Tips to Manage Postpartum Anxiety: A 4-Part Series (Part 2: Nutrition)

Part 2: Nutrition

 

In this series, we are exploring how to employ BIRTHFIT’S Four Pillars to support your mental and physical well-being if you are experiencing postpartum anxiety. If you haven’t had a chance to read the first part of this series on how to utilize fitness to support anxiety – check it out here.

To recap, postpartum anxiety can be present in both the birthing and non-birthing partner and manifests somewhere between two weeks and one year postpartum. Symptoms include, but are not limited to: constant worrying, feeling that something bad is going to happen, racing, and/or uncontrollable thoughts, change in appetite, and an inability to sit still and let yourself rest/relax. Physical symptoms include hot flashes, dizziness, and nausea.(1)

Let’s explore how you can utilize nutrition to support your needs for healing. Your body’s nutrient needs are actually HIGHER in the immediate postpartum period than they are in pregnancy. Appropriate nutrition is imperative to replenish your body from the taxing process of growing and birthing another human.(2) 

It’s no big secret that nutrition is directly tied to our emotional well-being. Studies have shown that gastrointestinal disorders tend to co-occur with psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression.(3) It’s critical to pay attention to how your body reacts to the foods you eat, so you can identify which foods you benefit from and which foods you may need to limit or omit. 

 

Below are a few tips for managing appropriate nutrition to support your physical, mental, and emotional healing:

  • Get enough food – whether it’s asking a friend to help you meal prep once a week, putting less in savings so you can have a meal delivery service, or choosing high quality frozen food meals. You cannot thrive on an empty tank.
  • Some foods have been linked to increasing anxiety.(4) Rather than subjecting yourself to an intense elimination diet, we suggest picking one or two of the items below and see how you feel if you cut back or omit for two weeks. If you notice an improvement in your stress, it’s worth considering removing these from your diet.
    • Caffeine 
    • Sugar, flour, and other refined carbohydrates, particularly highly processed sources
    • Nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and goji berries)
    • Alcohol
    • Aged, fermented, cured, smoked, and cultured foods(4)
  • The good news is that we have so many wonderful foods to support your mental health! Try including more of the following to minimize your anxiety.
    • Asparagus
    • Avocados
    • Blueberries
    • Turkey
    • Almonds
    • Yogurt (If fermented foods do not increase your symptoms.)
    • Dark Leafy Greens
    • Salmon(5)
  • Ask yourself: How does this food serve me? Are the short term effects of this food worth the long term effects? For me, that meant limiting my sugar intake, which sends me on an emotional roller coaster. So even though the second and third piece of cake makes me feel good now, is it worth a day or two of pulling myself out of the weeds? Depends on where the cake is from ;) 

Nutrition is a way of life and should bring joy to your day-to-day life. In a period of heightened stress, the last thing we want is to obsess over what food is BAD vs. GOOD. Instead, tune in to how your body feels when eating the foods discussed above and make adjustments as is manageable. As Jennifer Anderson from Kids Eat In Color says, “Some foods help us a little, so we only eat a little of those. Other foods help us a lot, so we eat a lot of those.”

It can be that simple! 

The third segment of this series will be on mindset techniques that can be implemented daily or in the height of an anxious period and what after-care can look like following a period of intense distress. Keep an eye out for the next post!

 

Tawny Linehan, BIRTHFIT Leader

www.birthfitcoachtawny.com @birthfit_coachtawny

 

 

Citations:

  1. “Postpartum and Antepartum Anxiety: Postpartum Support – PSI: Postpartum Support International (PSI).” Postpartum Support International – PSI, www.postpartum.net/learn-more/anxiety-during-pregnancy-postpartum/
  2.  Lily, and Melanie. “Postpartum Recovery with Real Food.” Lily Nichols RDN, 28 Sept. 2018, lilynicholsrdn.com/postpartum-recovery-real-food/.
  3. Kolacz, Jacek, et al. “Traumatic Stress and the Autonomic Brain-Gut Connection in Development: Polyvagal Theory as an Integrative Framework for Psychosocial and Gastrointestinal Pathology.” Developmental Psychobiology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30953358.
  4. “These 5 Foods and Substances Can Cause Anxiety and Insomnia.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/diagnosis-diet/201607/these-5-foods-and-substances-can-cause-anxiety-and-insomnia.
  5. Truschel, Jessica, and Susan McQuillan. “Beat Anxiety: 8 Foods That Help with Anxiety and Stress.” Psycom.net – Mental Health Treatment Resource Since 1986, www.psycom.net/foods-that-help-with-anxiety-and-stress/.

 

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