As most women know, there are these things called hormones that seem to rule our life.
A number of factors can throw these pesky (yet necessary) hormones out of balance in our bodies — not least of which is having a baby. When this imbalance happens, the list of what plagues us is long. You can blame the hormones for all those feelings of anxiety, mood swings, irritability, nausea, disrupted sleep, headaches and even bad skin. It’s not just that having a new baby is hard, it’s that your body is learning how to deal.
These hormonal shifts can be extremely intense for some women after having kids, while others might just feel slightly off and blame it on sleeplessness or stress.
What’s typically happening is that the hormones that shot up during pregnancy, estrogen and progesterone, suddenly drop right after giving birth, making your mood go all wonky. Other times, women might be experiencing a little adrenal fatigue caused by the surge of cortisol during delivery and the stress of having a new baby at home.
Postpartum blues and all the symptoms listed above can also strike long after having a baby. And though far less talked about, it’s actually pretty common. Delayed postpartum depression typically happens for women after they stop breastfeeding, which again releases a whole new wave of hormonal changes.
The second time around could be attributed to a loss of oxytocin — or the “love drug.” When women breastfeed, their brain releases powerful amounts of oxytocin, which triggers relaxation and all those feel-good feelings. Once breastfeeding slows or stops completely, it’s like the body starts going into withdrawal.
So, if you’re experiencing hormonal imbalances, what your body might need is a reset to restore its balance. It could take several weeks for the body to get itself back into hormonal balance, but there are ways to support that shift with nutritional and natural methods as it happens. And certain foods can help you get there.
Foods to Eat To Beat the Blues
Fish is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acid EPA, a nutrient that has been proven to help ward off depression and anxiety. It’s also one of the biggest nutrients that gets depleted during pregnancy, so getting daily doses of EPA can make a big difference in how you feel. Other great vegetarian sources of this nutrient can be found in walnuts, flax seeds and most leafy greens.
Grass-fed beef is one of the best sources of vitamin B12, which is another essential nutrient that can affect mental health. That’s because it helps support the brain and central nervous system in a number of functions, including nerve growth and development, emotional energy and memory function. It’s also one that many women become deficient in during pregnancy. Many fish, especially sardines, also contain high amounts of vitamin B12. Non-meat alternatives high in this vitamin include nutritional yeast and feta cheese.
This Peruvian root has been making the rounds in health food circles lately as a replacement for cacao because of its superfood properties, not least of which is helping balance hormones. It’s also touted for increasing energy, improving mental function and boosting libido — something surely many mamas could benefit from.
Not only delicious on toast, avocado is pretty high in magnesium, which is critical in the body’s process of creating hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Other foods high in magnesium include nuts, seeds and legumes.
Foods to Avoid
We’ve all heard lately that sugar is all sorts of evil. Apparently, it also tends to wreak havoc on your endocrine system.
Caffeine may get you going during the day, but it can also make you crash. Additionally, caffeine has been found to interfere with the production of cortisol, and can hamper the functioning of the thyroid gland.
While a great source of protein, soy also contains phytoestrogen, a compound that mimics estrogen and interferes with estrogen receptors, therefore disrupting your body’s balance of hormones.
Other Natural Remedies
While your diet can definitely help or hurt your mood, there are other lifestyle choices you can make to help regulate those wild postpartum hormones.
As with anything, getting enough sleep is key to keeping all your internal systems in check. (We know, we know… easier said than done). Maybe it just means prioritizing a nap during the day over the dishes.
Stayin active, spending time outdoors and getting plenty of sunshine are all also proven mood boosters.