Pregnancy can be a roller coaster of emotions. Postpartum can be an even bigger emotional roller coaster. And this is all thanks to our hormones, more specifically estrogen and progesterone. During pregnancy, the placenta produces high levels of progesterone, much higher than our body normally produces. After birth, the placenta is expelled resulting in an immediate drop in progesterone levels. Progesterone has mood elevating properties so this drop of hormone can explain the appearance of the “baby blues”. Although progesterone drops, estrogen levels remain high and this imbalances doesn’t necessarily normalize right away.
This can cause estrogen dominance which can have all sorts of effects on your new mom body. The effects of too much estrogen in the body could lead to increased risk for mood swings or depression, or in this case, postpartum depression and baby blues. Estrogen stops the body from breaking down cortisol, hence prolonging its effect. If you aren’t familiar with cortisol, this is the hormone that is released by the adrenal glands in high stress situations. High levels of cortisol are also associated with depression and anxiety.
Fear not, there is a way to help reinstate hormonal balance. Your first step should be to focus on organic fruits and vegetables. Pesticides used on non-organic foods contain xenoestrogens. These synthetic estrogen-like substances have multiple negative effects but particularly can stimulate more estrogen production. Using plastic containers in the microwave can also have the same outcome.
You should also include foods with high content of phytoestrogens which stands for plant-based estrogen. I know this sounds crazy, why eat more estrogen foods if there’s already too much in your own body, but bare with me! Phytoestrogens are very useful in estrogen dominance cases since they help with regulation of the hormone produced by the body. They insert themselves on receptor sites where the body would normally produce estrogen. Since the site is now busy, the body doesn’t need to release estrogen, hence creating a decrease in production.
Phytoestrogen rich-foods include soy, but this option isn’t always the easiest food for the body to process. Instead, try to include vegetables like yams, carrots or fruits likeapples and pomegranates which are much easier to digest. Wheat germ, barley andoats all contain phytoestrogens also. Flaxseed is a great source while also having additional benefits for your health like omegas.
Not sure how to incorporate plant-based estrogen into your diet?
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