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  • Writer's pictureKayla Thorngate

How Replenishing Minerals Can Help You Reset Your Postpartum Body

postpartum-mom-holding-baby

MINERALS AND THE POSTPARTUM BODY


There’s no doubt that becoming a mother is a life-changing, transformative experience for both your body and mind. Optimal nutrition during the postpartum period is crucial for a mother’s physical and mental recovery from pregnancy and childbirth. Feeling depleted, exhausted, and burned out seems to be the “norm” these days, but when it comes to new motherhood, this is often a sign that something is off in the body!


While nutrition emphasis is rightly placed on macronutrients like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, the significance of minerals in the postpartum period often gets overlooked. Minerals play a very important role in our energy, metabolism, and overall health and are often referred to as the “spark plugs” for the cells in our body. 


Did you know that a mother gives an estimated 10% of her mineral stores to her baby with each pregnancy? Breastfeeding is also a nutritionally expensive season of motherhood, when the body will continue to pull from a mother's nutrient stores to provide for her baby. This is not a time to skimp out on your diet, but rather a time to prioritize nourishing foods to replenish losses and make sure your body is well-cared for you and your growing baby!


Here are several minerals that are vital to replenishing the body within the postpartum period: 


CALCIUM

Pregnancy and breastfeeding significantly demand a mother’s calcium stores. Calcium is essential for maintaining bone strength and density, and adequate intake postpartum is crucial to prevent bone mineral loss. 


Incorporating calcium-rich foods can help replenish depleted calcium levels and support long-term bone health.


Common food sources of calcium include:


  • Dairy products

  • Cooked leafy greens

  • Broccoli

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Fish canned with bones

  • Bone Broth

  • Fortified foods 


Some women may also benefit from a calcium supplement. Before including this in your supplement regimen, be sure to talk with your dietitian or healthcare provider to determine if it is appropriate for your health plan.


IODINE

Adequate iodine intake is crucial for thyroid function and brain development, both for the mother and her breastfeeding infant. During pregnancy and lactation, iodine requirements increase to support fetal growth and milk production. Ensuring sufficient iodine intake postpartum is essential for maintaining thyroid health and supporting the baby’s cognitive development. 


Excellent food sources of iodine include: 


  • Seaweed

  • Fish and shellfish

  • Dairy products

  • Eggs

  • Iodized salt


SODIUM & POTASSIUM

Sodium and potassium are electrolytes that play vital roles in regulating fluid balance, nerve function, muscle contractions, and heart rhythm. Adequate sodium intake helps prevent dehydration and supports the body's ability to retain fluid, which is crucial during the postpartum period, especially if breastfeeding.


On the other hand, potassium works with sodium to maintain fluid balance. It also supports muscle function, including the contraction of the uterus during labor and the restoration of uterine muscle tone postpartum. 


Therefore, ensuring adequate sodium and potassium intake through a balanced diet is essential for supporting postpartum recovery, breastfeeding, and overall maternal health and well-being.


You can increase your intake of sodium in your diet by:

 

  • Adding high-quality sea salt to your recipes & meals

  • Including electrolyte beverages in your routine when appropriate

  • Eating foods naturally rich in sodium:

    • Fermented foods (e.g., kimchi, sauerkraut)

    • Cottage cheese

    • Olives

    • Canned seafood


Some of the best food sources of potassium include:

 

  • Potatoes (e.g. white, sweet)

  • Squash

  • Bananas 

  • Oranges

  • Avocados 

  • Dried fruits

  • Cooked leafy greens 

  • Coconut water

  • Aloe vera juice


I recommend the addition of electrolyte supplements during the postpartum period to many clients, especially when they are breastfeeding. A few of my favorites are linked here. 


THE ROLE OF MINERALS IN POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION & ANXIETY


Postpartum depression (PPD) is a major depressive disorder that most often emerges within 6 to 12 weeks of delivery but can happen any time up to 1 year after birth. Nutritional deficiencies, specifically mineral deficiencies, are one of the studied potential causes of both postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety (PPA).  Mineral depletion is shown to have an impact on the development of postpartum depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.


Perinatal (referring to the period before and after childbirth) mood disorders are also very prominent and essential to watch out for during pregnancy. I discussed this more in a previous blog linked here.


Here are several specific minerals shown to have an impact on the development of postpartum depression and anxiety: 


MAGNESIUM

The postpartum period can be physically taxing, with the body undergoing significant changes as it returns to its pre-pregnancy state. Magnesium is crucial in muscle function and relaxation, particularly for relieving postpartum muscle tension and promoting restful sleep.


Magnesium is also known to influence the nervous system. Not only can low levels of magnesium in the body increase stress, but high levels of stress can also lower magnesium. Various studies have focused on the antidepressant-like effects of magnesium, and its deficiency has been reported in postpartum depression. Magnesium can also help support muscle health and aid relaxation and recovery. Supplementation is often highly encouraged since food sources usually contain insufficient amounts to meet our daily magnesium needs. 


Magnesium-rich foods include:

 

  • Seeds

  • Avocado

  • Legumes

  • Dairy products

  • Cooked leafy greens

  • Dark chocolate

  • Cacao powder


ZINC

Zinc is a powerhouse when it comes to postpartum healing. It plays a vital role in immune function and wound healing, which is essential for postpartum recovery. Lower zinc blood concentration has been found in women with postpartum depression.


Excellent food sources of zinc include: 


  • Animal and organ meats

  • Shellfish (e.g. oysters)

  • Bone broth

  • Dairy products

  • Eggs

  • Lentils

  • Seeds


IRON

Iron deficiency is common among women, especially during pregnancy and postpartum, due to increased blood volume during pregnancy and blood loss that can occur during childbirth. Fatigue and weakness are common symptoms of iron deficiency anemia, which can hinder a new mother’s ability to care for herself and her baby. There is also an association between anemia and depressive disorders, making it all the more important to ensure your iron status is adequate in this period! 


Iron-rich foods can help replenish iron stores and combat fatigue, promoting overall well-being and vitality.


Foods naturally rich in iron include:


  • Animal and organ meats

  • Lentils & Legumes

  • Cooked leafy greens

  • Dark chocolate


** Important points to note about iron: Eating foods naturally rich in iron over fortified foods (such as bread, pasta, and cereals) is often better tolerated. Fortified sources can be constipating and less absorbed by the body. 


Plant-based foods rich in iron (known as non-heme sources) are best paired with a Vitamin C source for enhanced absorption. Some examples of this pairing could be: 

  • Lentils or beans + bell peppers

  • Hummus + carrots

  • Spinach  + lemon vinaigrette


HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR MINERAL STATUS


Incorporating “mineral mocktails” into your daily routine is one easy way to improve your mineral status as a new mom. These fun drinks are hydrating, delicious, and packed with minerals to help you replenish the body! 


Here is a simple recipe to help you get started: 


CLASSIC MINERAL MOCKTAIL

In my practice, I take a holistic approach with my clients, creating a treatment plan that addresses the interconnectedness of the body and the mind. Through the lens of integrative and functional medicine, I can guide my patients toward a better understanding of how varying factors may be influencing their overall health. Mineral status is one of the many factors I address with my clients. I often recommend specific micronutrient testing to assess mineral status before implementing particular nutrition and supplement recommendations.


If you are unsure where to start with replenishing your mineral stores and taking charge of your nutrition postpartum, I would love to work with you 1:1 and help you feel your best as a mama! 


References



**Disclosure: some links included in this article are affiliate links from which I receive a small commission. 

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