PMS and Digestive Distress, What's the deal and what to do about it!

Do you experience excessive bloating, constipation and or diarrhea when you’re about to get your period?
Does this aggravate your pelvic organ prolapse?
Cause you to lose confidence in your body?
Do you avoid activity?
Or maybe just get SUPER annoyed with your unpredictable digestion and elimination?
Well let’s talk about why this happens and what you can do about it!

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Managing pelvic floor symptoms this holiday!

I know it can be frustrating when you have to do EXTRA things just to feel normal like everyone else, but there are MYRIAD reasons why your body is asking for extra attention in this context, so just give it what it needs. 
Breath.
Accept that this is a challenge for you RIGHT NOW and it's not necessarily forever. 
Be present in your body. 
Consciously use your breath to relax every bit of your body all the way down to your toes!!

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Gut health struggles Part 2: Solutions for postpartum mommas

So you read Part 1 and all about WHY we may struggle with gut health and digestion after baby, but now let’s talk about solutions!

These suggestions are for educational purposes only and should NOT be considered a substitution for advice or diagnoses from a practicing health care professional!


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Nutrition. Prioritize fiber, healthy fats , vegetables and protein in your diet as best you can! These are going to help regulate hormones, nourish the gut microbiome and improve regularity and stool formation.

Believe me, I KNOW that when we are overwhelmed it ain’t easy to make “nutritious meals” happen daily.
So pick what you CAN make happen!
Maybe a daily smoothie that gets you a bolus of good nutrition?
I’m a big fan of the #bigasssalad movement and like to throw as much veggie, fat, and protein goodness I can find in a bowl mid day to make sure I get at least ONE nutritious meal.
Or maybe you’re struggling to digest raw veggies (like salads) right now, in which case, roasted veggies (literally throwing whatever veggies you like or have in the fridge in a pyrex dish, pouring salt and olive oil over top and roasting at 400 degrees until they look ready) is the better option for you!

In Ayurvedic medicine food after birth is reintroduced SLOWLY for the mother, beginning with the least complex/most easily digestible foods like broth and gradually moving towards more complex ones like dairy, green vegetables and eventually meat.

The mother’s Agni and ama is routinely checked to see if she is digesting the food fully or if the body is holding onto anything undigested and therefore toxic. If there is a white coating on the tongue, any bloating or cramping, and or if the baby shows any of these symptoms, then the diet is NOT progressed.

***Side note: BROTHS!
Historically in the US and still all over the world we nourished new mommas with broths.

Broth is filled with easily digestible nutrition

It’s devoid of allergens (unless you are histamine sensitive)

Broth contains collagen, gelatin and amino acids to help seal your gut, and restore and rebuild your tissues. 

Check out my post on how to make bone broth, the way I do it is SUPER simple).
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) broths are used HEAVILY for the first 40 days after birth. The Chinese believe that birth makes us more “yin” or cold and the warmth of the broth helps to balance that. Giving broth as a source of nutrition, requires little digestive work for the body and therefore allows our immune and digestive systems to rest while we recover.
Even in non-pregnant women, often in China people will start a meal with a cup of both to stimulate digestive enzymes and help the body better break down our food and extract nutrition.
If you can’t already tell, I’m a fan and if you read my post on broth you’ll learn how it brought me back from the edge of sickness that was induced by a poorly healed postpartum and over-taxed body.

When should follow these nutrition recommendations?
Anytime! If you’re 1 day, 6 weeks, 6 months, 9 months postpartum, doesn’t matter, these recommendations still stand.
It’s important to remember that the process of digestion does take WORK and in the early days of postpartum, your body is still recovering from all it’s hard work!
Eating simply and eating a low-inflammatory diet of easily digested foods is a preventative measure that serves most women that observe it well!

**There is a chance that you could have developed some food sensitivities during your pregnancy and postpartum experience (there are multiple explanations for why that could be to be addressed at a later time!). If you suspect that’s the issue, I would HIGHLY recommend getting with a licensed practitioner (like Laura, here) that can help you sort through that.

I’m partial to a registered dietitian and nutritionist OR an ND or MD with functional medicine training.

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Probiotic foods or supplements. Remember when we talked about the effect of antibiotics and stress on the gut and its community of microbes living in it? If you did receive antibiotics or are struggling with digestion, probiotics are a GREAT solution! There are different strains for different problems and different bodies/guts prefer different types. If you think about tit, there is already a community of bugs living in your gut and probiotics are additional bugs that you are now adding.
Unfortunately they sort of have to “duke it out” in the beginning and you can experience some die-off, worsening of symptoms or other discomfort in the first week, but it’s usually short lived, ESPECIALLY if you SLOWLY introduce small dosages.
Consult with your health practitioner about what probotics would be best for you!


I like the Gut Institute’s Bifido-Max-it’s allergen free and contains the keystone species/gut gatekeepers that we were supposed to get from our mommas. They help decide what goes out and what stays in the intestines and improve digestions AND elimination.
It comes in powder form, so it’s easy to SLOWLY ramp up the dose over time. It’s also kid-friendly!

My second favorite right now is MegaSpore probiotic-which has been toted to fight inflammation and seal the gut.

I am not affiliated with these companies in any way, they are just what I use personally.


If you’re not ready to try a probiotic supplement, how about some foods?
There are LOADS of them out there! I love Farmhouse Culture brand and I don’t love spicy varieties for nearly postpartum moms or anyone struggling with digestive struggles!

**Some probiotic strains or probiotic foods MIGHT be better tolerated by a nursing baby than others, so introduce them SLOWLY and pay attention to how you and your baby’s body respond!





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Spend time moving, especially outdoors! This will get you your daily requirement of Vitamin D, help you inoculate your gut with microbes, and lower your cortisol (stress response) to improve digestion. Movement ALONE has been shown to increase the robustness and diversity of the gut microbiome and let’s face it, the more sedentary we are, the longer it takes for us to excrete waste.
Movement makes you poop more regularly!

I’m not a big fan of new mommas jumping right back into a challenging fitness routine.

I think traditional exercise (like group fitness and CrossFit!) is a reserved for rested, recovered bodies.
But MOVEMENT and movement training can be immensely helpful for re-building strength, core and pelvic floor responsiveness and coordination! I have a movement protocol that isn’t specifically for mommas, but can be a great way to get started with movement! I also recommend working with a postnatal fitness specialist AND doing Original Strength resets.



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Prioritize sleep over screen time-just lay down, close your eyes.
I started wearing headbands over my eyes so I could fall asleep more easily.
Believe me, I get it.
You’re tired, you’re stressed. Your body and life have just been hijacked by this cute little baby that needs you all of the time.
Escaping with some screen time after a long day can feel SOOOO good.
And I’m not saying that you should never do it.
But take it from someone that learned the hard way, your body can NOT afford to lose any more sleep than it is already.


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Sleep deprivation is an issue for a health gut microbiome.
Remember in Part 1 when we talked about “rest and digest”?
The gut does a LOT of digestion and repair work at night while you sleep.

Additionally the microbial “rhythm” of your gut impacts your circadian rhythm and vice versa.
One study showed that just two nights of only 4 hours of sleep dramatically altered the subjects’ microbiome-in favor of reduced insulin sensitivity. Other research show that consistent lack of sleep creates stress in the body that will over time eliminate your good gut bugs.
Lack of sleep also causes us to reach for quick forms of energy, often sugary carbs which ALSO select for negative changes in the gut microbial landscape.


Naps can help mitigate the unavoidable challenge of diminished sleep in lives of new parents, but so can grabbing it as often as you can and NOT allowing the blue light of screens or story line of your favorite show to keep you up when you could be grabbing some Zzzzzz’s.

Sleep deprivation is part of our new reality and it’s worse for some people than others.
I personally had RUBBISH sleepers for babies and I know how it feels to just give up even trying to grab sleep whenever possible, but here’s the thing, the laundry, the on-demand TV, the dirty dishes-they ain’t going anywhere and even if you make it through, there will always be more.

During this season of your life and ESPECIALLY if you struggle with gut distress, you need to prioritize sleep WHEN you can. You don’t have to stress about it or be perfectionist, but you do have to persistently pursue it and make the most of what you goT!

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Squat to poop. Constipation is NOT an uncommon occurrence after baby. Our hormones, pelvic floors and alignment are all VERY different from what they once were before baby.
NOT routinely eliminating waste causes the toxins and expired hormones in the stool to be resorbed into the blood stream.
This can be taxing on our immune system and gut health and can also cause imbalances in our hormones-which will negatively impact sleep and gut health too!
Eliminating waste once a day is ideal and getting in a squat position to do so is VERY helpful for ease of doing so!

You can buy a squatty potty or fashion some other foot rests that work best for you!
To be totally frank, the squatty potty isn’t a deep enough squat for everyone, so if it doesn’t exactly work for you, that doesn’t mean that squatting isn’t best.
Play around with positions! I talk more about all this in another article here.

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It’s so very trying to be taking care of a new baby, trying to meet their needs and meet the expectations you and your life could be putting on you, but I can tell you from my own experience, IF your body is sending you signs that something isn’t right, DON’T IGNORE IT!
Do what you can to address it.
Don’t be afraid to invest resources, time and energy in a practitioner to help you, if necessary! Just be frank with them about your financial situation and time limitations and ask them for guidance in helping you choose the MOST impactful changes for you, your life and your body!

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Sarah Smith is a personal trainer, level two Russian Kettlebell Instructor, postnatal fitness specialist and pelvic floor and gut health advocate with a Masters in Agricultural Science.
She works online and in Raleigh, North Carolina. 
Sarah specializes in helping women online and in-person feel strong, confident and capable in their bodies!

She is a mom to three boys and one English Bulldog. She loves soil, coffee and not folding laundry. Come follow her on Instagram or Facebook.

Gut health struggles for postpartum mommas Part 1; No matter how far postpartum, this could still be you!

 photo credit: Dr. Lia Andrews

photo credit: Dr. Lia Andrews

I hear it all of the time.

”My digestion was just never the same after I had the baby.”


Many a woman is struggling with digestive distress after birth and their lives are so full that they don’t always have the time to acknowledge it to themselves, never mind address it.

But it’s not uncommon and unfortunately, it probably isn’t going to resolve on it’s own, UNLESS it’s strictly due to hormonal changes, which is possible, but even then the recommendations in this article will help you survive digestion and elimination experiences in the meantime!

Let’s talk briefly about the reason why our digestion and elimination experiences can be different after birth.


Antibiotic treatment
Many hospital births require the administration of antibiotics during labor. When warranted, this intervention can prevent systemic infection, but unfortunately it can significantly alter your gut microbiome by obliterating many of the beneficial organisms that live there, leaving space for the flourishment of some not-so-beneficial organisms like Candida (yeast). You can read more here from Dr. Amy Myers!


Hormonal changes
Your digestion processes as well as elimination (pooping) is effected by various levels of hormones (progesterone and estrogen) in the body and as you probably know your hormones are still in flux for a little while after baby.


Possible increase of inflammation and intestinal permeability
There is preliminary evidence that pregnancy alters the barrier integrity of the intestines and increases low levels of inflammation in some individuals, depending on their microbiome and weight pre-pregnancy (Kerr et al. 2015) . And there is loads of evidence that individuals engaged in long endurance exercise events (ahem-birth) temporarily experience increased intestinal permeability that leads to diarrhea, cramping and digestive distress (Cronin, 2017). While labor fits this description, research being conducted on how labor and delivery impacts the mom’s intestinal lumen is NOT readily accessible or visible in the peer-reviewed literature-and so I looked to Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine to see what those vastly under-used resrouces thinkMore later!

Unintentional shifts in diet
If you’re breastfeeding and or recovering from birth, then you need to consume more calories than you are probably doing so. Additionally if you’re tired and don’t have time or energy to prepare meals or are just looking for easy snacks, then you most likely consuming a higher amount of starchy carbs (they are the convenientist!). This which will in turn change the landscape of your microbiome (in high quantities, it can cause bad bugs to proliferate) and can make digestion/elimination move a little bit more slowly.
Forgetting to chew your food, or eating faster
Digestion begins with the teeth and enzymes in the saliva! A habitually fast eater pre-baby, I was SHOCKED to see how much faster at eating I became after having kiddos. When we get a moment to eat, we are often famished and or pressed for time and so we tend to eat FAST! But there is a communication that must happen between the mouth, brain and gut in order to ready our body for digestion. The parasympathetic nervous system slows heart rate, increases intestinal activity and opens gastric sphincter in order to facilitate the NOT uncomplicated process of digestion.
Precision Nutrition has a great synopsis on this topic:

“Think of digestion as a chain reaction. As soon as we see, smell, or think about food (step 1), we start salivating to prepare for putting that food in our mouth (step 2). Saliva contains enzymes that break the food down, and moistens the mouth for easier swallowing.

Meanwhile, digestive steps 3, 4, 5 etc. have to get ready to go to work. Our stomachs start to secrete more acid. Our small intestine starts to get ready for some peristalsis. And so forth.

If we rush this process, we force our GI tract to deal with stuff before it’s fully prepared. Surprises are great on birthdays, not so great during digestion.”

Trying to digest food that has NOT been properly broken down by the stomach acid and enzymes can be really hard on the gut AND it can cause us to OVER-eat. While over-consuming calories is NOT something I want you to stress about, eating too much, too fast can be uncomfortable and cause bloating, cramping and other forms of digestive distress, ESPECIALLY if it’s foods that are difficult to digest like protein and fibrous veggies.


Stress and lack of sleep
Motherhood is stressful. New babies are a lot of work, I don’t care if this is your first or your fourth, a new person in the mix always changes the dynamics and routine of the household. That coupled with lack of sleep can TOTALLY lead to stress mental, emotional and mechanical stress on the body. Stress slows things down. It kills your good bugs. It diverts blood away from our gut so that we can’t digest and absorb nutrition efficiently and over the longterm the gut becomes MORE permeable to toxins and food particles. When these guys get in our blood stream they can make us food intolerant and cause all sorts of negative responses to foods, including rashes, bloating, cramping, diarrhea…
Stress is also part of life!
It’s fine, don’t stress about it, but keep reading about ways to help MANAGE these changes.Ok, well this is the situation we find ourselves.
ONE or possibly ALL of these variables are messing with our digestion and causing bloating, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation or a little bit of EVERYTHING.


So what can we do about it?

Head on over here to read Part 2

References

Armstrong LE, Lee EC, Armstrong EM. Interactions of Gut Microbiota, Endotoxemia, Immune Function, and Diet in Exertional Heatstroke. Journal of Sports Medicine. 2018;2018:5724575. doi:10.1155/2018/5724575.

Benedict, C., Vogel, H., Jonas, W., Woting, A., Blaut, M., Schürmann, A., & Cedernaes, J. (2016). Gut microbiota and glucometabolic alterations in response to recurrent partial sleep deprivation in normal-weight young individuals. Molecular Metabolism, 5(12), 1175-1186. doi:10.1016/j.molmet.2016.10.003

Cronin O, O'Sullivan O, Barton W. Gut microbiota: implications for sports and exercise medicine Br J Sports Med Published Online First: 11 January 2017. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-097225

Kerr, C.A., Grice, D.M., Tran, C.D., Bauer, D.C., Li, D., Hendry, P., and Hannan, G.N. (2015). Early life events influence whole-of-life metabolic health via gut microflora and gut permeability. Crit Rev Microbiol. 41(3):326- 40.

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Sarah Smith is a personal trainer, level two Russian Kettlebell Instructor, postnatal fitness specialist and pelvic floor and gut health advocate with a Masters in Agricultural Science.
She works online and in Raleigh, North Carolina. 
Sarah specializes in helping women online and in-person feel strong, confident and capable in their bodies!

She is a mom to three boys and one English Bulldog. She loves soil, coffee and not folding laundry. 

Are you qualified?

Injuries sustained in pregnancy or postpartum, can plague clients for decades after the fact.
I have clients in their 50’s just NOW healing their diastasis recti and pelvic floor problems sustained 20, 30 years ago.
And you know what.
They’ve been to a lot of gyms and no one told them that leaking, and persistent back pain, chronic shoulder injuries and hip problems were related to their diastasis recti and pelvic floor dysfunction.

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About that extra weight....

The majority of folks that I talk to these days believe they are carrying some extra weight. 

They will often even tell you exactly how much "extra" weight they are holding and often even what weight they are supposed to be. 

But the interesting thing here is that while THEY might believe that they are holding onto "extra" weight and their doctor or society might be telling them the same thing, their body has no idea what they are talking about. 

You see the body doesn't grow your fat cells, store more fat or more efficiently extract nutrition from food for no good reason. 
It does it because it believes that it NEEDS to. 

The information that you are sending it on a daily basis via your nutrition practices, your sleep, your movement habits...THIS is how it's gets ideas about what you need with respect to fat. 

For the human body FAT is a resource. 

I know that in our culture it's demonized because, yes, high percentages of fat storage in the body can cause some health problems and make it more difficult to lose weight.
Fat cells produce cytokines-which create inflammation/stress in the body  and fat cells also release estrogenwhich in high levels signals to the metabolism-"SLOW DOWN!" 

But fat itself is an amazingly beautiful resource. 
It's your body's,"Break glass in case of emergency" life-saving way to quickly provide you with energy and fuel IF you need it! 


And if your biology is responding to your lifestyle in a manner that communicates to your metabolism, "Things are bad here, we need more emergency resources!!" then all the diets and stressful exercise programs in the world are probably NOT going to work for you. 

In fact if you are age 35 or older, then you REALLY can't look to conventional weight loss programs.

Why? Because your body is stressed.It's inflamed. It's hormones are imbalanced and most importantly, its gut is not populated with the microbes that you need toONLY extract the calories that you NEED from food, the microbes that fight off organisms that make you crave sugar and lack energy,the bugs that help your body create dopamine and serotoninso that you feel GOOD!


Under-eating, cutting carbs, and stressing your body with long periods of exercise just ain't gonna cut it, because these strategies DON'T address the root issue. 

These approaches don't tell your body, "Hey-things are cool here, you can chill out and stop clinging to those fat cells like it's the end of the world."

So what DO YOU DO to alleviate the body's stress and help to balance it's hormones, metabolism and gut to get it to reduce holding onto unnecessary fat stores? 

Well I'll tell you!

 

  • Sleep
  • Move
  • Manage stress-not just emotional stress, PHYSICAL stress (we talk about this in the program!)
  • Heal the gut
  • Cut out toxic hormone-mimicking substances

If you do all of these things in an efficient manner that jives with your lifestyle, then your body is going to chill out. 
It's going to become more balanced and less stressed. 
It's going to let go of the "resources" it no longer needs. 


These are the strategies that I have used with over 100 women to help them feel more vibrant and confident in their bodies!
These are the strategies that I use in my own life to help keep my body balanced and minimally stressed!

And these are the strategies I will be introducing to you via my Get Up And Go With Your Gut Program!!!! 


Registration closes tomorrow, June 17th,but IONLY have a few spots left, so grab yours NOW!!! We start Monday, June 18th!!

Click the image below to learn more about this 4 week program to nourish your gut, alleviate digestion and consequently leave your body feeling more balanced and less stressed!!!

Let's talk hard style breath for postpartum women and folks with prolapse and pelvic floor dysfunction

When working with my postnatal and pelvic floor rehabilitation clients that have been diagnosed with an inactive pelvic floor or pelvic organ prolapse, we spend A LOT of time both inside and out of the gym re-learning to breath. 

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Discover your Primal Pelvic Floor, Part 2!

In the same way that your minimal shoes are helping you to resurrect the muscles in your feet, and your primal diet is restoring your gut and brain function, these three steps to discovering your primal pelvic floor are (Plus my DPPF Program) are going to get your pelvic floor back online, more akin to the pelvic floors of our ancestors and, give you an overall better quality of life.

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You asked questions about the pelvic floor and pelvic organ prolapse and I answered!

I 100% DO NOT believe in rules and formulas when it comes to working with the pelvic floor. 
There are some very helpful guidelines and effective strategies for dealing with pelvic floor dysfunction and related injuries, but I will tell you that EVERY CLIENT I SEE IN-PERSON OR ONLINE presents with pelvic floor issues slightly differently and therefore we tailor their programming to their unique problems. 

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When it comes to fitness, vagina and vulva health matters and yes we can talk about it!

I first began to work with female athletes in 2004, they were high school track athletes. 

Two days into the job, I realized how much our fitness and athletic performance is tied to our unique female anatomy and how being one of the only female coaches was going to mean I better have some tampons and pads handy 24/7.

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So what's the deal with pubic hair removal????

Well, pubic hair is basically like eyebrows and eyelashes for your vagina. 
Like the eye, the vaginal canal is a sensitive part of the body open to the outside world!
It is susceptible to invasion and infection by bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoans. 
As a moist environment with mucosa-lined membranes, it can provide the exact niche preferred by some of these foreign invaders. 

The coarseness and shape of the hair makes it easier to trap foreign particles like dust, pollen, pathogenic bacteria....


So if you're like me, you might be thinking, "Ok, but is that still necessary in the modern era? How likely is it that foreign particles are going to get into my Lululemon leggings that I can barely get into myself?"

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