River of Life: Breastfeeding and Microbial Imbalance Part Two
In our last installment I talked about the connection between having an imbalance in gut bacteria and how it affects breastfeeding your newborn. Gut dysbiosis is a broad spectrum problem, but there are some signals that your body will give if you have an imbalanced gut.
One of these is food sensitivities. When we consume certain foods we are sensitive to for a long period of time, our body can tend to tune out the message. Unless we take them out for at least three weeks (and in some cases, longer), we may not notice they’re an issue for us.
Now, comes the “bad” news. I always remind my clients that you have to let go of that food 100% in order to really see any changes. Even if you take most of it out of your diet, you will still be experiencing symptoms because that food is being introduced to your system on a daily basis. Ooooh
So, how do you weed out those food sensitivities in order for your gut to heal?
Write it Down!
One of the best places you can begin is food journaling! You may have heard of this before, but this brief, daily practice really does make a world of difference. Regularly food journaling will create a greater awareness of what you are eating every day, and how it made you feel.
Any old notebook will work, but it is important to jot down anything different you notice after eating that quinoa bowl. If you are feeling anxious, or you notice that your skin is a little red, write it down! This will help you keep track of any signals your sympathetic nervous system is giving you. This is how your body tells you, “Hey! This food isn’t working out for me!”
Another good thing to keep in mind is that process of elimination is never a guarantee. There are various factors to food sensitivities and gut imbalance, but one is genetics. Some of us are predestined to be sensitive to certain foods, and even if we remove them for a couple years, we may still experience symptoms when that food is consumed again.
Kicking Sugar to the Curb
What is it that makes it so hard to let go of sugar?
Studies are now finding that the death grip we have on sugar is very intimately connected with how our ‘neuro pathways’ operate when influenced by sugar. From the time we are born, our preferences are already formed to some extent, especially if there is a constant presence of added sugars in the mother’s diet while she is pregnant.
Since there is such a strong, neurological attachment to sugar (as well as it being a ‘comfort’ for many of us), there will have to be a couple of steps you put in place in order to break away.
Start reading those labels!
Whether it is your favorite granola bar, or your preferred smoothie ingredients, taking a closer look at just how much sugar is in your go-tos is the first place to start.
Many of the pre-made snack foods out there that are a staple among busy moms, such as energy bars, contain a lot more sugar than they used to. Many brands of bars contain 24 grams of sugar, which comes out to SIX teaspoons of sugar. Yikes!
Bring in Satiating Foods
Healthy fats and proteins are a must-have if you are trying to cut back on sugar cravings. A clean source of fat, such as wild-caught salmon or avocado, will provide the satiation factor that is needed to give you sustainable energy. Grass-fed meats, such as beef or lamb, provide you the necessary building blocks to build your baby’s immune system through your milk.
Pucker up, Buttercup!
Sour foods are excellent for killing that sugar craving as you feel it coming on. There is such a wide variety to choose from as well: saurkraut, kimchi, pickled veggies. One of my personal favorites is pickled okra!
What Else is There?
Gluten, dairy, soy, and corn are other common sources of food sensitivities...and sometimes these are harder to catch.
When it comes to healing dysbiosis in the gut, dairy is one of the first things that I often recommend my clients to let go of. If you already have an imbalance of “good gut bugs” versus “bad”, introducing a source of dairy will inflame the issue due to the milk sugars feeding the bad bacteria.
How to Let Go of Dairy
As you remove the current sources of dairy in your diet, replace them with non-dairy options that are full of beneficial bacteria. There are plenty of options out there now for non-dairy yogurts, such as almond or coconut. I tend to go more towards the coconut yogurt, as it is more sustainable than almond (and creamier too!).
Take out all dairy in your diet, but spread it out over time. Ex. Remove cheese from your diet this week, and milk the next.
For every bit of dairy you remove from your diet, don’t forget to replace it with a non-dairy option (preferably one that is low in sugar).
A good place to start is to cut out gluten, and start looking at your labels to make sure you are not consuming anything that may contain gluten. Gluten contains a chemical, called Zonulin, which works to actually open up the junctions of the small intestine. These junctions, or pockets, are where we absorb our food. If they become too large, it lets in larger particles of food that we have not digested well.
Corn and soy are also two very common additives for many food products out there.
Soy poses a problem to breastfeeding mothers because soy acts as an ‘endocrine distruptor’ in the body, but also because a majority of the soy grown here in the states is laced with glyphosate.
Corn also falls into a similar category as soy because it is also another large-scale crop that is steeped in glyphosate and other herbicides. Corn is also closely related to gluten in the fact that it has prolamines. The outer casing of the each individual “grain” is coated with prolamines, which helps protect that “grain” until it is ready to grow into a new plant.
Check out the final installment in this series, where I share practical tips you can use to uncover what you are sensitive to, how to cut it out, and how it will better support you as you breastfeed.
Have a burning question about food sensitivities and breastfeeding? Reach out to me!