A Guide to Managing Hormonal Balance with Food

As when you first got pregnant and experienced morning sickness during the first trimester due to the drastic changes in levels of different hormones in the body. Similarly during postpartum, you would experience its own set of symptoms due to hormonal fluctuations. 

During your postpartum recovery (a.k.a the 4th trimester), oxytocin and prolactin increases as you continue to breastfeed. These hormones are important to help your uterus and cervix contract faster. This hormone is also helpful in constricting your blood vessels to reduce bleeding. Besides that, hormones such as prolactin also inhibits your sex hormones from being released such as oestrogen and progesterone subsequently inhibits ovulation. Therefore, breastfeeding can cause you to be free of menses up to 6 months postpartum and provide moderate effectiveness of contraception.

These hormonal fluctuations during postpartum are common and it normally regulates naturally to its baseline as per-pregnancy within 1 week as you recover. This fluctuation sometimes causes mothers to experience postpartum blues. This is common but yet easily overlooked as many would only think that mummies’ tiredness, irritability, mood swings are just signs of trying to cope with something new, called motherhood. However,  when this blues is persistent, mummies are encouraged to voice out and seek professional help even as early as two weeks postpartum. 

In some instances, oestrogen remains high even after child birth and does not drop. This occurrence leads to estrogen dominance. Due to prolonged increased oestrogen levels, the adrenal gland may be stimulated to release cortisol hormones excessively and this would lead to adrenal fatigue as well. Some of the common symptoms experienced by mothers due to these occurrence would be as such: 

Less common hormonal imbalance causes could be postpartum thyroiditis where mothers would have inflamed thyroids and may experience hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism or both. It is an autoimmune disease and other reasons for this happening are unclear. Symptoms can be tiredness, moody, cold feet, irritability and difficulty sleeping which are similar to symptoms of  postpartum blues which isn’t wrong as well especially since it’s known that those with thyroid dysregulation are also at higher risk of postpartum depression. 

How to Regulate Your Hormones with Food

A short answer on how diet can play apart in supporting your body to regulate these hormonal imbalances is practicing a healthy and balanced diet as per endorsed by the Health Promotion Board Singapore:

Credit to: Health Hub Singapore

In detail, the concept of “My Healthy Plate” is about following the key healthy habits as below:

  • Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables
  • Fill a quarter of your plate with wholegrains
  • Fill a quarter of your plate with meat and others
  • Use healthier oils
  • Choose water
  • Maintain an active lifestyle

Beyond practicing a healthy and balanced diet, mummies should be aware of a few other key nutrients and how they play a role in helping their body manage these imbalances. Being aware of these key nutrients and incorporating these foods more often in the diet would be beneficial. Some of these are listed below:

Oestrogen Dominance / Adrenal Fatigue: Whole Grains

Due to increased cortisol levels in adrenal fatigue, insulin receptors on body cells become less sensitive which leads to lower uptake of glucose from the blood. Prolonged insulin insensitivity drives up the demand on the pancreas to produce more insulin, thus increasing risk of type 2 diabetes as well. 

Having refined carbohydrates spikes blood glucose easily which will aggravate this phenomenon. Therefore, having wholegrains which are higher in fibre will be beneficial. Whole Grains take longer to digest which slows down the uptake of glucose into the blood. This gives the  body more time to regulate blood sugar and insulin secretion. 

Regulated insulin levels help to correlate with energy levels and oestrogen which may help to alleviate the symptoms. Therefore, a confinement menu Singapore that would be beneficial would be one that includes whole grains as part of their menu. 

Postpartum Thyroiditis: Selenium & Iodine

Research found that those with thyroid dysregulation were commonly found to be iodine and selenium deficient. Iodine has been found to provide the building block for the thyroid gland to produce sufficient thyroid hormone while selenium acts as an antioxidant and for the metabolism of Thyroid hormones. It is even said that sufficient selenium intake is a prerequisite to prevent postpartum thyroiditis. 

Some examples of iodine rice foods are fish, seafood, dairy, seaweed and iodized salt. On the other hand, some examples of good sources of selenium are brazil nuts, fish, eggs and brown rice. Caution on seaweed and brazil nuts as too much of these can cause toxicity and raise other harmful side effects. 

Postpartum Depression: Fruits & Vegetables

A diet high in fibre which is supported with sufficient fruits and vegetables will help your body with hormonal regulation. Fibre rich diet helps beneficial bacteria in the gut to thrive and produce antioxidants which are absorbed by the body. Recent research has found a link between the gut and the brain where a healthy gut is associated with lower risk of depression. 

Besides that, another local research found that mothers on a diet that had sufficient intake of fruits and vegetables during confinement had lower prevalence of postpartum depression. 

Fruits and vegetables themselves are rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene which helps to reduce radical damage and provide neuroprotection from postpartum depression. That is why it’s important to include fruits and vegetables in your confinement diet plan.

On the other hand, fibre also helps to regulate digestion and blood glucose levels. Thus, improving insulin levels which are interrelated with oestrogen levels in the body too. The Singapore Health Promotion Board recommends at least 2 servings of fruits and 2 servings of vegetables per day (100g of cooked/uncooked vegetables). With wholegrains, this recommendation will help you to achieve recommended fibre intake per day which is 20.4g of fibre for women per day.

Postpartum Depression: Fish 

The fluctuations of oestrogen and progesterone have an effect on postpartum depression. Research has found Healthy fats like omega 3-DHA correlates with depression. The mechanism is still uncertain. However, researchers theorise that depression is a type of inflammation and thus omega3- DHA helps to provide anti-inflammation properties to help reduce depression. 

Besides that, it  also plays a significant role in maintaining permeability and fluidity of neuronal membranes as well as regulation and metabolism of serotonin. Therefore, bringing protective effects to mothers from postpartum depression. Recommended DHA intakes per day is 200mg/day which can be easily achieved by having two to three servings of omega 3-DHA rich fish per week. 

So it’s good to keep this requirement in mind when you choose a Singapore confinement meal provider. If you are vegan or vegetarian, then you can consider taking omega 3-DHA supplements sourced from algae. Do discuss with your doctor on the safety and suitability of supplements for you before you start.

Speed Up Your Postpartum Recovery with Tian Wei Signature

At Tian Wei Signature, we serve a wide variety of fusion and traditional confinement food that helps to improve your physical and mental recovery. Also, our dietitian-guided, MSG-free meals are carefully planned to include milk-boosting ingredients that ease your breastfeeding journey.

Our nutritious and well-balanced meals include sufficient servings of different meat, vegetables, herbal soups  or desserts, as well as red dates tea, all planned to ensure you get essential nutrients for wound healing and breast milk production.

Interested to learn more about the different Singapore confinement meal packages we offer? Click the “Book Now” button on the top right corner of this page! We have trial meals that are suitable for pregnant mummies to try before booking the full package.