How To Feel Your Best Postpartum

How To Feel Your Best Postpartum

Alexis Reid

postpartum tired mom

It seems that today in our society all of the focus is on pregnancy, and the time immediately following the birth of the baby. It is part of our culture to plan baby showers weeks in advance and plan a visit to come see the baby as soon as he or she is born. But what happens after a few weeks? All too often now, after a few days to weeks the partner has to go back to work and mom is left on her own with the new addition. All those people who were at her baby shower are nowhere to be seen! Not so long ago, people tended to stay in the community they grew up in, and grandmas, aunts and sisters were available to drop by and help mom out.  This is an area where a postpartum doula can be very helpful. Postpartum doulas help to care for mom and baby, cooking, running errands, light housekeeping and much more. Here is a link to a good FAQ on what postpartum doulas do. There also seems to have been a shift in society to be able to be “super mom” and do it all. Not only is this not possible (I can hear you all breathing a sigh of relief… you are normal!), it’s not healthy for mom and baby.

 

 

While it is important to get mobile again after giving birth, it is also important to not try and overdo it. The first three months of the baby’s life can be thought of as the 4th trimester, a lot of growth and development happens in this time period. There are also a lot of changes for mom. This is the time to have a “baby moon”. A Baby moon is time for mom and baby to get plenty of rest, the partner to be very involved, and both parents to get in tune with their baby’s cues. This can reduce the risk of postpartum depression and help to reduce the feelings of being overwhelmed and exhausted which are super common in the first 12 weeks.

 

 

In the final stages of your pregnancy it is a good idea to get your house prepared for the new arrival. Healthy and easy to digest freezer meals are a great gift to give a new mom. Having the stress of meals and housekeeping duties reduced is essential in the first 12 weeks.

 

 

Top 10 Tips For Postpartum Recovery

 

 

1) Rest and sleep are very important. Make these your number 1 priority.

 

 

2) Drink plenty of water. It is necessary for your breast milk supply, to help keep urine flowing to reduce the risk of infection, and help to keep stools soft.

 

 

3) Eat whole foods that are nourishing and easily digestible such as fish, cooked vegetables, oatmeal, and chicken soup/broth

 

 

4) Avoiding constipation is important Include fiber in the diet. Eating 1-2 prunes a day can help to reduce the risk of constipation.

 

 

5) Make a nutritive tea. Combine equal parts nettle, red raspberry and oat straw.  Steep 1 tsp in 1 cup of water, have 3 times a day. This tea is safe and helpful for breastfeeding.

 

 

6) Use a Sitz Bath Soak to help aid in the healing of tears. This blend of herbs can also be used in a peri bottle. Keep the peri bottle on the back of the toilet for use after urination.

 

 

7) Get outside. While it is important to be resting, there are many benefits to mood from spending 20-30 minutes outside/day. Gentle walks should be ok for most women in the first 12 weeks.

 

 

8) Continue taking your prenatal supplement. Your body still needs increased nutrients in the postpartum period

 

 

9) Fish oil, with at least 750 mg EPA, can help reduce the risk of postpartum depression

 

 

10) Probiotics, Vitamin B12, Iron and Vitamin C may also be required. Speak to your naturopathic doctor to help determine your individual needs

 

 

Postpartum depression/anxiety are also quite common after birth and are nothing to be ashamed of. Common symptoms can be rapid mood changes, anxiety regarding how to care for baby, feeling very overwhelmed, and having “muddled” thinking. It is thought to be due to a dramatic drop in estrogen and progesterone and an increase in prolactin (the hormone that facilitates breast feeding). There are many ways to naturally manage postpartum anxiety with foods, vitamins and herbs. Mom should be seen by her family and/or naturopathic doctor if she is experiencing any of these symptoms.

 

 

The best medicine is always prevention. Be sure to work with your naturopathic doctor during your pregnancy to help set yourself up for an optimal delivery and speedy recovery in the postpartum period.

 

Talk Soon,

Dr Alexis

 Dr Alexis practices in Stittsville at Living Science Wellness Centre. Call 613.836.7901 to schedule your appointment.

 

 

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How To Get Your Best Sleep After Having a Baby

How To Get Your Best Sleep After Having a Baby

Alexis Reid

 

It comes as no surprise that in the 6-12 months (if you are lucky!) after having a baby, mom’s amount of sleep is GREATLY reduced. There isn’t a tonne that can be done about the amount of sleep you get in the early days beyond making sure that you are taking advantage of every opportunity to sleep. What can be helped is the quality of your sleep. It typically takes 90 min after falling asleep to enter into the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) cycle. The first REM cycle is short and they become progressively longer over the night, which is one of the reasons that it is advantageous to sleep uninterrupted for longer periods of time. It is during REM sleep that the brain and body get a chance to heal from the day and stay healthy. If you do not have dreams while you are sleeping it can be an indication that you are not getting into REM sleep. For many new mom’s it is not possible to sleep for long periods of time, as baby is still frequently waking. In the blog post I will focus on how you can get the best quality of sleep even if it is for a limited amount of time.

Negative Effects of Not Getting Good Quality Sleep

  • Increased Food Cravings- For high fat and calorie/sugar foods. Lack of sleep reduces the hormone leptin, which helps suppress appetite and increases ghrelin which stimulates hunger. It’s not your willpower…it’s your hormones! Speaking of hormones…
  • Increased Cortisol- Lack of sleep puts stress on your body making it release more of the stress hormone cortisol. Higher levels of cortisol make it harder to fall asleep, increase anxiety and increase food cravings.
  • Lack of Energy- Our bodies need sleep to repair and regenerate. Without this rest period you can be left feeling like you are always running on empty.

How to Make the Most of Your Sleep

Diet

  • Avoid caffeine After 12 noon- Caffeine has a half-life of 12-18 depending on how fast you can metabolize it. If you are having a coffee at 3-4 pm it can definitely be keeping you awake at 2 am.
  • Blood Sugar Regulation- People who wake up between 1-3 am can be experiencing a blood sugar crash. One way to correct this problem is to have a small protein filled snack before bed. Good options include: handful of nuts and seeds, a small piece of meat or a hard boiled egg
  • Stop the Pop- Between the sugar and the caffeine it is a recipe for disaster, and I know what you are thinking but diet pop is no better. Diet pop leaves your body craving the sugar it expected to receive from the sweet taste, and leads to over eating.

Exercise/Lifestyle

  • No Strenuous Exercise 3 Hours Before Bed- Exercise is a great thing, but timing is important. Intense exercise can raise cortisol levels (which is ok as long as you do not have adrenal fatigue). Naturally our cortisol levels should be highest in the morning and falling at night. Nighttime strenuous exercise disrupts your body’s natural rhythms.
  • Yoga- A relaxing flow or yin yoga before bed can help shift the body into the parasympathetic (rest and digest) state and decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.
  • Deep Breathing- Breathing deeply where the abdomen goes out instead of the chest has been shown to reduce cortisol. Try 10 deep breaths before bed.

Sleep Hygiene

  • Room Temperature- The room you sleep in should be kept cool (under 20°C). This helps the body enter into REM sleep and to produce more melatonin (the sleep hormone).
  • Darkness- Even small amounts of light disrupt the body’s sleep cycles. Use blackout curtains, no night lights or alarm clock screens.
  • Avoid Screens ½ Hour Before Bed- The light emitted from screens tricks the brain into thinking it is day time, which is not conducive to sleep. Try reading for a ½ hour before bed instead. Ereaders can be used in bed if they are set to look like the page of a book. Reading off of a bright tablet counts as screen time.

      Supplements

  • Magnesium Glycinate- Magnesium calms the nervous system, promotes relaxation, decreases cravings (especially for chocolate), increases insulin sensitivity, reduces muscle cramps, relieves constipation and helps to lower cortisol. Dosage: 200-800 mg ½ hour before bed. Start at 200 mg and keep increasing dosage until you reach bowel tolerance (ie. develop loose stools). It is safe for use during breastfeeding at a dosage of 350 mg/day or less.
  • Chamomile Tea- Helps to calm the nervous system and promote sleep. A cup 60-90 min before bed can result in a more restful sleep. This tea is safe for use while breastfeeding.
  • B Vitamins- Help the body to regulate stress and can help give you more energy during the day. Dosage: 100 mg of each of the B Vitamins. Take in the morning, as it can help to increase energy. This is also safe for use during breastfeeding.

Use these tips to establish a healthy routine that will help you sleep better, even if you are getting less sleep than you used to now that your little one has arrived.

I hope you implement at least a few of these tips into your daily routine and start feeling more rested!

 

Talk Soon,

Dr Alexis

 

Dr Alexis practices in Stittsville at Living Science Wellness Centre. Call 613.836.7901 to book your appointment.

Naturopathic Medicine is covered by most extended insurance benefits 

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What Has Happened To Me?! Understanding Your Postpartum Body

What Has Happened To Me?! Understanding Your Postpartum Body

Alexis Reid

 

First off, I want to start by saying your body has just done something truly remarkable! Let’s take a second to think about and acknowledge what you have managed to do in the last 9 months….grow a human! Think about how much energy that took, how many nutrients the little guy or girl drained from you, and how much harder your body had to work for the last 9 months.

New moms are constantly bombarded with the idea of “bouncing back” and how long that is going to take, all while being given the message, the sooner the better by the media. But the truth of the matter is it took 40 weeks for your body to adjust to your pregnancy, and it takes at least that long for your body to recover. Also, there shouldn’t be the assumption that your body will ever go back to the way it was before. It is not assumed that your body will be the same when you are 60 as it was when you were 20! Similarly, after having a baby, your body has gone through a huge life change and may not return exactly to its pre-pregnancy state. Many women’s ribcages expand, their feet grow, or their hair changes texture and these are all normal.

With that being said, there is still a tonne that can be done to help you feel your best postpartum! One of the biggest barriers to feeling like yourself is lack of sleep. Take a minute to think about how you felt when you didn’t get enough sleep pre-baby. Maybe you were up late studying for exams or getting work done. Chances are that you didn’t feel so great! That was only one of the challenges you are facing now, so don’t be so hard on yourself.

How to get Better Quality Sleep

1) Sleep in a cool and 100% dark room

2) Avoid Screens for ½ hour before bed. Screens stimulate your body to make              cortisol, which hinders sleep and can increase the risk of postpartum depression

3) An Epsom salt bath can help you feel more relaxed, by allowing your body absorbing magnesium, which helps with sleep

4) Have the baby sleep wherever you get the best rest, be it in your bed (safely), beside your bed or in another room (if they are old enough)

5) Go to bed when you are tired. Do not try to “push through” and get things done in the evening as often this leads to a second wind which keeps you awake.

 

How to Have More Energy and Get Back to Feeling Like Yourself

1) Seek Help! Don’t try to do it all yourself. A great shower gift for a new mom is some prepared meals, or help with cleaning. Looking after a new baby is a full time job.

2) Drink Plenty of Water. This will help you feel better and also helps with breast milk supply.

3) Bone Broth is your friend. Bone broth contains an abundance of minerals and is easily digestible. Check out one of my favorite easy ways to make bone broth here. The beef bones can be easily substituted for chicken. 

4) Eat Whole, Easily Digestible Foods. Soups, stews, and cooked veggies are great in helping with recovery and helping to make sure your body is getting what it needs.

5) Keep taking your prenatal vitamins. Your body needs those extra nutrients for at least the first 3 months. After 3 months you should be assess by your health care provider to see if you should continue with single supplements (iron, B12, fish oil are commonly needed).

6) Enjoy a Nutritive Tea. This nutritive tea is high in calcium, iron, selenium, chlorophyll and helps uterus return to its pre-pregnancy state. It is safe with breastfeeding and you can have up to 3 cups a day. To make this tea mix together equal parts: Alfalfa (helps promote breastmilk production), Nettle (high in iron), Red Raspberry (helps tone the uterus) and Oatstraw (high in minerals). Take 1 tsp of the blend and steep it in 1 cup of water for at least 10 min. Strain and enjoy.

7) Deep Belly Breathing. Taking deep breaths, where your stomach goes out, not your chest, can help to lower the stress hormone cortisol. Lowering cortisol helps you to get better sleep, reduce the risk of postpartum depression and encourages breastmilk production.

 

This is the first in a series of posts I will be doing on all things postpartum. I hope you found this informative and have left with some tips that are easy for you to implement.

 

If there is anything relating to postpartum that you would like me to write about in a future post, please leave a comment below.

 

Talk Soon,

Dr. Alexis

 

Dr Alexis practices in Kanata and is accepting new patients. To schedule your appointment, click here.  

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Tired, Can’t Lose Weight, Hair Falling Out and Suffering From Constipation….It Could Be Your Thyroid

Alexis Reid

Many people think that losing weight is a simple matter of taking in less energy (calories) than you expend. While calories consumed and used are a key to weight loss they are not the only factors. Hormonal balance is key to help achieve lasting weight loss. One of the key hormones involved in weight loss are regulated by the thyroid gland.

It’s Not You, It’s Your Thyroid

Thyroid disorders are the second most common endocrine (hormonal) disorder after diabetes. It is estimated that 10% of the North American population is suffering from a thyroid condition. The news only gets worse for post menopausal women, when rates go up to 20%. This increase is post menopausal women is likely due to the influence of estrogen and progesterone on thyroid hormone. Post partum is also a trying time for the thyroid, and many women will experience symptoms of hypothyroidism.

 

Thyroid Problems Commonly Present in the Postpartum Period

The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland that is at the base of throat, approximately just below the Adam’s apple on a man. It’s main function is to be the master controller of the metabolism.  The thyroid works in a feedback loop process. The thyroid gland gets a signal from the brain (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone- TSH) to release it hormones, primarily thyroxine (T4) and also some Triiodothyronine (T3). The T4 that was released than travels in the blood and gets back to the brain to tell it that the thyroid is responding and it can stop releasing TSH. If for some reason the thyroid gets the “message” from the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone but doesn’t release T4 and T3, then the brain keep pumping out more TSH to try and make the thyroid listen up and respond. This is what is happening when someone has Hypothyroidism. It can be confusing because even though it is HYPOthyroidism, the TSH is high. It is considered to be hypothyroidism because the levels of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4 are lower than they should be. This is the most common kind of thyroid disorder.

Lab Tests:

TSH: first line testing, done to try and determine is the thyroid is responding properly to its stimulus.

T3 and T4: the “active” forms of thyroid hormone, T3 is much more active than T4

Reverse T3:  Sometimes, especially when the body is under stress instead of converting T4 to the more active T3, it will convert it to reverse T3, an inactive form of T3.

Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPO): These are antibodies present within the body that work against the enzyme that helps convert T4 to T3. These are commonly seen when someone has an auto immune destruction of the thyroid gland (called Hashimoto’s disease) or post partum.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

There are many symptoms, but the most common are:

-weight gain

-fatigue

-constipation

-dry skin/hair, thinning hair

-depression and decreased concentration/memory

-irregular periods

-cold hands and feet

-elevated cholesterol

Treatment Options

1) Synthroid/Levothyroxine: Supply the body with the inactive hormone T4. This is a good solution if your problem is that your body is not responding to its TSH stimulus and releasing T4. If however, your problem is with the conversion of T4 to T3, this will not be of much help. This is the reason that many people who are on synthroid do not find an improvement in their symptoms, even though their TSH levels improve

2) Iodine: is a nutrient essential in the product of thyroid hormone. Three iodine molecules are addd to make  T3 (Triiodothyronine) and four are added to make T4 (thyroxine). Iodine deficiency can lead to hypothyroidism. In many areas of the world, particularly the Great Lakes region, the soils are deficient in iodine. This is the reason salt was iodized. However, many people are now eating sea salt, which is not iodized. On the contrary too much iodine can also be harmful to the thyroid, leading to hyperthyroidism. For this reason, iodine supplementation should be done under the supervision of your Naturopathic Doctor.

3) Selenium and Zinc: trace minerals required in the production of thyroid hormone. Slenium is required for the conversion of T4 to T3

4) Tyrosine: an amino acid that is necessary for thyroid hormone synthesis. Tyrosine is also required for cortisol synthesis, which the body selectively makes over thyroid hormone. This is one of the biochemical links between stress and thyroid dysfunction

5) Botanicals: There are many herbs that can help with thyroid function including but not limited to Bladderwrack, Blue Iris, Guggul, Nettle, and Ashwagandha

6) Food Sensitivities: sensitivities to foods create an auto immune reaction in the body which can be detrimental to the thyroid. People with thyroid problems should avoid goitrogens (cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, millet, soy). Gluten has also been shown to be linked to hypothyroidism.

7) Adrenal Health: Stress has a negative impact on the thyroid gland, and also on the adrenal glands. IN practice, it is often seen that once someone’s adrenal glands are well supported that their thyroid starts responding better

8) Hormonal Balance: progesterone makes thyroid receptors more sensitive to thyroid hormone. It is essential to establish the proper balance between estrogen and progesterone for thyroid health. PCOS can also throw off hormonal balance. Not sure if you could have PCOS? Check out my blog post.

Naturopathic Doctors can help getting you feeling better especially if you are already on Synthroid and not seeing a change in your symptoms

 

Talk Soon,

Dr Alexis

 

Dr Alexis practices in Kanata and is accepting new patients. To schedule your appointment, click here.

 

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How to Help Treat Eczema Naturally

How to Help Treat Eczema Naturally

Alexis Reid

 

Do you or your children suffer from eczema?

 

Watch the video to find out

1) The most common foods that aggravate eczema

2) My top 3 tips to reduce itching

3) Key vitamins and minerals for eczema

 

Dr Alexis

Dr Alexis practices in Kanata and is accepting new patients. To schedule your appointment, click here.

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How to Help Manage Postpartum Anxiety Using Foods, Vitamins and Herbs

How to Help Manage Postpartum Anxiety Using Foods, Vitamins and Herbs

Alexis Reid2 comments

In my last post we went over what the symptoms of postpartum anxiety are and what factors make someone more likely to suffer from it. In today’s post I am going to discuss ways to help manage postpartum anxiety naturally. As you have seen, anxiety can have multiple different causes and present in many different ways, making the proper treatment of anxiety very individualized. You should always consult with a naturopathic doctor before starting any vitamin/mineral or herbal regime to insure that you are taking safe and therapeutic doses, there are no interactions with any other supplements or medications that you may be taking, and that what you are taking is safe while breast feeding. Just because something is natural, does not automatically mean that it is safe.

It was discussed that increased cortisol was one of the major physiological factors for postpartum anxiety. As you will see, many of the suggestions are aimed at normalizing cortisol levels

  • Diet

What you are eating on a daily basis is the single biggest factor in helping to manage your anxiety.

  1. Blood Sugar Regulation- when blood sugar is going up and down and not remaining stable it can cause symptoms of anxiety (racing heart, palpitations, dizziness, nausea). Eating too many carbs and sugar without enough protein and fat can put your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride. Remember to eat regularly and to have healthy proteins and fats at every meal. The body sees this up and down in blood sugar as a physiological stress and it causes cortisol to increase further
  2. Coffee- too much coffee, more than 2 cups a day, can have negative impact on both blood sugar regulation and cortisol, leaving you feeling jittery, increasing heart rate, and creating sleeping problems. Coffee should only be consumed before noon
  3. Green Tea- I get it, you need some caffeine!! Try substituting some of that coffee for green tea. Green tea also contains caffeine, but it also is high in theanine, which helps lower cortisol
  4. Fruits and Vegetables- eating a wide variety helps to correct nutrient deficiencies

 

  • Lifestyle/Self-Care
  1. Making time for me time- Even if is it only 10 min/day. Find small segments of time to do what you enjoy
  2. Get Outside- Many studies have shown that mood is lifted and anxiety is decreased with exposure to fresh air. Bonus, it can also make you and your baby sleep better
  3. Get Moving- Exercise releases endorphins which naturally make you feel better and less anxious…but don’t over do it. Too much exercise can increase cortisol. Aim for 30 min of moderate exercise (walking, yoga, strength training) 3-5 days a week.
  4. Breathe- Deep breathing physiologically lowers cortisol, and it’s easy to do! When you are feeling anxious try taking 10 deep breaths where your belly moves out and your chest stays in
  5. Get Help- If you do not have family or friends around who are helpful and supportive consider hiring a postpartum doula

 

  • Sleep
  1. No Coffee After Noon. Coffee has a half-life (how long it takes half of it to leave your system) of up to 12 hours so that coffee you drank at noon can be keeping you up at midnight
  2. Keep Your Room Cool and Dark- helps you get a deeper sleep
  3. Embrace Naps
  4. Keep Lights Dim When Up During the Night. Cortisol and the sleep hormone melatonin work opposite to each other. At night cortisol should be low and melatonin should be high. Exposure to light at night can throw off this balance

 

  • Hormonal Balance

Managing cortisol levels allow for more pregnenolone (the precursor hormone) to be available for the production of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA. Cortisol also has a love hate relationship with oxytocin. Oxytocin one of the hormones that controls lactation and is necessary for proper bonding. When cortisol is high, it causes oxytocin to be lower. So how can we manage cortisol levels?

  1. Magnesium and Vitamin B6- these two nutrients help take pregnenolone (precursor hormone) and get it to make progesterone instead of cortisol.
  2. Ashwaganda- increases dopamine (a feel good hormone that helps support lactation) receptors in the brain while reducing the anxiety producing effects of norepinephrine. It is also an Adaptogenic herb, which helps combat the effects of stress
  3. Nettle- high in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. Helps support thyroid function and the adrenal glands
  4. Passionflower- helps to lower cortisol, reduce anxiety and increase GABA
  5. GABA- is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It helps to calm the excitement of the nervous system (the fight or flight response) and helps reduce cortisol
  6. Acupuncture- has a calming effect on the nervous system, has been shown to reduce cortisol and can help with hormonal balance

 

  • Nutrient Deficiencies

Your pregnancy has most likely left you with a few key nutrient deficiencies.

  1. Vitamin B6- The birth control pill is well known to deplete vitamin B6. If you were on the pill prior to conception you have a high risk of being deficient. Another symptom of deficiency is morning sickness. If you experienced this it is also quite probable that you are deficient
  2. Magnesium- Magnesium is involved in over 300 reactions in the body and gets used up more rapidly when you are under stress. Magnesium can help reduce anxiety symptoms and help you sleep better
  3. Vitamin D- If you live in a climate with 4 seasons, the sun is not at a proper angle for you to make vitamin D via the skin from Oct-May. Deficiency can have a negative impact on mood
  4. Omega 3 Fatty Acids- Help reduce cortisol levels, increase mood, and are great for babies brain development

There have been studies showing supplementation with a good quality multivitamin helps improve psychological wellbeing. In my practice, I generally recommend that moms either continue taking their prenatal vitamin or a good quality multivitamin for 3-4 months postpartum.

As I said previously, these are general suggestions for ways to help manage anxiety naturally. All supplementation should be monitored by your Naturopathic Doctor to make sure they are being used in a safe and effective manner.

I hope you found those suggestions helpful. Have you had something help your anxiety? Please post it in the comments below

 

Talk Soon, 

Dr Alexis

 

Dr Alexis practices in Kanata, and is accepting new patients. To book your appointment click here.

 

Naturopathic Medicine is covered by most extended healthcare benefits

 

 

 

 

 

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