Today is Day 1 of SLEEPLOVEPOOP FOR MOMS.
Thrive's goal is to get all mamas out there to achieve what I call the nutrition trifecta by Christmas. This month, we'll be working on improving our quality of SLEEP. November will be LOVE month. And December will be POOP month (and god knows with all those Christmas parties, we'll be needing a good daily detox regime!)
I'd like to kick off SLEEP month by talking about an issue pretty close to my heart: anxiety.
Lack of sleep is a pretty common post-natal problem - at first because of the obvious. But later - and with some moms, sometimes much later - another intruder creeps in: anxiety.
After I had Sofia, my anxiety manifested itself in peculiar ways. For example, I stopped driving for about a year. I literally just couldn't bring myself to get into our car and drive - anywhere. The mere thought of being behind the wheel of a car filled me with dread despite the fact that I'd been driving my whole adult life since I was 16.
And then, I noticed, I'd wake up in the middle of the night and couldn't get back to sleep. My mind would start whirring. I'd worry about EVERYTHING. Break out into a sweat. Hours would go by before I was able to fall asleep again. And this pattern of interrupted sleep and worrying would repeat itself a few times a week.
The problem with anxiety when we experience it post-kids is that it's very easy to chalk it up to an emotional issue, that has to do with the "shock of having a child" or our hormones that our causing us to behave differently . So, we wait for the shock to wear off and our hormones to go back to "normal", thinking that really the solution to our anxiety issues are beyond us and there's not much we can do about it but try to keep our perspective.
There's no doubt that anxiety makes us feel very emotional and keeps many of us moms - new or not - from a restful and regenerative night's sleep. But our ability to cope with and overcome that anxiety is tied directly to nutrition.
Pregnancy & breastfeeding deplete our body of many essential vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. If we aren't diligent about replenishing those, nutritional deficiencies ensue. And let's face it -- I can't think of many moms whose meals haven't been hijacked by 24/7 feeds or a baby who can ONLY sleep in mummy's arms. We are all at risk.
Mamas who come to me complaining of interrupted sleep due to anxiety almost always also exhibit the following symptoms as well:
- eye twitching (so annoying!);
- baby brain;
- sensitivity to noise (easily startled);
- nausea or light-headedness;
- stiff neck & back pains;
- irritability and tendency towards emotional outburts.
In isolation - these symptoms seem totally disconnected. But to a holistic nutritionist - these are classic symptoms of magnesium and B vitamin deficiency.
Fetal development consumes a shed-load of these important vitamins and minerals to make DNA, neural tubes, brain tissue, nerves, a spinal chord and neurotransmitters (among many other things).
After we give birth, these vitamins and mineral are further depleted by the stress of caring for the baby and all the challenges that come with that. B vitamins are crucial for nervous system function; and magnesium helps to regulate the release of stress hormones. So, when we are stressed about our baby not gaining weight, our husband not getting us, our in-laws hovering, our boss not extending our mat leave, our skinny jeans that will never fit again and all the million and one other things we worry about, our body consumes a massive amount of these vitamins and mineral to help our body respond to the stress.
So, is it really that grown, confident & otherwise strong women who can command boardrooms are reduced to being emotional, anxious basketcases who can't sleep because they're unable to handle the emotional pressures of motherhood?
Sleep trouble accompanied by anxiety has little to do with emotional weakness and everything to do with nutritional deficiencies. The more we can use nutrition to replenish our body, the better we will be able to handle our stress triggers and the more energy we will have to find solutions for them.
That's why I never tire of suggesting my ADRENAL FRIENDLY BREAKFAST to my post-natal mamas and every mom out there who is struggling with sleep & anxiety.
- 1-2 eggs (scrambled, boiled or however you like them)
- 4 cherry tomatoes, 1/2 small avocado
- other veggies I like to include time allowing: baby spinach, yellow pepper
- 1 tbsp of kimchi or sauerkraut OR a small bowl (4-5 tbsp) of coconut yoghurt
- 1 piece of sprouted bread (I like the Ezekiel brand)
Wash, chop and arrange your veggies on the plate, together with other food. Toast your bread. Butter it if you like. I like to make runny eggs so that the yolk runs into the bread. Make the eggs how you like them. And enjoy! This breakfast takes 10 min to make and not that long to eat.
Here's how it's helping you get to sleep & reduce anxiety:
- ADEQUATE PROTEIN INTAKE is essential for proper SLEEP. Our body breaks down protein into amino acids that it then uses to make serotonin (the feel-good hormone) and melatonin. So, whether it's plant-based or animal-based: protein should be present in every meal.
- Eggs are rich in B-vitamins, especially B5 which is the most important stress fighting B vitamin. B5 supports the adrenal glands and research has shown it helps with headaches, allergies & insomnia. Stress is the main depletor of B5 so we have to replenish it daily.
- Avocados are rich in magnesium, nature's relaxant. So if you've got twitchy eyes, legs cramps or trouble falling asleep, proactively including foods which are rich in magnesium throughout the day is literally like taking a "chill pill".
- There is a lot of research out there on the GUT-BRAIN connection and how a healthy gut is CRITICAL to proper brain function. We'll be getting more into that over the course of SLEEPLOVEPOOP FOR MOMS. But including probiotic foods in every meal will help promote a healthy gut and optimal brain function.
So the next time you feel anxiety creeping into your daily life, take a look at your diet and ask yourself:
IS THIS FOOD GOING TO HELP ME SLEEP?
We can feed our body the nutrients it needs to kick the sh*t of our anxiety and show it who's boss. And over time, with a bit of self-love, we too can sleep like a baby.
Cristina Tahoces is a holistic nutritionist and owner of Thrive Nutrition Practice. Please join her Facebook group “Thrive Nutrition Practice” for daily articles, recipes, promotions on professional grade supplements and upcoming workshops.
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