It is very important to eat warming and nourishing foods whilst breastfeeding and especially for the first three months after giving birth. This will help your body heal as well as support breastfeeding and help your newborn have a healthy digestion and reduce the possibility of colic and other digestive upsets.
WHAT IS WARM DIGESTION?
The concept of keeping a warm digestion is deeply rooted in Oriental Medicine. Think of your digestive system as a soup pot that needs to reach a certain temperature to begin to “cook” (or properly digest) the food. All foods, herbs, and spices are categorized and have a temperature, ranging from cold to hot. Cooking, as well as certain ways of preparing food, such as adding spices, can help change the temperature qualities of some foods. For example, iced water is cold, but you can warm water to a neutral room temperature, or you can boil it to make it hot. The more cool foods and drinks you have, the harder your digestive system must work in order to “heat” the food to properly digest.
Oriental Medicine has shown that keeping a warm digestion during the postpartum period is very important for the health of both mother and baby.
Why don’t you want a cool digestion?
If your digestion is cool or cold, your ability to properly digest food is weakened. You may physically feel the effects of a cool digestion as: slow healing after childbirth, slow to lose the pregnancy weight, irregular digestion and fatigue. If you are breastfeeding this may also affect the digestion of your newborn manifesting as: gas, bloating, colic, reflux (or frequent spitting up).
How to keep your digestion warm
Oriental Medicine is about seeking balance in all areas of life, including food and digestion. Having a nice mix of temperatures, flavors, and foods greatly enhances health.
- Start your day with a warm, cooked breakfast. Include warming proteins with your breakfast.
- Drink only warm or room temperature beverages.
3. Eat lots of soups and stews, such as bone broth soup, miso soup, chicken soup and beef stew.
4. Avoid eating leftovers right out of the refrigerator without warming.
5. Avoid all raw vegetables until month four after giving birth, then eat raw vegetables sparingly.
6. When eating dairy, choose drier and harder cheeses (less damp and cooling), and plain or neutral flavors of yogurt. Adding cinnamon to yogurt will warm it up.
7. Avoid all fruits until month two after giving birth and then only more warming and/or in season fruits or cooked fruits.
- Avoid most foods on the inflammatory list until month four after giving birth.
Lists of foods from cold to hot
- Fruits are cooler than vegetables.
- Vegetables are cooler than grains and legumes.
- Grains, legumes, and nuts are neutral.
- Animal meats are warm.
Within each category though, there is a range of temperatures. Grains, legumes, and nuts are neutral, soy is cooler than rice, and rice is cooler than oats. During the Postpartum period, especially the fourth trimester (first three months after giving birth) avoid all cold or cool foods and only eat neutral to warm foods. Let’s go through examples of the temperatures of foods within each category.
- Cold: banana, blueberry, cantaloupe, cranberry, grapefruit, mango, persimmon, rhubarb, tomato, watermelon, mulberry, plum, kiwi
- Cool: apple, avocado, black current, prunes, tangerine, pear, oranges, coconut
- Neutral: apricot, loquat, papaya, pomegranate, tangerine, peaches, lemon
- Warm: blackberry, cherry, dates, grape, litchi, longan, quince, raspberry, strawberry, kumquat, figs
- Hot: pineapple
Vegetables – during postpartum you can eat from the entire list but you must cook the foods first. However, avoid nightshade vegetables (such bell peppers, tomatoes, eggplant) as they may affect the your breast milk and can upset your baby’s digestion.
- Cold: asparagus, Chinese cabbage, seaweed, snow peas, water chestnuts, dandelion leaf, white mushroom
- Cool: artichoke, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, corn, cucumber, daikon radish, eggplant, mushroom, spinach, swiss chard, turnip, zucchini, alfalfa sprouts, bamboo shoots, carrot, endive, potato, romaine lettuce, tomato
- Neutral: beets, carrot, cabbage, lettuce, shitake mushroom, olive, peas, pumpkin, yam
- Warm: bell peppers, chive, green bean, kale, leek, mustard greens, parsley, parsnip, squash, sweet potato, watercress, scallions, onion, fennel, oyster mushroom
- Hot: garlic, green onion
Grains, Legumes, and Nuts
- Cold: wheat germ
- Cool: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, millet, wheat, wild rice, lima beans, mung beans, soybean
- Neutral: brown rice, corn, flax, white rice, almonds, chick peas, hazelnut, peanut, pistachio, pumpkin, sunflower seeds
- Warm: oats, quinoa, safflower, spelt, black bean, chestnut, pine nut, sesame seed, walnut
- Cold: clam, crab, octopus
- Cool: eggs, pork, duck
- Neutral: abalone, rabbit, cheese, duck, goose, herring, mackerel, milk, oysters, salmon, sardine, shark, tuna, chicken
- Warm: beef, liver, anchovy, butter, chicken, eel, ham, lobster, mussels, shrimp, turkey, venison, fresh water fish, sheep, goat, sheep milk.
- Hot: lamb, trout
Pungent spices and oils
- Cold: salt, white pepper
- Cool: marjoram, mint, peppermint, tamarind, cilantro leaf, sesame oil
- Neutral: coriander, licorice, saffron, olive oil, peanut oil
- Warm: anise, basil, bay leaf, carob, caraway, clove, cumin, dill seed, fennel, fenugreek, fresh ginger, nutmeg, oregano, rosemary, sage, spearmint, thyme, jasmine, coriander
- Hot: black pepper, cayenne pepper, chili pepper, cinnamon, dry ginger, horseradish, wasabi, mustard, garlic
By now, you may be beginning to have a better idea about warm and cold foods. This is by no means an exhaustive list! You can take these lists and experiment and even add your own foods as well. At the end of the day, you are the best judge of your body.
- Adequate Protein – at least 50g warming proteins daily
- Adequate Electrolytes – at least 8-12 oz balanced electrolytes daily
- Good oils – include DHA in your supplements as well as 1 tsp good olive oil daily
- Good salt – sea salt or good mined salt
- Warm teas and drinks – avoid cold or iced drinks altogether
- Bone minerals – Bone broth soups, supplement to support bones
- Reduce inflammatory foods during the fourth trimester (see inflammatory foods that may affect your breast milk)
Bone Broth Soup is very nourishing after childbirth and gives needed nutrients for healing and breastfeeding support. You can make it in advance and freeze it as well. Bone Broth can then be eaten by itself or as a stock to make other soups. There are a lot of great recipes on the internet. You can also purchase organic bone broth from health stores. However, if you like to make your own, below is a general recipe to give you an idea of what bone broth soup is all about.
Choose the following bones (as they are the most warming):
Beef – especially good to rebuild blood after blood loss to recover your energy.
Chicken – especially good to aid a weaker digestion and give you energy.
Lamb – especially good to rebuild blood after blood loss to recover your energy
Choose any of the following Vegetables:
Carrots, squash, beets, celery, leeks, dark greens like collards, parsley (these vegetables support the kidney, liver, blood, energy and enhance immunity)
Choose any of the following spices:
Ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, clove, turmeric, fennel, pepper, good salt (these spices are warming, support electrolyte balance and enhance immunity)
- Rinse about 5 pounds of bones to remove any dirt or blood
- Roast the bones in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 1-2 hours to enhance flavor
- Bring 5 qt. cold water to boil and then simmer
- Add bones
- Skim bubbles and scum until water is clear
- Add spices and simmer for 4-5 hours
- Add 2.5 cups vegetables of choice and cook for another 1-2 hours
- Strain all the vegetables and bones and keep the stock
- This can be frozen for future use
Bone Broth Soup Recipe is Adapted from: 7 Times a Woman – Ancient Wisdom on Health & Beauty for Every Stage of Your lIfe. By Lia A
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The views and nutritional/herbal advice expressed by Tansy Briggs, DACM, L.OM is not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. Purchasing a product, program or wellness coaching does not establish a practitioner patient relationship with Tansy Briggs, DACM, L.OM. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider. We suggest that you continue to work with qualified medical professionals as you engage in our material, products and services. No information offered here should be interpreted as a diagnosis of any disease, nor an attempt to treat or prevent or cure any disease or condition. Information and statements regarding products and/or services made available by Tansy Briggs, DACM, L.OM have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Tansy Briggs, DACM. L.OM or Integrative Health Link products and services are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.