A familiar word no doubt but it's important to understand the fundamentals of a successful, awake digestive system. The subject is complex but we will keep this straightforward. There is much about understanding the gut that we are still learning and what we know is fascinating!
Digestion begins in the mouth with chewing moves through the body stopping in each location allowing the body to do what it needs to do with it. The bulk of digestion happens in the small intestine (aka nutrient absorption headquarters) by pulling vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acides, and glucose from the good and into the bloodstream. But that doesn't mean it's the only important place for digestion.
Food has a direct impact on the healing process. Read that again.
Digestion is highly personal - these times vary significantly.
On average, it is said that it takes food:
2 -6 hours to leave the stomach
It takes 6 - 8 hours for food to reach your large intestine (colon).
Material hangs out in the colon from 4–72 hours, with a normal average of 36 hours.
On average it's about 50 hours BUT let's remember this is highly variable to the individual (and food eaten). Plus, some materials in food move through the system faster, and some more slow. In other words, they transit at their own specific pace - not moving uniformly .
There is also the added task of the Blood Brain Barrier and how it safeguards the brain. Certain nutrients need transport carriers to bring benefit to our noggin. Glucose + Fatty Acids (Omega 3s) get across easily and Vitamin C can as well (amongst others). For Amino Acids, some B vitamins need more help.
Without these helpers, the brain wouldn't be getting the benefits needed to fully support it. In postpartum, this is especially important as this includes the making of neurotransmitters that regulate mood and the nervous system - two important topics within postpartum.
Healthy Hydration practices are recommended. This means sip room temp water with meals - but don't guzzle. Water will keep things moving but we don't want to overdo it and create bloat while we eat. It's good to have a glass with meals and then
The small intestine essentially uses diffusion to absorb nutrients.
Ok Ok, and why is this important?
Super simply put, soothing the gut, giving it a time to not work so hard while also replenishing nutrients - this is the end game.
We say this is a highly unique timeframe because the body is in a different stage, one unlike any other - the postpartum body.
The body is busy right now - it's repairing on a multitude of levels. From the obvious healing of both internal and external tissue, hormone levels fluctuating, to the physical reality that your abdomen literally needs to settle back into it's new un pregnant home.
A major part of what we are doing is giving the digestive system a bit of a break so it doesn't have to work so hard to breakdown food when it's already inflamed and in a heightened state.
A QUESTION OF FIBER (AND FAT)
While we don't want low fiber in the early stages, we don't want high fiber either. It slooowwwwwss things down when we want to keep things moving. It's also fair to say that the very early (first 3 days) would be considered somewhat similar to a modified ( but ancestral version) "Soft Diet".
This can help prevent complications. It can facilitate deeper absorption. It can help with wound healing. It can provide the building blocks of repair. It can prevent constipation. It can stabilize glucose issues and blood pressure issues.
"These types of foods, says Anabelle Harari Clebaner, RD, founder of Wellspring Nutrition, give your GI tract and bowels a break by not needing to work so hard to break down food when it’s already inflamed. It’s like the digestive equivalent of taking a sick day—you need to let your gut rest in order to heal." SIMPLE WAYS THAT WE CAN HELP FACILITATE
Don't' overeat. Moderate to smaller portions. Aim for eating 4 to 5 times spread through out the day with the "lunch" portion being the largest. Snack if you are called to.
Ideally, we do like to gave distinct breaks for digestion but in the early stages (first 2 weeks) of postpartum, if your instinct is to graze, then do it.
Using thermogenic spices with well cooked foods. (No raw food, no packaged food, minimally processed food)
Make sure we eat fat with each and every meal. It's the long burning energy needed. Unctuous fat, delicious Fat is needed for absorbing all this food medicine! So that means about an ounce of nuts, a tablespoon of olive oil, or 1/3 of an avocado for absorbing Vitamins A, D, K, E
Try to Sip water while eating but not overdo it. Reserving the bulk of your liquid (tea!) ingestion to be in between meals. Don't overthink this!
Avoiding foods that are known to cause gas, distention, bloating, crankiness. This would mean avoiding broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, some beans + lentils (see separate post on soaking), corn and cabbage. There is a more detailed list if you are curious.
Chew! Chew your darn food, and slow down when you eat.
Next part we talk about rebuilding the gut after giving it a rest but first I want to mention something else:
Within the 42 days postpartum, there is a breakdown of phases. Here you will find a few schools of thought but to generalize, we follow this roadmap (remember, no rigid rules heres with many cultures aligning give or take a few days).
There is a special emphasis on the First 3 days postpartum as highly acute, very hormonal, often thought to be intense and blissful. So much is happening and it's a lovely, sweaty, sometimes tearful whirlwind.
From there is further emphasis on the first two weeks (some may say 10 days).
From there, once we hit 3 weeks, we are in a different phases with strength and complexity building towards that 42 day mark.
Beyond the Fourth Trimester (which is totally a confusing term, I agree), you hear folks say Fifth Trimester (equally as perplexing). Rather, we can continue to think of it as phases with the Fifth Trimester continuing until menses start up again.
Interesting, this aligns with common western gut rebuilding protocols as well as the natural rhythm of healing and hormonal fluctuations.