The topic of inflammation in postpartum is one that I am incredibly passionate about. It is a work of science that is continually growing at really fast rates.
What I’m going to be sharing with you about inflammation is very applicable not just to postpartum, but to women and men and people everywhere.
Inflammation is the cause of disease, dysfunction, and so many other critical body function mishaps, both minute and ginormous. That being said, not all inflammation is bad!
There are two main types of inflammation, acute inflammation, and chronic inflammation.
Both serve important purposes in our bodies that are very different and we are about to deep dive into all of this information and the effects of different inflammation in your bodies, especially during postpartum, in this episode!
In this episode, I’m sharing with you:
- Acute inflammation vs. chronic inflammation
- Acute Inflammation is meant to protect us
- Chronic Inflammation can become toxic to our bodies
- Why Chronic Inflammation occurs
- Ways chronic inflammation presents itself in postpartum frequently
- Without proper support in postpartum, natural acute inflammation can quickly turn chronic
- Gut Health & Inflammation – Back to some anatomy basics
- The food we are using to fuel our bodies contributes to our gut health
- Gut-Inflammation Connection is KEY
- Without gut inflammation, most would NOT have brain inflammation
- The relationship between gut health, inflammation, & mental health
- Inflammation is a trigger to depression, not the other way around
- This common occurrence in Mom’s
- Postpartum depression, and why therapy only seems to do so much
- Another side to depression that isn’t being addressed
- The need for a whole-body approach to wellness and healing
- Inflammation in infants brain development due to Mother’s inflammation
- The myth of your baby not being affected by inflammation & depression
- The potential link between ADHD in children and depression during pregnancy
- Effects this has on communities
- When Mother’s aren’t well, they aren’t able to contribute like they want to
- Caring for the mother is also impacting their children and their children
- This is a generational problem
- Carbs, the difference between empty carbs and good carbs
- The body needs & loves carbs
We all get it; postpartum and the years after having a baby is no walk in the park. But you know what? It isn’t just about depression or anxiety either. Hey, my friend, I’m Maranda Bower, a homesteading mama with four wild kids, whose life passion and education is all about supporting mothers and providers. Understanding the science, the art, and the sacredness of healing after birth. What we know as common sense in the postpartum years has many women feeling just plain awful. It’s time to bring back the truth. Get you the tools you need to heal and thrive in motherhood and beyond.
Welcome, my friends, to another podcast episode on the postpartum circle podcast. I’m Maranda Bower, I’m your womb whisperer and postpartum bliss coach. Today’s episode is about the effects of inflammation on the postpartum body. This is actually a clip from a mini-training that I did just recently for my postpartum nutrition certification program. So, on top of the actual certification program, I provide ongoing trainings and support on important topics like this, as well as creating a successful business, creating classes, marketing, and so much more. So once you’re in the program, you are in for life, my friend, and we make sure to take very, very good care of you. But I strongly believe that even mamas need this information. It should not be limited just to providers and professionals. So no matter if you are a mom, a professional, or both, this information is absolutely essential for you. And just note that you’ll also hear me mention how the references and science for this will be in their training areas. So, if you are not part of the certification, just disregard. And if you want to explore being a part of this movement and get more trainings like this, you can go to www.marandaBower.com/certification, which the link will be in the show notes for you. The program is only open two times a year and it’s not going to be open again until October. But you can easily get on the waitlist if you so desire. Enjoy.
Okay, so this topic today is one that I am incredibly passionate about. It is a work of science that is continually growing at really fast rates here, and which I’m very excited for, because what I’m going to be sharing with you about inflammation is very applicable not just to postpartum but to women, men, and people everywhere. This is a massive conversation to be had, especially when it comes to postpartum. So when I’m working with my clients, one of the biggest and most obvious issues I find is inflammation. Its role in their healing process, over the few months that we work together, is significant. Inflammation is almost always the first warning sign, as well as the continued and often increasing sign that something within the body isn’t well. And inflammation is the cause of disease, dysfunction, and so many other critical body function mishaps, both minute and ginormous.
Let’s talk about what inflammation is. Inflammation in itself isn’t bad. Don’t look at this as the creator of all problems, right? Just like depression, anxiety, hair loss, bloating, gut issues—those are symptoms. And inflammation is just that. It’s a symptom. It’s a warning sign. And we need this warning sign so that we can take corrective action. If we are able to listen to our body, this warning sign usually appears in a very mild form before it becomes bigger and bigger. And if we act soon, then we can fix it before there’s any issues or simply offer additional support. This is a necessary biological response to defending the body against something it believes is harmful. There are two types of inflammation: acute inflammation and chronic inflammation. So when you get sick, right, your body experiences inflammation. When you hit your knee on a chair and it bruises, or you cut your finger—that’s acute inflammation. Your immune system sends white blood cells to attack intruders, kind of protecting the area, and that generally creates redness and swelling. It’s a normal reaction. Without this protective system in place, it can cause infection and even death. So we love acute inflammation. We love that our bodies protect us and have this system in place in order to do so.
Chronic inflammation, however, is a different story. This is when inflammation persists in the body over a longer period of time, and that can be toxic to your body. It’s the leading cause of autoimmune disease where the body attacks itself, and it’s one of the most studied areas in science right now as it pertains to gut health and mental health, which we are absolutely going to get into. But the antibodies, the white blood cells, and the proteins are all sent in your defense during chronic inflammation. And when it lasts some time, your immune system and your nervous system become heightened. More energy is being given to this area within your body. So, you’re tired more, you require more nutrients, your adrenals need more support. And when it’s not addressed, it usually leads to a wide range of issues, including asthma, autoimmune issues, heart disease, arthritis, cancer. This is a big deal. The reason for chronic inflammation is vast. It could be an acute inflammation like an injury or an infection that never had the chance to heal. It could be from environmental toxins and irritants, lifestyle choices like smoking, drinking, and not sleeping. There’s even a lot of evidence about how trauma elicits inflammation within the body.
This simply means that the body is living in a state of constant stress. When the body is stressed, it’s not getting the nutrients it needs. When it’s a body under pressure, it’s living in obesity. That in itself could cause a body to be stressed. All of these components can create inflammation within the body.
In the postpartum phase, we often see chronic inflammation in the form of constant gas, bloating, stomach issues, persistent headaches, aching joints, major hair loss, exhaustion, depression, and anxiety. Of course, the list is longer than that. These are the ones that I see more frequently. These symptoms are directly related to how we care (or don’t care) for a mother. A new mother’s body is already in a state of healing with acute inflammation happening. This hopefully protects her body from developing infections as her internal wounds heal and her organs return to their pre-pregnancy places and so much more. If she’s experienced a cesarean or a traumatic birth, or a birth with high intervention, her body is even more in a state of acute inflammation. If she doesn’t get the support she needs, that acute state will become chronic. She’ll recognize it through the symptoms I mentioned above. She’s experiencing a wide range of issues, and it’s important to note that it becomes far easier for a body to experience chronic inflammation in the months and years postpartum because of the birth experience.
It’s easy to see when we look at other similar situations. For example, it’s easier to experience chronic inflammation after a knee surgery that didn’t heal well or a car accident where someone didn’t get the right healing support for the time their body needed. We mothers are in the same boat. If we don’t get the support and care necessary to heal, that acute inflammation will become something far more serious.
Now, let’s shift the conversation and talk about how inflammation relates to gut health. “Leaky gut” is a term that has been gaining popularity lately. For good reasons, especially as it relates to its cause of inflammation in the body. To understand why this is, we need to discuss some basic anatomy. Your gut is lined with specific cells that prevent harmful pathogens, chemicals, and the like from entering your body. It’s part of your immune system. When there is danger, it triggers acute inflammation to help eliminate the bad things entering your body. This gut lining, which is highly intelligent and facilitates various roles including transporting nutrients, is just a single layer of cells. They are called epithelial cells. Often, I pronounce it wrong. This is referred to as your “second brain”. Healthy cells are the result of a healthy microbiome. When the microbiome is off, it weakens the cell lining, opening the gates into your body, which we call “leaky gut”. That’s where food particles, bacteria, and pathogens enter the bloodstream and trigger an inflammatory response.
Here’s another link for you: LPS or lipopolysaccharides. It’s a big name, so we just call it LPS. It’s a combination of lipid fats and sugars that surround most bacteria, also known as an endotoxin. It’s a protective layer around bacteria that prevents the bacteria from being killed by stomach acids. The gut contains 50-70% of bacteria that is layered in LPS. LPS is never supposed to leave the gut, but when the gut lining is compromised, LPS can enter the body. It triggers what is known as, and I’m quoting from scientific journals which I’ll include as resources, a “violent inflammatory response”. This is used in scientific experiments with lab rats to induce inflammation. It’s the root cause of many conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and even autism. When scientists inject rats with LPS, they can develop one of these conditions. LPS is significant because it can cross the blood-brain barrier. When it does, it enters the body and brain. This connection between inflammation in the gut and inflammation in the brain is crucial. Inflammation looks different in the brain compared to the gut or a physical injury. It manifests differently.
I want to clarify that I’m only explaining this at a surface level. The conversation can go much deeper quickly. There’s so much more about gut ecology, the role of dairy and gluten in inflammation, how cytokines (the measure of inflammation in the body) work, how emotions sync with the GI tract, and many other components. Many of these topics are still being researched, which is exciting. But the connection between the gut and inflammation is essential at multiple levels. What one eats, and how one eats, significantly impacts overall gut health. If someone is eating junk food, their digestive system and the resident bacteria respond accordingly, increasing the risk of leaky gut. This leads to LPS in the bloodstream and more inflammation in the body. The same goes for someone eating healthily but having food stagnate in their gut for extended periods.
And this is what we talk about in your training and postpartum, right? When you lack the digestive acids and the enzymes necessary to break down your foods, this is one of the biggest reasons why moms experience complications and inflammations. It’s one of the most common reasons for leaky gut. Hard to digest foods that sit in the gut too long cause the “rotting” effect. This is what I use to describe foods that are, you know, building up bacteria. They are literally changing the microbiota within the intestines and making it more likely that one is going to experience leaky gut.
So without proper gut health, one experiences a significant increased risk of experiencing chronic inflammation and the symptoms that that creates within the body, especially in postpartum. Let’s talk about how this can all impact mental health and the role of inflammation in the brain. This isn’t actually a separate topic from what we were talking about in regard to the gut. They are actually very interrelated here, and understanding how inflammation is in the gut and how that happens is really critical for this next part of this training. Because without inflammation in the gut, most would not have inflammation in the brain.
The relationship between these two is so strong that science is now investigating the use of immune medications and inflammation reducers to treat depression, okay? So here is a really big word, and I dropped this on the podcast a couple of episodes ago: psychoneuroimmunology. It’s a very fast-growing science that really shows us how interconnected our body systems are within one another, particularly the relationship between inflammation and the gut microbiome and mental health. In multiple studies, it has been found that inflammation measured within the body is directly related to a diagnosis of depression.
Even more, and this is key, y’all, not only is it directly related, inflammation is also predictive of depression. Here’s the big key: meaning that if you don’t have depression and you feel inflammation, if you have some sort of chronic inflammation in your body, we know that you will likely develop depressive symptoms in the future. This means that inflammation is a cause of depression, a trigger. It’s not the other way around. To further this, science has also found that white blood cells can turn on pro-inflammatory genes, which trigger inflammation within the bloodstream, leading to a host of other processes. That’s when enzyme production, not just digestive enzymes, but other enzymes within the body, stimulates anxiety and agitation, and cortisol resistance happens. Cortisol helps lower inflammation in the body, right? It’s essentially keeping the body in this inflamed state.
This isn’t really new, although science is just catching up on this. People have been saying this for years. This is the part where we know that there’s a connection between inflammation and depression. But what we once thought was that if you’re chronically ill, of course you’re suffering from depression because of the pain and challenges that come with body dysregulation. We see that, especially in moms, especially when one is raising children on top of not feeling well. The energy that’s required, the stress of not meeting your own expectations, let alone the expectations of the world around you, having to do everything yourself, carrying this silent yet really obvious burden — that’s just depressing to speak about.
But now we see, now we know, that when there is inflammation, it is predictive. It is causing depression within the brain. And it’s really no wonder when we look at this why the statistics of postpartum depression are so high. It’s also no wonder why seeking therapy or counseling only seems to be doing so much for women in postpartum. Yes, many women will feel better with that support. We need that support. It’s an important tool in our toolbox. But there is another side of this that isn’t being addressed for many, many people. It explains why some will find therapy and counseling not to fit all of their needs. We need a more whole-body approach to wellness and healing, and that’s why we’re doing this work.
I also want to talk about the effect of inflammation on an infant and baby. You guys have this in your training as well. We talk about it, but we don’t get deep into the conversation. When a mother has chronic inflammation during her pregnancy, data shows her inflammation will also impact her infant’s brain development. The fetal heart rate and nervous system of a baby is also impacted. The long-term effects of that are still being studied and are not fully understood. This is new science. This is probably one of the most difficult things to digest, and no pun intended here. Because it breaks the myth that your baby will not be harmed by one’s stress or inflammation. We also know that postpartum depression actually increases pro-inflammatory markers in infants. Meaning that those with depression are likely to cause inflammation in their children, whether you’re breastfeeding or not. This is one of the reasons why childhood ADHD and sensory processing disorders have been linked to maternal depression. I know this very well; I have experienced it myself and with my own children. This touches very deeply to me on a personal level.
However, the direct relationship between this is still very much unknown. One may say that a mother and child are, you know, intrinsically connected, but we don’t actually have the evidence yet to show this connection. Many studies, and many of the studies that I’m sharing with you here, will actually say — and I’m quoting here — that this is, you know, “mysterious.” And there are no theories that could potentially describe this connection, right? And, of course, this needs to be studied more.
So, think about the effects this has on communities, on our medical system at large, when our mothers are not getting their needs met. When they aren’t eating foods that support healing and only create further inflammation, that is not only creating ill effects to the mother, where she’s, you know, likely to experience depression, autoimmune disease, which significantly increases your risk of cancer, and lowers your life expectancy overall, whether you get cancer or not from your autoimmune issue. When our mothers aren’t well, they aren’t able to contribute to society as they want to. They are out of work sick more, their healthcare costs are more, and they simply struggle more.
And on top of that, they raise children who experience a host of healthcare concerns because of their own lack of care and support. Children’s gut microbiomes are off, their brains develop differently, they’re more likely to experience ADHD, sensory processing disorders, food allergies, obesity, asthma, and so much more. I have often said, and you guys have heard me say this over and over, that caring for the mother is not just about her. It’s also impacting our children and their children, and their children. This is a generational concern.
And if we are going to do anything about this problem, if we hope to change the overall health of our world, we must begin with its mothers. We must care for her. We start this process by educating women, by sharing with them this information, by deeply supporting them in both what they need and what they want. You start with food, nutrition, gut health; that is the basis to one’s overall health and well-being. And you know the physiological shifts of a postpartum mother and how to support her in deep healing during the sensitive time.
So, what’s your opinion on the role of carbs causing inflammation?
This is two-fold. I actually think that carbs, based on what I have studied, are actually very beneficial for the body. It’s the empty carbs that we really want to be concerned with. And those empty carbs, they contain no nutrient values whatsoever. I strongly feel that a lot of times when we are looking at things like paleo diets and those carb-free diets, the reason why that feels so good for the body is because we have eliminated so many of the not-so-good things that we continually consume on a regular basis. But the body needs carbs. The body loves carbs. It will turn proteins and other things into, not necessarily carbs, but energy in a form that’s very usable, right?
It takes a long time to break down proteins and get what we need from the protein itself. Carbs are an easy go-to quick source. But if we’re constantly eating them, and it’s the basis of our diet in the US, we rely on carbs to fit most of our food, right? When you look at the nutrition pyramid, which is a big fat joke, right? The majority of our foods are supposed to be coming from carbohydrates, and that’s not okay, right? That’s not healthy in the least bit. But consuming them is not going to cause inflammation unless we’re consuming the empty carbs, like potato chips and things like that, that are not serving us on a nutritionally healthy level.
I hope this was helpful for you and helpful in painting a picture of inflammation in the body, because this is something that comes up often, especially in our training. I get a lot of questions about inflammation, and this is a really great starting conversation to be had about all of the things related. And as you can tell, this is a conversation that can get deep very quickly. There are so many different avenues that we can take this conversation in so many different places that we can dive into, right? And it’s speaking directly to why women are experiencing depression and anxiety, and how food is so supportive of this.
Now you have another direct link, right? I have made several links to you of why nutrients help so significantly, and now you have another piece to this, right? That only further supports that this work that we’re doing is helping get rid of postpartum depression and anxiety. Okay? If you have any other questions that come up for me, let me know.
Thank you all. Thanks for tuning in and taking the time to learn about how to support your body in deep healing. We don’t do this work just for us or for you. Your healing impacts your children, your relationships, and your community. We do this work because the health and vibrancy of our world begin with its mothers. I hope you have taken some valuable information today and applied it to your own life. If you aren’t sure where to begin, reach out about working together one-on-one, or at a minimum, learning about my postpartum nutrition plan, which is where I start every single one of my clients. And you can do that by going to MarandaBower.com.
Hope you enjoyed this episode. Let us know by leaving a review, and we will see you next time.
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