Your Body after Birth: an Ayurvedic Perspective
Similar to TCM, Ayurveda’s Healing framework is built on the “5 elements”. In this article, I cover:
- A simplified explanation of Ayurveda’s 5 Elemental Theory
- What that means for Ayurveda’s view on the human anatomy
- How this explains so much about postpartum overwhelm
- Why the 5 nutritional guidelines at the bottom of this article are essential to heal both the body and the mind after delivery (In a hurry? Scroll down for 5 tangible, easy to apply postpartum nutrition hacks!)
The 5 elements
Planet earth is composed of the elements earth, water, fire, air and space. This is the order from gross to subtle. Humans, as a procreation of mother earth, are naturally composed of the same 5 elements:
- Earth represents your bones.
- Water represents your feelings and reproductive organs (over 70% of your body is composed of the Water Element).
- Fire represents your body’s ability to digest and metabolise.
- Air represents your ability to breathe and think and is therefore closely related to the nervous system.
- Space represents all the cavities in your body, as well as your ability to hear.
Food, like humans, is another procreation of Earth, even when it’s modified. Chemistry, at the end of the day, can only sequence with the “code” that already exists. So you guessed it: food is composed of these 5 elements too. One type of food always has more of one element than another. That’s what makes that specific snack unique. Some examples are: bone broth (water + earth predominance), cayenne pepper (fire predominance), raw greens (air predominance) and Jerusalem artichokes (space predominance).
Your Senses Take the Lead in All 4 Trimesters
Each one of these 5 elements are also connected to your senses. That’s quite deep: it means these elements basically determine your full human experience. Here’s how:
- Earth allows you to smell.
- Water allows you to taste.
- Fire allows you to see.
- Air allows you to touch.
- Space allows you to hear.
And since we – just like the foods mentioned above – came to Earth with a predominance in one or two elements, we naturally have one or two senses that we co-depend most on. This becomes apparent when something irritates or overwhelms us.
Good examples are the cold (touch… due the Air element), not being able to focus with certain music in the backdrop (hearing… due the Space element), feeling pain just by looking at something (sight… due the Fire element), strong aversion to specific flavours (taste… due the Water element), or when you’re always first to notice an unpleasant scent (smell… due the Earth element).
Having read this, can you guess which elements are dominant during pregnancy?
Exactly! Earth and Water.
Think about one of the biggest differences between your prenatal and your postnatal states… Your baby is no longer in your womb! This leaves lots of Space. And then, what is of vital importance in the first few weeks of your baby’s life on Earth? Yes, you guessed it! Loving touch (Air element). This triggers your body to make oxytocin, which is essential to produce milk. Right there we’ve got an another element: Water. But in contrast to before birth, there is now a drainage thereof.
“Sensual Healing”: How To Heal Through the 5 Senses
Note: The Senses of Hearing and Touch will be aggravated
Ayurveda aims to bring you elemental balance by working with the Senses. We have just established that new mothers are naturally high in Space and Air, which are connected to hearing and feeling through the skin. It is also likely that she will be deprived of Water. Regardless of what being in her body normally looks and feels like, things will be temporarily different after birth. When Space and Air are raised together, Ayurveda speaks of the Vata Dosha.
A Dosha is a Mind-Body type that changes as the soul within evolves. These Mind-Body types come with certain traits. The Vata Mind-Body Type is typically hyper sensitive to:
- Temperature (namely: the cold)
- How fabrics feel on the skin
- Crowded spaces
- Intonation, body language, subtle language and generally just words
They are also magically intuitive, which is beneficial for baby’s needs. She will hear them cry before they have even begun. She will also just know what’s right for them and when.
Enough benefits to pray for Space and Air to stick around, amiright?
Yes. And no.
When on top of the pre-existing Airy Vata Dosha, the birthers’ daily choices also aggravate Vata. For example, the absence of patterns, cold drinks, living on snacks, having light, raw, fried or processed meals, meeting lots of people, having to rush or perform exhausting/jarring/taxing movements. Vata will push you out of balance.
Symptoms that your vata is out of balance are:
- shortness of breath
- aches and pains along the spine
- bloating or constipation
Each one of these are home to the (vata induced) postpartum window.
Since overwhelm is already part of the 4th Trimester, Ayurveda doesn’t want to burden the new mama with too many changes at this time. That’s why it’s advised to get started with Ayurveda whilst your body is transforming and naturally open to new patterns (the 2nd and first half of the 3rd trimester – feel free to opt in here). If you “missed” that time frame, be rest assured! Working with nothing but nutrition – something we need to do anyway on a daily basis – can be shape shifting in itself.
Food as the Foundation of Postpartum Healing
Ayurveda suggests to work with food as the foundation of Postpartum Healing because birthers need Earth and Water to counterbalance all of that 4th Trimester led Air and Space Element. Earth is connected to the Sense of Smell, and Water is Connected to Taste. Nutrition is the perfect solution to get more of those grounding, soothing, strengthening and reassuring qualities into the postpartum window.
After Birth: 5 Postpartum Nutrition Hacks
Now that we’ve covered all the basics, we can bring some alchemy into your kitchen. Surprisingly, this is rather simple: we just need lots of the Water Element on the plate to oppose that drying Air. A little bit of Earth to stabilise and fill up all of that Space. The Fire Element is welcome too, as this helps our body transform at a cellular level.
Here is what that looks like:
1. Your meals should have comforting, mother milk like qualities. With a touch of gold.
Keep your meals nice and liquid. Ayurveda suggest a ratio of 1 part of solids on 16 parts of fluid in the first 5 days. After that, you can take your full 4th Trimester to gradually work towards more of a solid meal. This meal consists of the only one grain your body digests well to begin with and you won’t be adding complicated veggies for a while. Root vegetables, namely those that are orange (that’s where the gold comes in) are allowed, along with a limited selection of Vitamin C packed greens. Soups and silky crock pot meals it is! This is the Water Element with a touch of Fire.
2. Essential Fatties
Let’s talk about those essential fats a little bit more in detail. For cooking, you’ll want to be using Ghee. It’s high in Vitamin K (which is of great support in times of bleeding) and has a smoke point of an exceptional 250 °C. It also supports your bowels to get those challenging first movements in after you’ve given birth and hydrates your body from the inside out.
To add to your meals after cooking you can think of warming oils like sesame seed oil, gut supporting Flax Seed oil and the rich-in-calcium Hemp Seed Oil. Why is inner oleation so important? Besides their ability to help you absorb more whilst replenishing your body with the minerals it needs to rebuild, Ayurveda’s teachings tell us that the dryer your body is on the inside (you’ve recently lost lots of body fluids), the more likely it is for your nervous system to become aggravated. Top that up with cortisol, and you’ve got the concept of postpartum explained. Inner oleation (as well as external warm oil massage) helps you to ground and unwind for more tranquility. This too is the Water Element.
3. Digestive Spices
Can I just say that your bowels deserve an award for resilience? They have proven some serious chameleon qualities throughout all 4 trimesters! Being squashed into this tiny space to run the digestion for both you and baby, just before offering up 99% of their space as baby was on her way out. Now that you’ve given birth, they are asked to be back and work a little harder, because one day of slack can add some serious pressure on your perineum.
Ayurveda suggests supporting the bowels with a kick spicy enough to push their contents out, yet mild enough to prevent from runny stools, a raised heart rate and an aggravated nervous system. Work with Black Pepper (no Chillies svp), Cardamom and Cloves. This is the Fire Element with a tiny bit of Water
4. Earthy Bone Broth
One of the best things you can do to help your body replenish is consuming slow cooked bone broth. It contains all the minerals your bones need to support you and is likely to be absorbed with its natural amount of collagen. This is the Earth Element
5. The Sweet Taste
Unless you’ve got candidiasis, diabetes or another real health condition that requires you to be low on sweets, the sweet taste is divine in so many ways. On the tongue, it tickles the taste buds that are related to your heart and lungs, the organs that regulate your “Prana” (Sanskrit for Oxygen and Life Force) and nervous system, whilst supporting the immune system. The right amount of sweet can even help you digest.
Rather than commercial chocolates and ice cream, we want to stock up on rehydrated dates and figs, easy to digest grains like oats or jasmine rice, a home made snack like a spelt cardamom shortbread sweetened with coconut sugar, purified dairy like Ghee, and slow cooked beef.
As with all health & wellness information, always consult your professional healthcare providers before beginning any new treatment or program. The information in this article is not intended to serve as medical advice and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of a health problem. This website is not a substitute for professional medical care. The information given is provided for educational use and describes ways in which a variety of natural healthcare have been used traditionally by complementary medical practitioners and natural healthcare practitioners. Consult your doctor or Complimentary Medical Practitioner before acting on any of the suggestions or recommendations.
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