Rediscovering Yourself in Motherhood

This article is one in a series titled “Mindful Parenting.” Scroll to the bottom of this page to see links to more articles in the series.

mombabyTo get the most out of motherhood, it’s essential to build a strong foundation for health. When you experience optimal health, it benefits the whole family.

Hormone shifts and nutrient deficiencies are a common result of months — and sometimes years — of being on the go and not making time to care for you.  As a result, you get fatigue, irritability, low libido, weight gain, blood sugar imbalances and vitamin deficiency. The good news is that many of these deficiencies and imbalances can be restored with a little TLC.

That feeling of depletion is often a combination of the following:

Stress – Simple stressors, both good and bad, take a toll on normal hormone regulation. Primarily, adrenal function is compromised with chronic stress and the results are dramatic for some. Stressors like interrupted sleep, insomnia, skipped meals, anxiety around family dynamics, lack of exercise, and managing the home cumulatively wear on the adrenal glands. The good news is that many of the stressors are things that we can manage and improve on with a little practice and patience (with ourselves and our family).

Adrenal fatigue is common clinical presentation that results from months or years of elevated cortisol, a hormone that is secreted naturally under stressful circumstances. Symptoms include, but are not exclusive or limited to; low libido, fatigue, anxiety, difficulty losing weight, dry skin, gastrointestinal upset, blood sugar imbalances, irritability and fatigue.

Poor diet – Nutrient deficiencies can and often do result from relying on convenience foods, a dislike for cooking and poor food quality available in grocery stores.  Many moms are just not sure where to start. As a result women become deficient in some of the following:

Protein = Blood sugar imbalances, Type II diabetes
Vitamins – Vit D, B vitamins, Folic acid, Vit A, Vit K = bones, energy, immunity, prevention
Minerals – Magnesium, Calcium, Iodine, Zinc  = mood, bones, energy, immunity, hormones
Essential fatty acids = Anti-inflammatory, cardiovascular support, mood support, brain and nerve health

Food sensitivities – Many people these days are discovering that when they eat certain foods they don’t feel so hot. Foods such as wheat, dairy, nuts, corn, sugar, eggs and soy can result in a myriad of symptoms and dis-ease, including:

Mood swings

Sleep disturbances often result in an impaired circadian rhythm, which can contribute to blood sugar imbalances, poor immune function, adrenal hormone shifts, sex hormone shifts, weight gain and poor mood.

Hormonal shifts – Post delivery and in some cases years after delivery, women experience hormone changes.  Imbalances in estrogen, progesterone, prolactin, thyroid hormones, cortisol, and neurotransmitters can all create an unfamiliar state of being that is difficult to interpret and care for when you have your attention on your family.

So what can we do about it?

Three-legged stool – When I suspect a woman is out of balance, primarily in the peak of motherhood, I often approach her well being by paying special attention to balancing her hormones, healing her belly, and caring for her musculoskeletal system.

The Key to balancing hormones is to first identify where the imbalance exists. Usually if one is off there is a cascade response.  I often start with the adrenal glands. They are easy to support and impact the whole body in a positive manor. I consider the following:

1) Blood work or salivary studies to identify imbalances
2) Address adrenals with specific nutrients and herbs
3) Ensure vitamin D levels are normal
4) Herbs that balance mood, anxiety, adrenals, hormone tonic – Adaptogenic and nervines
5) Nutrition – predominantly whole foods and eliminate food sensitivities
6) Exercise – restorative and daily

The belly is essential for two reasons:

1) You are what you eat
2) Hormones, inflammation, and immunity are all primarily dictated by the health of the gut.

To deal with this we work on 5 R’s: remove, replace, reinoculate, repair, and rebalance.

1) Identify food sensitivities – Allergy elimination diet
2) Antacids and H2 blockers

1) Enzymes, HCL, apple cider vinegar – stimulate gut function

1) Maintain healthy eco system –probiotics, fiber, and protein – improved immunity, less GI discomfort, better absorption
• Loss of commensal bacteria increases NF Kappa gene – inflammatory cancer promoter

1) Eat a whole foods diet rich in vegetables – “Eat food, not too much, primarily vegetable” Pollan
• 7-9 servings of fruits and veggies – can decrease all cancer risk by an average of 45%
• Combination of a whole foods diet and exercise decreases breast cancer death by half
• Clean meat – “you are what you eat eat” Pollan – if you are thinking of switching to organic think more about quality of life, cage free, grass fed – think animal product. Improved Omega 3 to 6 fatty acids
• Mediterranean diet – reduces inflammation, reverses insulin resistance, reduction in CV dz.
• Whole grains – low glycemic index, high fiber, high in B vit and folic acid,
• Protein – nuts – rich in minerals Mg, Cu, K, omega 3, plant sterols, fiber

2) Medicines that cool the inflammation – glutamine, aloe, herbs
3) Stress reduction

1) Quality time with family, modeling for your children, joy of cooking and eating, a happy digestive tract and improved quality of life allows one to feel rebalanced.

Musculoskeletal System – Exercise is essential to hormone balancing, prevention of cardiovascular disease, glycemic regulation, cancer prevention and digestive support. Create time or enjoy with your family.
• Variability – flexibility, strength, and cardio – the body adapts very quickly in an effort to conserve energy. If you want to see change you have to make change.
• Have fun – play, do activities that you enjoy.
• Nature nurtures – fresh air, sunshine, a deeper connection to the earth and beauty in nature have all been shown to improve health and perception of health.
• Recent studies in cancer, heart disease, and longevity all show that 30 minutes, 6 days per week result in significant risk reduction. Specifically a 50% decreased risk of dying of breast cancer, 65% reduction in cardiovascular disease, 75% increase in successful aging.

Other things to consider:

Labs: A great way to evaluate health is with a provider that looks at functional lab values. Meaning where is the ideal range for optimal physiologic function?  An ideal preventative profile includes – CBC, Lipid profile, complete Metabolic Panel, TSH, Free T3, Free T4, ferritin, Vt D 25-hydroxy, Cardio CRP and Homocystein. Sometimes it is appropriate to consider other labs like, food sensitivity testing, salivary hormone profiles or vitamin and mineral status. Most often you will need a naturopathic physician to order and interpret these types of labs for you. Remember, one step at a time! Typically, you do not need to spend thousands of dollars evaluating labs to restore balance in your life.

Herbs: Aswaganda, rhodiola, maca, passion flower, lemon balm, licorice, hops, oat straw, Siberian ginseng, red clover, vitex, motherwort, hawthorn berry – all restorative and potent. Consult with your ND or herbalist for combining and safety.

Mental/Emotional: Ensure that you are caring for yourself every day. Mindful parenting means to listen and attend to your needs and model self-worth to your children.

Counseling, yoga, massage, community, participating in a community that shares a common goal centered on abundance and ascending are all excellent ways to regain balance in your life.  Women thrive on community, for centuries we have gathered and made change in the world. A ritual that is getting further and further from our reach as we become buried in everyday life, bills, consumption, our children’s enrichment, social schedules, jobs and so on.

Intimacy: Libido is often low during parenthood. Sometimes true for men and sometimes true for women. It is difficult to find energy, time and privacy even when you are in the mood. What is essential to remember is that if one partner is having an issue with wanting more intimacy than it is an issue…there needs to be a discussion to avoid developing resentment. Begin the conversation and then make the effort. You can start with identifying the source of the problem through a discussion, with your partner, girlfriend, therapist or doctor.

Some of my favorite restorative remedies:
• Favorite Elixir: 1 part apple cider vinegar, 1 part ginger powder, 1 part water – mix and store – drink ½ tsp before meals. Great for heartburn too – use as needed.
• Favorite restorative tea – Rhodiola, lemon balm, maca, licorice, ginger – mix equal parts, 1 tbl/ 2 cups of water, bring to boil, remove from heat, add herbs and steep for 10 min.

Yogi teas – Women’s Energy, Detox tea
Traditional Medicinals – Everyday Detox
• Favorite daily detox – 2tbsp of ground flax/day with a huge glass of water and a huge plate of Beets and Greens
• Favorite Exercise – Dancing with my family in the living room
• Favorite Relaxation – Castor Oil pack – rub castor oil over belly and soak in a hot tub with Epsom salts. Drink ginger tea while soaking. Take a cold rinse after.
• Favorite digestive support – Probitotics or cultured food – kombucha, sour kraut, kim chi

More resources for you journey towards balance:

Feeding The Whole Family – Cynthia Lair
Three Bowl Cookbook – David Scott and Tom Pappas
On Rice – Rick Rodgers
Almost Meatless – Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond
Nourishing Traditions – Sally Fallon


“Remember to laugh – it’s an instant vacation from anything holding you down. Remember to smile – it immediately alters your state of mind; and remember to love – it has the power to change the world.” – Kathryn Budig

See other articles from this series:
Mindful Parenting: A Balanced Approach
Sex Lies & Motherhood: Tips for a Healthy Libido and Better Birth Control

Image courtesy Diganta Talukdar