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Postpartum Digestive Issues? What You Can Do to Help Your Gut

postpartum mom on toilet with digestive issues

It’s no secret that pregnancy and birth can do a number on our bodies, but you might not have expected digestive issues (past that first postpartum bathroom visit) once your baby was born.

Focusing on optimal digestion postpartum is so important, especially in early postpartum. Still, many new mothers face postpartum digestive issues and can’t determine why or what to do.

postpartum mom on toilet with digestive issues

Is it normal to have digestive problems after pregnancy?

It’s pretty well-accepted that digestive issues happen after birth, including (but not limited to): constipation, excess gas (especially with cesarean births), and fecal incontinence.

Pregnancy and the birthing process have inflammatory effects on the body.

These stresses are compounded in the postpartum period as we: 

1. Try to recover and heal from the birth

New birthing parents usually have nutrient depletion or deficiencies as nutrients have been diverted to their baby, and now, breastfeeding (if you are feeding your baby this way).

2. Struggle to get enough sleep

Between unpredictable napping patterns and three-hour stretches of sleep per night (or way, way less), sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on the body.

3. Experience emotional stress

Especially as we come to terms with our new way of life supporting another little human. 

new mom experiencing digestive pain

Addressing your under-active postpartum digestive system: what to know

A lack of digestive enzymes and stomach acid can cause problems as they are both needed to break down food and release nutrients.

Without proper support, this can carry on for years, and you won’t get the nutrients (even from supplements) you need even though you may eat well. This will compound the effects of postpartum nutrient depletion.

A lack of stomach acid also means there is a lack of defense against bacteria and viruses, which can cause problems further down the digestive tract like SIBO or gut dysbiosis(an imbalance in the good vs. bad bacteria in the colon)

Stress negatively affects your gut microbiome, which leads to digestive and mood issues and a further lack of nutrients. 

Undigested or partially digested food can initiate intolerance-like reactions in the small intestine, leading to leaky gut syndrome.

With leaky gut, the tight junctions in the small intestine, which regulate what can and can’t pass into the body from the digestive tract, become inflamed and ‘leaky’ so toxins and immune-stimulating products can enter the body.

This mechanism, if untreated, can also play a role in the autoimmunity response that is becoming more common in mothers with postpartum depletion.

bowl of oatmeal topped with blueberries and chia seeds

How do I heal and support my postpartum gut?

Thankfully, there are things you can start doing today to support your postpartum digestive system and get it back in working order.

  • Practice mindful eating
  • Slow-cook foods in their juices
  • Consume warming foods
  • Focus on anti-inflammatory foods
  • Look into digestive aids

Practice mindful eating 

Digestion is a top-down process that begins in the brain. To activate our digestion correctly, we must be in a calm state and focus on the food we are eating, even snacks. Minimize eating on the go and practice chewing your food very well.

Of course, take these suggestions with a grain of salt, as newborn life sometimes (oftentimes) makes eating feel a little trickier.

Slow-cook foods in their juices, including fruit and veggies

Your postpartum body lacks the energy, enzymes, and acid to properly break down your food so you can absorb it into your body.

To support this, it is best to cook foods well, which initiates the breakdown before we even eat and increases our chances of absorbing the nutrients from these foods.

Bone broths, soups, casseroles, curries, and stewed fruit all work well and make sure you include the juices from cooking. 

See Also
postpartum mom snuggling her baby in bed

Consume warming foods

We want to conserve our energy as much as possible to heal our bodies. Consuming already warm food in the postpartum period helps to conserve this energy and makes it easier to access nutrients. 

Read next: Mama’s Mung Soup: Ayurvedic Postpartum Recipe for Lactation

introducing the postpartum nutrition book with shop now button

Focus on anti-inflammatory whole food protein and healthy fats

Protein is your body’s building blocks, and fats are essential for hormone regulation. Think red meat, eggs, poultry, salmon and avocado, chia seeds, extra virgin olive oil, and probiotic coconut yogurt.

Soaking grains, nuts, and seeds can make them easier to digest. Of course, including lots of cooked veggies and fruit for fiber and antioxidants is also helpful.

Reduce the toxic load by washing fruit and vegetables and buying local and organic as much as possible. Detoxification uses the energy we want to conserve postpartum for more important things like healing, digestion, and breastfeeding.

Organic food means you can avoid harmful pesticides and hormones. If you can’t buy organic, wash your fruit and vegetables well. Buying local means food is fresher and contains more nutrients. 

Look into digestive aids

Bitter-tasting food can stimulate digestive acids and enzymes. You can buy digestive bitters as a tincture or consume bitter foods like dandelion root tea, cacao, or beet juice about 20 minutes before eating. 

Staying hydrated is essential, but consider consuming your fluids 20 minutes before or after a meal, so you don’t dilute your already low stomach acid.

You can also supplement with digestive enzymes; check the label to ensure they are breastfeeding-friendly. 

woman drinking a mug of hot tea

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