Nutrition Hacks for Early C-section Recovery - Part 2: RESTORED
By Kirstie Vesseur
Last blog we spoke about the foundations of nutrition and broke down the importance of each of the Macros (Protein, Carbohydrates and Good Fats) If you haven't read that blog, please go back and check that out as this is the lead on blog from getting the foundations right with a ‘food first philosophy’. From there, we then move onto the restore portion of the program, and this is where we can start to ‘Supplement’ on and build upon our solid nutritional foundation.
1. Keep up your prenatal vitamin
Recovery after a caesarean section is very important. You not only have to heal from that but also the physical act of giving birth! You know yourself, your body has gone through A LOT in the creation of your precious new bubs and nutrient stores of vitamins and minerals have been depleted in this process. So, it's a good idea to keep up your prenatal vitamins at the very least for the fourth trimester (3 months postpartum) to try and restore some of those lost stores. Depending on your situation (how healthy you were, to begin with) and whether or not you are breastfeeding, you may want to continue this for longer not only to replenish but to begin to optimise your stores.
Vitamins A, C, E and zinc are all vital in repairing skin and tissue, as well as keeping your immune system well, so it does its job of controlling inflammation and the incision. Not only will you get this from your prenatal vitamins, but you can also get these vits and mins from foods such as kumara, carrot, spinach and broccoli, eggs, almonds and sunflower seeds
2. Get your iron stores checked
Iron deficiency is common during pregnancy, especially in the latter part of the pregnancy when growing bubs needs for iron increase, depleting your iron stores. Of course, when we give birth we suffer blood loss and that blood loss doubles if we have a Caesarian, even to the point where some studies show that repeated cesareans lead to the prevalence of iron deficiency and anaemia in later life. Iron helps us build blood so it's really important that we have adequate stores otherwise we start to experience symptoms like fatigue, breathlessness, and dizziness. So how do we get our Iron stores back up? Well, depending on where they are at (I recommend you get an Iron Studies+Ferritin blood test to check, if you are experiencing the symptoms mentioned above), if they come back low, upping your intake of iron-rich foods. Iron-rich foods to chow down on are red meats, seafood, nuts, beans, vegetables, and some grains. You can also supplement if your iron levels are low, AND ONLY IF THEY ARE LOW.
Caution: Taking an iron supplement when you have adequate levels can cause iron overload and secondary haemochromatosis., which causes damage to many parts of the body.
FYI: The iron in meat is called heme iron and has higher bioavailability (meaning it is more readily absorbed by the body) than non-heme iron, which is found in plant-based sources.
Caution: Too much iron can cause constipation. That's why it's important to know your levels of things before you start taking any supplements. More does not mean better.
3. Good ole Vit C
Vitamin C helps strengthen your’s and your brand new bubba’s immune system. Vitamin C is AWESOME for mamas post-birth, as it supports healing by boosting collagen production. For bubbas, it is a vital milk antioxidant that helps fight infections. Breast-fed bubs are well protected against vitamin-C deficiency. Vitamin-C rich fruits and veggies, such as oranges, melons, papayas, strawberries, grapefruits, cranberries, kumara, tomatoes, and broccoli are all really good sources found easily.
Calcium helps with muscle relaxation, strengthens bones and teeth and helps with blood coagulation. Inadequate stores of calcium will impact bone mineral density and can also lead to the development of osteoporosis. Ain't nobody got time for that!
During pregnancy, some of the mumma’s calcium intake is used to build bubbas bone structure. If you don’t eat or drink enough calcium, then some of it needs to be taken from mamma’s calcium storage system ergo- ya bones!
Recommended calcium intake doesn’t change between preggers and non-preggers ladies (1000mg), because your body actually becomes better at absorbing calcium from foods during pregnancy to meet your needs.
(How cool is that!)
Good sources of calcium are milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu, kale, and spinach. The recommended daily intake of calcium for breastfeeding mammas of ages 14 to 18 is 1,300mg, (although I don't know who's having babies at 14!) for those older than 19 years is 1,000mg per day.
NOTE: If you’re taking a calcium supplement, make sure it is combined with K2, and D3 as there is a growing body of evidence that calcium on its own can contribute to cardiovascular disease.
Combining the substrates to give you an analogy is like calcium is a baton, and vitamins D3 and K2 are like runners in a game of relay. Taken alone, both vitamins have multiple benefits, but to fully utilise and benefit from calcium, you should supplement with both vitamin D3 and K2.
Trippy tip: When mammas are breastfeeding 250 to 350mg of calcium is transferred to bubs…again….
(How cool is that!)
5. Vit-D or the sunshine hormone
Vitamin D is also important for bone health and it helps your body to absorb calcium! So if you're not supplementing and since you’re on mat leave anyway, try to get outside each day during daylight hours. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight. Getting some time outdoors can also be mood-boosting and help perk you up after a sleepless night! (If you are reading this in wintertime, the winter sun is simply not strong enough to keep your levels of anti-inflammatory vitamin D optimal. So you may find a winter dosing of Vit D supplement of 5000IU is helpful to keep your levels up as well as prevent symptoms of what some people are susceptible to - SAD (seasonal affective disorder, if this is you feel free to reach out to me for help or talk to your doctor)
6. Zinc - this one is important for C-Sections
Zinc, is an essential trace element, important cellular repair, cell proliferation, growth, and our immune system. Inadequate stores of zinc can result in impaired immune function, compromised wound healing, and skin lesions.
Zinc has a major role in every stage of the wound healing progression, from membrane repair, coagulation, blood vessel development, inflammation and immune defence, tissue re-epithelisation, oxidative stress, to fibrosis/scar formation. For these reasons, having adequate zinc levels is essential for optimal recovery from a C-section. High zinc foods include oysters, red meat, chicken and seafood.
With all that broken down for you let's now build it back up and remember that right now mamma, so soon after surgery, the best thing you can do for you and your bubba is to have regular healthy meals, snacks and drinks and to make sure you eat when you’re hungry.
And of course, it ain't easy making a full sit down meal when you have a newborn. I remember feeling like everything I did needed to be one-handed (as the new arrival seemed to have taken up permanent residency with the other) Soooo…
Recruit the family with this…
PRO HACK 2: Keeping on the train of Healthy snacks basically keep them everywhere! (Anywhere you sit down to make food or get stuck for long periods of time) This is that whole Fail to plan, plan to fail scenario.
This is especially important if you are breastfeeding because not only will your energy requirements go up, but also, #truth, the hunger is real!
Some ideas for convenient healthy snack foods are:
- Fresh fruit
- Unsalted nuts
- Nut-based muesli bars (look for bars made with mostly nuts, seeds, oats etc. and lower in sugar, around 5-6g sugar per bar is quite low for a muesli bar)
- Gluten-free bread with natural peanut butter
- Cherry tomatoes or veggie sticks with hummus
- Boiled eggs
- Protein balls/bliss balls
slow down….and Remember to Breathe
You’ve been through a lot to get here, take your time and just do what you can each day, motherhood like life is messy filled with wins and work-ons, so take this all with a pinch of salt (just like parenting advice) taking some tidbits and find ways to make them work for you and your bubs. The most important thing on this journey is that you and bubs are happy.
Lastly and if you care to read on, next, we’ll delve into the last blog in this 3 part series…STRONG.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Kirstie Vesseur is a Clinical nutritionist specializing in women's hormones-PMS, PMDD, Infertility, Endometriosis and other hormonal issues. She puts the pieces of the puzzle together using symptomatology, diagnostic testing | analysis and a route cause approach.