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. 

How I make bone broth

I make bone broth on a routine basis because we eat a lot of pasture-raised organic chicken and there’s NO WAY I’m letting those precious drippins and bones go to waste!

Also, bone broth is an old, trusted friend of mine.
Its nutrient, gelatin and collagen content is the reason I recommend it to my clients suffering from pelvic organ prolapse, chronic inflammation and joint pain, gut dysbiosis and a history of restrictive (under-eating) and malnourishment as well as my pregnant and postpartum mommas!

Five years ago when I was SUPER sick with three parasites and Candida overgrowth, my body couldn’t tolerate many foods.

I was malnourished and had horrible stomach pains more often than not.

I had heard of bone broth and it’s ability to sooth and heal/seal the gut, so I decided to give it a shot.
It sounded warm, soothing and easy to digest, so why not?


I can still remember breathing a sigh of relief when I drank my first mug.
The salty, nutritious goodness of gelatin, collagen, and amino acids from the chicken meat and bones PLUS the vitamins and minerals from the veggies I had used, it was bringing me back to life.

Finally I had something that I could consistency eat that didn’t make me feel terrible.
PLUS it was also sealing my leaky gut, helping me heal a bit.
It was giving me nutrition at a time when I was struggling to eat enough food to sustain my body and had dysbiosis that mades it difficult to sufficiently extract nutrients from the food that I was eating.


“Good broth will resurrect the dead,” - South American proverb.




We easily eat a roasted chicken once or twice a week so I pop the bones, carcass and drippings in a ziplock bag and throw them in the freezer.
I typically wait until I have two birds worth of bones before I made a broth.

Even when I have grass-fed beef bones, I STILL make add in the chicken.
Beef broth is a lot of nutrient bang for your buck, but chicken broth has a milder taste, so mixing the two is my preferred broth.


If I make the combo, then I start the roasted beef bones FIRST for 12 hours and then add in the chicken.
Chicken doesn’t need as long of a cook time as the beef bones do, and I don’t love the flavor of a bone broth that’s been cooked for too long.

Ok, so here are my super simple directions for making bone broth.

Stephanie Gadreau of Stupid Easy Paleo has recipe for making it in the Instant Pot.

I don’t go that route, but if you’re into your Instant Pot, then try that version!




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Chicken Bone Broth Instructions (not a recipe) -easiest done on the weekend if you work a traditional work schedule, since you have to monitor it for 24 hours.

1. Take two-three chickens worth of bones (I usually have them frozen from previous meals) and pour 1/4 cup of Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar or lemon juice on the bones and let sit for 5 minutes.



2. Cover the bones with filtered or spring water (fluoride and chlorine-free if possible, but do what you can, #persistenceoverperfection!)


3. Bring water to boil.


4. Throw in 1-2 organic onions (whole is fine) and 2-3 cloves of garlic.


5. Add in any other veggie scraps that you have hanging around! I frequently use celery stalks or hearts, carrots, or sweet potatoes. I do not respond well to nightshades, so no potatoes, peppers, tomatoes or eggplant.

6. Allow to continue to boil with the veggies for 5 minutes, then reduce to a simmer. You can transfer to a pre-heated crockpot if you feel safer, but I leave mine on the stove, because I live on the edge. **Making sure there is nothing flammable nearby.

7. Simmer broth for 20 hours (anything between 12 and 20 is fine, but I like to check the bones and make sure they are easily crushable before taking the broth off the heat). Keep an eye on the water level and add more water when necessary. I top it off before I go to bed.

8. Don’t add any water (unless absolutely necessary) in the last 5 hours because it dilutes your rich broth.

9. Turn off the heat and let broth cool a bit.

10. Strain veggies and bones! I use something like this to scoop out the bones and veggies, DO NOT THROW THEM OUT!

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If you miss a few bones, it’s not the end of the world, IF you checked to make sure the bones were easily crushable and not choking hazards.



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11. I freeze extra broth-or broth I don’t want to use immediately, in bags and distribute the rest into jars.
It’s best to divide it up according to how much you will use in one sitting.
When the broth cools, if you included skin or gelatinous fat from when you cooked the bird, a layer of fat will form on the top. This will ESPECIALLY happen if you included beef bones.
The fat layer helps keeps the bone broth by sealing out bacteria, so leave it on there!

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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 working online and in Raleigh, North Carolina. 
She specializes in helping women online and in-person feel strong, confident and capable in their bodies!

Sarah 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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Poor Potty Habits for the Pelvic Floor

Preemptively peeing. This is a poor habit because it trains the body to need to go more often. I know it starts out with just you being anxious that you’re not going to have access to a bathroom and God-forbid have to pee in public, which by the way I think is why women were long skirts for so damn long in history. I mean how much easier is it to relieve yourself without a bathroom if you’re donning a long privacy curtain,  but I digress….

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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.

Read More

How to discover your Primal Pelvic Floor!!!

Search for archived blog posts!

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In flight to Paleo f(x) in Austin, watching Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. 
Did I tell you guys that I met Sam Rockwell last year in the Atlanta airport on my way home from RKC?

Gosh, could that dude be any cooler!

I didn't know he was making this movie, but I wish to God that I had, because I would have pumped him for as much info as I could. 
My hubs and I are big Martin McDonough fans and loved In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths.


Anyways, watching a film in peace is NOT something that happens to me often. 
The turbulence of the plane's got NOTHING on three boys under 8...so my brain was EASILY able to watch the movie and think about my time in Austin. 

I'm sitting there thinking about the Paleo f(x) presentations I want to catch, the new food products I'm going to try, the people I’m looking forward to visiting  and suddenly realizing there needs to be more talk at this conference about the primal pelvic floor

In the Paleo world, you hear about primal foods, primal movement, primal cooking, foraging, love-making…but what about the primal pelvic floor

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Ok, so maybe nobody really cares about that right now, but hopefully by the end of this article, YOU will care and you will want to embark on a hunt to discover yours. 

Why?
Because a healthy pelvis is going to help you move better, experience less pain, have less anxiety about leakage or bathroom habits or even sexual performance. 

It’s going to make you stronger, fitter, and more confident

 

Really, WHO WOULDN’T WANT A PRIMAL PELVIC FLOOR?

So let's do this!

To kick it off, let’s define the word “primal” , because to so many of us it’s synonymous with “cave-man”, “wild”, ‘animal-like” or “paleo”, but the word “primal” ACTUALLY means essential; fundamental.

If something is primal then it’s necessary, of central importance. 

Well if that doesn’t describe the pelvic floor, then I don’t know what does?!

 

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The pelvic floor (PF) is a group of muscles, ligaments and fascia that form this basket of support at the bottom of your trunk/core. It provides structural integrity to the body.

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If you think of the body as a canister that contains most of your essential organs with appendages and a head attached, the pelvic floor is the bottom of that canister, the foundation of your body. (What about the feet? Well if you know anything about structural design, and I know VERY little, in this analogy the feet would be the “footers”. Appropriate, right?).

 

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We all know what happens when the foundation of ANYTHING is compromised….it caves, implodes, loses structural integrity, quality, longevity, value, strength and function. 

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One of the most fundamental requirements for a strong, optimally functioning body is a healthy base, therefore a healthy pelvic floor is by definition, primal. 

 

But how do we get one, or maybe the question is really, why don’t we all have one already?

In a word, modernity.

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To get an optimally conditioned pelvic floor, we have to fight back against modern (no-) movement culture and sedentary tendencies. 

We have to resist the urge to solely think of the body in terms of “fat” or “lean”, “healthy” or “unhealthy” and adopt a systems-thinking approach that allows us to see the body and all it’s parts as systems that need to be functioning fairly well AND most importantly, as a team. 

Because pelvic floor problems are becoming more of a problem for all people and it’s a problem of systems that don’t coordinate well and these out of sync systems compromise the quality of the larger system, the body. 

 

We see 74% of moms of all ages experiencing some degree of pelvic floor dysfunction (leakage, pelvic/hip/low back/ pain, pain during intercourse, chronic constipation, and pelvic organ prolapse), BUT we also see non-parous women and men struggling with pelvic floor issues as well. 

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And EVEN if they aren’t displaying symptoms of dysfunction YET, all you have to do is sit in an airport for an hour and watch people’s pelvis (like a creep) and you can see that we have a MAJOR problem on our hands. 

Manchester-Bedford Musculoskeletal

Manchester-Bedford Musculoskeletal

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People are living their lives postures that is weakening their entire body, including the pelvic floor and THIS is causing them chronic pain and setting so many on the path to surgery. 

 

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Many of these folks with tilted pelvises, flared ribs, compromised shoulder joints, compressed spines, jacked up hips, bad knees and tight hamstrings are trying to or wanting to hit the gym and get healthy, not realizing that building muscle and adding load to these structurally unsafe bodies is akin to trying to add another floor to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. 

Not. Kablamo. 

 

And so naturally they quit exercise and movement (if they can ever even start in the first place) and life a life of inactivity.

They start saying things like, “I have a bad back.”I can’t lift heavy things” and “I need to do more yoga.”

Their lack of movement increases their body’s stress and negatively impacts mood and health.

They gain weight.

Why?

Because their body isn’t working in the way that it should, in the way that it used to before sitting and lack of movement taught their body poor movement patterns.

Because their pelvis is in poor condition. 

Because they don’t have a Primal Pelvic Floor!!!


Ok so just to summarize what we’ve covered thus far. 

  1. A well-positioned pelvis makes for a functioning pelvic floor is, which is essential for a healthy body

  2. A chronically tilted pelvis is going to negatively impact movement and quality of life, and will eventually cause injury.

  3. Modern sedentary culture has us unfamiliar with movement and therefore in bad alignment that leads muscle imbalances and a life of chronic pain


So what to do?? How do we discover our primal pelvises and pelvic floors?

We can begin to do so in three easy steps!

***Just a quick disclaimer here that IF you already have pelvic floor dysfunction, you are probably going to need more individualized programming and cues than what is listed here. 

This list is for people that have little to-no pelvic floor dysfunction symptoms, currently.

Step 1. Retrain the breath.  

As you can see in the photo above, the core of the body is a canister with the top being the diaphragm and the bottom the pelvic floor. 

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When you inhale, the diaphragm lowers, the rib cage expands and the pelvic floor RELAXES downward.  When you exhale, the diaphragm rises, the rib cages deflates and the pelvic floor contracts (lifts). 

 

It’s a subtle sensation, but for many of us, we don’t even know that our breath, core and pelvic floor should all coordinate, much less HOW TO DO IT! 

How did we get here? That’s a whole other long story, but lack of regular movement or too much strictly cardio (heavy breathing) and belly sucking (you know, when you suck in your tummy to make it look less squishy) can train us to be shallow chest-breathers that never get a full breath and therefore never active our pelvic floors. 

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These habits can cause some people to adopt a reverse pattern where they inhale and tighten their pelvic floor OR the position of the pelvis causes the pelvic floor to remain chronically tight no matter the breath. If you have tailbone, hip pain, trouble eliminating waste, pain during sex, premature ejaculation, or pelvic pain in general, then this might be yoU!

********Your homework!!
Begin to notice your own breathing pattern and start to practice deeper inhales and exhales WITH pelvic floor coordination. 


See if you can feel it? 

Here is a video to guide you!

Practice head on over to read Part 2!!! of this Your Primal Pelvic Floor!

 

 

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Sarah Smith is a trainer, and postnatal fitness specialist and pelvic floor and gut health advocate based in Raleigh, North Carolina. 
She specializes in helping women online and in-person feel strong, confident and capable in their bodies!
Her specialties include kettlebellsgut and pelvic floor health optimization , mobility and movement and making fitness fun! 
She's also a mom to three boys and one English Bulldog. 
Check her out on social media here or get on her email list!! for more free content!
 

Why you don't want to use another person as the standard for what YOU should be

"After all that, I'm just ready to be me." -Lauryn Hill

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I'm work fitness. 
I help women stretch beyond their comfort zones and grow. 
I help them find time in their days and space in their lives to care for their bodies with movement and training. 
I help them crush goals, change how they feel in their bodies and even change aspects of their physique. 

I do NOT tell them that they have to be like me. 
I do NOT encourage them to look to Pinterest boards and fitness models as inspiration for whom they should become. 

I have an online presence that features me working out, sharing my accomplishments, challenging others to do more in their lives. 
I follow other women that are crushing online. 
I look to them and their accomplishments with admiration. 
I use them to challenge me. 

I work HARD to make sure that I refrain from EMULATING them or believing that I have to do exactly what they are doing to be successful, to be happy. 
 



You see, I am 100% in opposition of is the idea that we should EVER make another individual human being the standard for what WE SHOULD BE. 



I spent from age 13 to 19 suffering chronic whiplash from always looking around at what EVERYONE else was doing and using that as a measure of what I needed to be. 

Consequently I had NO direction. 
I felt like a failure and a fraud. 
I pretty much hated my life. 


At 19 years old I had two amazing faculty members at the University of New Hampshire, that changed my life. 
They saw me. 
They saw my talents and my potential for the successful achievement of goals. 
They believed in me. 
They weren't confused about who I was. 
They weren't comparing me to anyone else. 
They weren't telling me to become something else. 
They simply let me know that I was capable and that I could cultivate a life for myself beyond what I was doing now. 
I could do better. 

And never in a "you don't measure up" sort of manner, but in a, "I see you. You got this," sort of way. 

And suddenly I wanted to change EVERYTHING. 
I wanted to invest in myself. 
I wanted to expand my comfort zone and pursue all the things that I wanted out of life. 

I saw fellow students buckling down and succeeding in school and I went after MY OWN version of that. 

I saw my friends enjoying their hobbies and academic pursuits and I wanted to figure out how to do that for myself too!

I took a hard look at the habits, relationships and activities in my life that WERE NOT working and I changed them. 

I took another job. 
I moved. 
I studied like I had NEVER studied before. 
I set goals. 
I wrote them down. 
I changed who I spent time with. 
I found new tasks and activities that actually nourished me. 

My life suddenly looked like no one else's around me and you know what. 
It was good. 

 

And so now, you know, I understand that it was because I was measuring myself or trying to compare myself to a standard that wasn’t reality. It wasn’t the standard at all, you know. There’s a scripture in the Bible that we, what does it say, it says ‘We compare ourselves amongst ourselves’ you know. That’s not the standard. You already are the standard. What are you trying to fit into a standard for? We were each created to be individual standards, you know. And we’re trying to fit into a standard? It doesn’t make any sense, you know....After all that, I’m just ready to be me.
— Lauryn Hill, Unplugged
Click the image to listen to and read these lyrics about why we shouldn't compare ourselves to others!!

Click the image to listen to and read these lyrics about why we shouldn't compare ourselves to others!!



Of course this took place over a couple of years and while I learned this incredibly important lesson early in life, I have had to re-learn it and grow it and build upon it time and time again. 
BUT the foundation that nineteen year old Sarah Smith laid has FOREVER impacted my life and helped me to stop chasing everyone else and invest in my own life. 


And this is why I feel so passionately about speaking out against the MANY messages in fitness, social media and popular culture that tell you, 
"Be this_______[insert snapshot of popular, fit, successful person]."

Especially for pre and postnatal women, women struggling with their body image, confidence, self respect and a sense of place in this world. 
Because when we are in theses states we are vulnerable. 
We can be more susceptible to harmful messaging. 
We can do ourselves harm chasing standards set for us by the culture EVEN when we don't know that we are doing it. 


That nineteen year old young woman that was affected by what everyone else around her was doing, she came out again during my third pregnancy and postpartum period. 


I found myself being affected by what fitness culture was telling me pregnant and early postpartum women should be doing, looking like, be capable of. 

I didn't even know that I was doing it!

I was working my ass off. 
Training, lifting, chasing kiddos, not always eating enough, exhausted, a little fried...

Why?
Because I thought that's what you did. 

And then I injured my body. 


The good thing about my injury is that it taught me that I could no longer copy what anyone else was doing. 

NO one readily accessible to me rehabbing pelvic floor dysfunction, diastasis recti, pelvic organ prolapse AND training with kettlebells. 

I had to look to my own body. 
I had to pay attention to my own life. 
I had to work around my own restrictions and capitalize on my own strength.  
Once again I had to stop using what others were doing as my meter stick for success and fitness. 

And it was good!
I now am SUPER outspoken about the fact that pelvic floor dysfunction, pelvic organ prolapse and other injuries shouldn't stop you from living your life and crushing your goals. 

But I the way that I train and the messages that I share are always based on the idea that we need to learn what works for us as individuals. 
We need to challenge ourselves to grow. 
But trying to keep up with other people and do exactly what they are doing is both an empty, dangerous and unsatisfying pursuit. 

At the end of the day, we are 100% responsible for shifting our focus and our mindset from looking to other people to learn "What we should be."

But I also know how impactful it was to have two very successful intelligent people in my life say, "I see you. You can do more. Dig in and grow. "

And so that's what I do with my coaching and my online community. 

I see you. 
You can do it!
It doesn't have to look like what anyone else is doing to be good, valuable...to be a success. 


 

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. 

Read More

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.

Read More

Five Ways the Pelvic Floor and Gut Impact One Another

1. Gut dysbiosis and elimination

http://gonatureswellness.com/2017/01/10/dysbiosis/   

http://gonatureswellness.com/2017/01/10/dysbiosis/

 

Gut dysbiosis is when there is an imbalance in the presence of beneficial and pathogenic microbes in your gut. Gut dysbiosis can cause a number of negative symptoms, but one of the most common is diarrhea

The frequent elimination and inflammation that occurs when one is experiencing frequent bouts of diarrhea irritates not just the rectum, but the entire pelvic floor. 
The increased incidence of elimination leads involves straining that puts consistent and persistent downward pressure on the muscles of the pelvic floor and like any muscle, they can fatigue and become weak from CONSTANT pressure. 

For those of you that don't know, weak pelvic floor muscles are not as effective at supporting the pelvic organs (rectum, bladder and uterus (if you have one)).

Weak pelvic floors can also cause urine and fecal leakage. 


2. Poor nutrient absorption and depletion of spleen Qi. 

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The microbes that reside (or are supposed to reside) in your gut have the amazingly important responsibility of harvesting energy from the food that you eat.
I know you've been walking around giving yourself and your body credit for this incredible job, but sorry. Your body has LONG been outsourcing it. 
There's even research to suggest that the efficiency of nutrient absorption AND how the fuel is used  (is it being used as energy or stored as fat) is determined by specific strains of microbes. Citation

Poor nutrient absorption disregulates the metabolism which frequently results in cravings, consuming more calories than necessary and high BMI in patients, ALL of which can play a role in elimination struggles and pelvic floor dysfunction. 

Additional, a lack of nutrient absorption in the gut ALSO contributes to reduced elasticity, tension and recovery of muscles. 
Weak muscles and lack of tension/elasticity contributes to the incidence of pelvic floor dysfunction and pelvic organ prolapse. (Citation)



But what's even more amazing (to me) is that the first step in the nutrient absorption process is DIGESTION. Digestion begins in the mouth with teeth and saliva. It continues in the stomach thanks to enzymes and acid. And then continues in the small intestine.


 In Chinese medicine, pelvic organ prolapse is associated with a depletion of spleen energy. The health and balance of the spleen (yang) is directly related to the health of its yin, the stomach. 

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When the stomach (part of the gut!) is dysbiotic (remember that means that good microbes are absent and bad ones are present)  it produces less acid and inefficiently digests food. 
Inefficient digestion and low acid conditions allow pathogens that should otherwise be killed and starved in the stomach to thrive and survive on the undigested foods. 

Inefficient digestion negatively impacts nutrients absorption while the impaired health of the stomach ALSo negatively impacts the spleen...

"One of the most common patterns found in western people is something we call Spleen Qi Deficiency. This can arise from any number of reasons but a poor diet mixed with irregular eating patterns and stress is a common way to develop this pattern. Spleen qi deficiency involves symptoms such as poor appetite, bloating (particularly after eating), weakness of the arms and legs, fatigue and/or loose stools.

As spleen qi deficiency continues to progress a subsequent pattern may develop called Spleen Qi Sinking. This pattern is essentially the same as spleen qi deficiency but with prolapses of the stomach, uterus, anus and/or vagina along with frequency or urgency of urination. This pattern shows a more internal weakness where the body can no longer hold the organs in place."  (Reference) 

Come on! Now tell me THAT isn't interesting and a perfect illustration of how the health and wellness of the pelvic floor and gut are intricately intertwined!

Citation

 

3. Gut microbiome determined muscle wasting and insulin resistance

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The pelvic floor is this amazing system of muscle, ligaments and fascia at the base of your trunk that stabilize and support your body!
In order to effectively do it's job, these muscles and ligaments need to have some bulk, elasticity and resilience. 

Sarcopenia, the progressive loss of muscle mass and strength is associated with aging, cancer and other diseases but it's also highly correlated with inflammation, chronic infection and malnutrition caused by imbalanced gut micro biomes deficient in legacy keystone strains of microbes.

"One recent animal study suggests a relationship between muscle wasting and alterations in the gut microbiome. Muscle wasting induced by a model of acute leukemia in mice was reduced by orally supplementing the mice with specific Lactobacillus species.(44) The Authors suggest that gut micro- biota may influence muscle physiology through altering amino acid bioavailability; influencing metabolites such as bile acids; and modulating production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.(42)"
(Citation)

In 2015 Maranhao et.al., evaluated the relationship between insulin resistance  and pelvic floor strength. 

They found that in their small sample group that as insulin resistance increased, strength of pelvic floor contractions and ability to recruit all the muscles of the pelvic floor decreased.

We know that the gut microbiome plays a significant role in the development of insulin resistance therefore this is yet another way in which the condition of the gut microbiome could impact the health of the pelvic floor.  (Citation)

Citation

4. Anxiety and mood

https://www.boredpanda.com/anxiety-comics-funny-illustrations-gemma-correll/

https://www.boredpanda.com/anxiety-comics-funny-illustrations-gemma-correll/

The research is in, the oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin, endorphins are all neurotransmitters that control stress, anxiety, mood and behavior whose production by the body is MEDIATED by the bugs in your gut.
Stress, mood and anxiety are responsible for increased pelvic floor dysfunction and pelvic organ prolapse symptoms.
Citation

The peer-reviewed literature is ALSO showing that the psychological state of an individual contributes to flare-ups of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). 

IBS is highly associated with pelvic floor dysfunction because of the strain and pressure that bouts of diarrhea and constipation place on the pelvic floor. 

Citation

 

5. A hypertonic (too tight) pelvic floor

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Over-recruiting the pelvic floor muscles via exercise or every day life makes for too tight pelvic floor muscles and results in pelvic floor dysfunction.
You can imagine that since your pelvic floor stretches from your bladder to your rectum if it was too tight it could make you feel urge to urinate frequently AND could make elimination difficult. 
Health routine bowel movements and urination rely upon the pelvic floors ability to relax. 
When the pelvic floor is overly and consistently tight, then elimination habits are disrupted and trouble starts. 

The colon is where water is resorbed or absorbed by the stool, depending on what is necessary to create healthy, easy to eliminate stools.
When overly-tight pelvic floor muscles make it difficult for waste to be excreted,  one becomes constipated. 
Besides being uncomfortable and causing straining to the pelvic floor, constipation ALSO negatively impacts the gut. 
When stools remain in the colon for too the toxins that are supposed to be excreted begin to accumulate. The accumulation of these toxins leads to intestinal permeability (leaky gut syndrome) in which the mucosal lining of the intestines breaks down and begins to allow various substances to leak out of the gut into the blood stream. 

Constipation can also mean that metabolized hormones in the stool are hanging around (causing hormonal imbalance and inflammation) preventing the body from making fresh new hormones!
 

Citation Citation

 

So there you have it!
If you didn't consider the pelvic floor and gut to be two parts of the body that were impacted one another AND your whole body strength BEFORE you read this article, then hopefully you are beginning to see their connection now!

The body never ceases to amaze and fascinate me.

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Sarah Smith is a trainer, lifestyle coach and postnatal fitness specialist that specializes in helping women feel strong, confident and capable in their bodies!
Her specialties include kettlebells, gut health and optimization for fitness goals, pelvic floor health and function and making fitness fun! Check her out on social media here or email her!