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Regulating Hormones Postpartum

Updated: Apr 27

Congratulations on the birth of your new bundle of joy. As a student clinical nutritionist, I always advise that nutritional support for pregnancy begins when you decide you are ready to conceive right up until you stop breastfeeding. If you want to know more about nutritional support in prenatal and postpartum click here to read that post.

For women in their reproductive years, our sex hormones fluctuate through every cycle. Our bodies undergo physical and hormonal changes during pregnancy to bring a beautiful baby into the world.

So what is happening with your hormones?

After you give birth you are hit with a "euphoric high" as the oxytocin levels increase to compensate for the decrease in oestrogen and progesterone. Oxytocin also helps with uterus contraction and preventing postpartum bleeding, being the love hormone it also gives you that strong maternal feeling. Prolactin hormone will begin to increase for the production of breast milk.

The first 3-6 weeks postpartum you are mostly running on adrenaline and lack of sleep. As you get into a routine your hormones will slowly begin to stabilize. It is common for women to experience postpartum depression or have a dysregulation in mood, anxiety, irritability or trouble sleeping, supporting your mental health with nutrients such as quality proteins, B vitamins (B6), omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and zinc.

Around 2-3 months hormones should be returning to pre-pregnancy levels. Stress can play a part in the dysregulation of hormones as our cortisol levels rise during stress and lack of sleep can affect melatonin levels. Melatonin and cortisol play a part in sleep regulation. Cortisol (the stress hormone) increases as we wake just like a natural alarm clock and during the day our bodies begin the production of melatonin to help us at night as we get ready for slumber these hormones are part of our circadian rhythm. If melatonin levels decrease so do our serotonin levels as seratonin is the precursor for melatonin.

The hormone Serotonin is found in the brain and the gut and regulates mood, low levels of serotonin may play a part in depression and mood disorders. To support the production of eating foods that are rich in tryptophan such as eggs (the yolks are rich in tryptophan), soy products such as tofu, tempeh and soy milk, salmon, nuts and seeds, B vitamins such as inositol can help balance serotonin levels and reduce anxiety symptoms.

How can we bring balance to our hormones?

For most women, small and simple changes to diet and lifestyle can help restore hormone levels in the body.

Getting adequate sleep - Sleep is an important factor in producing and regulating hormones as mentioned earlier. Chronic poor-quality sleep can affect multiple systems in the body including immunity, memory and brain fog, and weight gain. It may not be a factor of just going to be early sometimes it might be having the room ready for sleep. A dark, quiet room with a cool temperature may help with non-REM sleep (deep sleep). Limiting blue light at night and before bed as our circadian rhythm is influenced by the sun and blue light from our technology (TV, phones, tablets etc) can trick the brain and delay melatonin production.

Getting adequate protein intake - Proteins are made up of amino acids. there are 9 amino acids that our bodies cannot make on their own so we get them through the diet this is why they are coined essential amino acids. They are needed to make peptide hormones which play a crucial role in regulating stress, energy metabolism, appetite and more. As an advocate of plant-based nutrition, I believe in the 90-10 rule 90% plant-based and 10% animal products. Animal protein and plant proteins are not equal. Animal proteins are known as complete and the majority of plant proteins are incomplete except for pseudo-grains Quinoa and buckwheat as well as soy products tofu, tempeh and soy milk these plant proteins have all the 9 essential amino acids that animal proteins have. Other plant proteins such as beans, legumes, oats etc are in-complete proteins meaning they are missing or absent of the 9 essential amino acids and aren't as easily absorbed as animal proteins. However, you can make a complete protein when eating grains and legumes together.

Reducing Daily Stress- With a newborn there comes new stressors as mentioned earlier. Having strategies in place helps your cortisol levels decrease. This may be going for a walk or having a relaxing shower or bath with magnesium salts and your favourite essential oil. Many complementary therapies can help with stress such as acupuncture, remedial massage and

speaking with a clinical nutritionist to help with strategies and supplements that may help support stress management.

Getting enough healthy fats- healthy fats such as avocados, dairy and oils (avocado seed, extra virgin olive, coconut), and fatty fish such as mackerel and salmon to name a few can help to regulate the hormones that are involved in appetite, metabolism, and satiety.

If you are still experiencing symptoms after making dietary and lifestyle changes. It may be issues with the thyroid. It is a common hormonal change called postpartum thyroiditis. It can be either hyperactive or underactive when it can affect many metabolic processes such as weight, body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. Thyroid disorders can also be hereditary if you suspect this could be the case see your general practitioner to get a blood test to check your TSH, T3 and T4 levels.

If you are still feeling your hormones are out of whack and need extra support it might be time to see a clinical clinical nutritionist to help you get back on track. Book yourself in for a consult with me at Endeavour Wellness Clinic I am available Wednesday 8-4 pm and Thursday 8-12 pm.

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