Ayurveda considers digestion the seat of all health, and that many more serious health issues begin with simple warning signs like constipation, gas, bloating or poor appetite.
You are not what you eat... You are what you digest!
During your postpartum period Ayurveda puts emphasis on foods that are easy to digest, and spices that improve your digestion. Ayurveda teaches us that, like a newborn baby, a new mom has low digestive fire and high nutritional needs. As a new mother you need a lot of energy to breastfeed, recover from pregnancy and birth, and cope with sleep deprivation.
Getting the energy you need is not simply a matter of eating more food – you must
also digest the food you eat. Modern nutrition looks at the vitamins, minerals and calories involved; it does not consider the complexity of the human body. Different people digest different foods in different ways.
The qualities needed after birth are sweetness, warmth, oiliness, simplicity and moisture. Soups, stews and puddings, good fats and good sugars will give you the energy you need, but to digest them you will need to add spices and keep meals simple and regular.
An ayurvedic postpartum diet is like weaning a baby. Start with soft, warm, soupy foods that are simple to digest (hello kitchari), gradually introduce more texture and variety, and eventually, as your appetite and energy returns you can return to your regular diet.
After birth your digestive fire is very weak but your body needs plenty of nutrients for both the body and producing milk. Your food choices are important as they will be the foundation of your milk supply for your baby. Food that is nourishing and pleasing to the body and the soul at this moment will play a huge role in how fast you will heal physically and mentally, the quality and flow of your milk and the digestion of your baby.
From an ayurvedic perspective good fats are grounding, juicy ad nourishing for new moms. Good fats are sattvic, meaning they promote harmony and balance in the mind and they help new moms to relax and sleep more deeply. The reason fatty foods are such a problem today is because of the way they are processed. Avoid any fats that are hydrogenated, homogenized or deep-fried including trans fats and margarine. Choosing organic is really important for all fats as both plants and animals store toxins in their fat cells.
A Note On Ghee
Ayurveda considers ghee to be liquid gold. Ghee’s balance of elements is very similar to Ojas, the juiciness or sap of life that gives us strength and immunity. Ghee is sweet and cooling and increases the digestive fire. It is excellent for nourishing and re hydrating your body and helps you make breast milk. It also helps prevent that strung out, wired feeling. It is strengthening, satisfying and soothing. Ghee has a few advantages over butter as well. It is cooler and lighter, which is unusual for fats. It also has a higher smoke point so it is useful when cooking with high heat. Pure ghee contains little to no lactose and casein so it is often tolerated better than other dairy foods. If your taste buds can enjoy it keep your ghee on the table and add an extra spoon of ghee to your bowl at every meal.
New Mamas need sweetness as well as warmth, oiliness, simplicity and moisture. White sugar is light, dry and cold, so even though it is sweet it is not a food to favor. The two sweeteners I recommend most are maple syrup and jaggery. Maple syrup is sweet and strengthening, although slightly cooling it is light enough to digest easily and works well in baking. Choose grade 2, or the darker variety of maple syrup as these will contain more nutrients and flavor. Jaggery is unrefined cane sugar and is excellent for blood building as it is high in iron. Jaggery and coconut palm sugar are both heavy, moist and warm in qualities.
Black sesame seeds are warm, oily, heavy and smooth making them wonderfully balancing for new mamas. Black sesame seeds are particularly valuable for vegetarians or vegans and can help with any anemia, relieve pain and improve reproductive health. Black sesame seeds must be ground to be digested. If you can’t find the black ones you can use the white ones as an alternative.
Restoring your iron after birth
Iron is very difficult to digest and anemia is often caused by weak digestion, so eating more iron alone is not enough. The following foods all help with anemia although they are not all high in iron. They are strengthening and liver cleansing, aid digestion and assimilation of iron or are gently laxative.
❖ Soaked dried fruit, particularly dates or raisins
❖ Turmeric, saffron, cinnamon
❖ Dandelion root tea, licorice tea
❖ Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, ground black sesame seeds
❖ Asparagus, broccoli, mung dahl
Slowly introduce new foods
If your appetite is improving you may want to start adding in more foods and textures to your diet. Let your appetite and digestion guide you. If you are still experiencing lack of hunger, indigestion, constipation, gas or bloating then you may want to continue to eat simple foods a bit longer. Once you are ready you can start with some thicker soups and stews then slowly add in more solid foods and variety.