship problems, serious illness, or a family crisis, and the flood of stress-related hormones can put some people into a state of constant fatigue. This is known as adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue syndrome affects the adrenal glands’ ability to regulate hormones, resulting in body aches, sleep disturbances, and exhaustion, irritability, and much more.
And that may mean your adrenals need more support than you are giving them. If you feel like this may be something affecting how you feel, be sure to check out my book: The Everything Guide to Adrenal Fatigue
1. Eat Breakfast. If you really are suffering from fatigue, then you need to eat breakfast to keep your blood sugar stable. The best thing to eat for breakfast though is not a bagel or croissant, as tasty as those might be. You want to eat protein. The protein will help keep cortisol and thus blood sugar better balanced. Eating within 30-45 minutes of waking is also beneficial, as it triggers leptin, the satiety hormone, and thus eating breakfast does better regulate your hunger and satiation cues throughout the entire day.
2. Eat good quality salt in moderation. Sea salt is rich in minerals, but does not have as much iodine as idodized salt. You can pick up more iodine by incorporating seaweeds and fish into the diet. Salt helps keep the adrenals happy as one of the main functions of the adrenal glands is mineral regulation in the body. Those who crave salt, often find that its because their adrenals are telling them they are overworked and need some down time. If you often crave salt, this may be a good indicator to have your adrenal function evaluated.
3. Eat regularly. Again, just like breakfast, if you have constant fatigue, then you will want to eat every 3 hours to keep blood sugar stable. Opt for healthy snacks such as an apple with raw almonds, hummus with veggie sticks or a whole milk yogurt from grass-fed animals (at least no hormones and antibiotics).
4. Choose good quality fats. Good fats, along with cholesterol are the building blocks of hormone production including adrenal gland hormones. Good fats include: avocado, butter/ghee, coconut, wild caught fish and grass fed meats, raw nuts and seeds. Free-range eggs are vital to health, if they are well tolerated. They provide the body with cholesterol, choline and B12, which are all important to adrenal and nervous system health.
5. Exercise. This is a no brainer and something that a lot of people struggle with, maybe even you. Look, I am not telling you to go become this competitive athlete with a rigid exercise schedule, but the truth of the matter is that exercise does just about everything: improve energy, reduces fatigue, improve sleep, keeps your heart healthy and your brain sharp, and honest to goodness makes you feel good. Make it fun. And make it something you will do. If you hate the gym, don’t get a membership, exercise at home or outside. If you need structure, join a gym and get a trainer or enroll in a weekly class. Whatever you decide, just do it!
BONUS: Limit sugar, caffeine and alcohol. If you truly have fatigue or experience symptoms from an imbalanced adrenal gland system, none of these things will really benefit you. Some whole food type sugars, sparingly (not daily) such as raw honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar can be fine to use. Caffeine and alcohol are going to pressure the adrenals to release more cortisol, so these are best avoided while you are healing your adrenals.
This last one can sometimes be the hardest and is often the thing that you need the least. Lots of moms will drink coffee because they are exhausted but instead of getting a lasting pick me up, you get a quick jolt and need another cup around 2pm. Instead, try organic green tea in the morning. Have a good protein rich breakfast. Make sure to have some healthy snacks, like trail mix, cheese sticks, or yogurt with you on the go, and I promise that afternoon slump will slowly fade!
Well, there you have it. Stick to these tips and you will get that energy back you desire. You will sleep deeply which will help you feel rested. And you will be an even better mom because you will be fully awake instead of half awake, when the 3 young ones are all talking at you at the same exact time!
And be sure to check out my book if you are looking for more solutions to improve energy, get your hormones in balance and feel like you again! The Everything Guide to Adrenal Fatigue