Nutritional Influences on Diastasis Recti
You’ve been working hard to improve your Diastasis Recti. You’ve tackled your breathing and posture, and you’re working on exercises to help you become more functional in your core. However, if you feel like you’ve hit a plateau in your healing, it might be time to look at what you’re eating and see if it might be the culprit.
We don’t often consider our food as a part of our recovery plan, but if fact it’s a vital component of healing. Sometimes what you’re eating or what you’re not eating can be the missing link to what’s holding you back.
When we look at Diastasis Recti and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, the main concern we have are anything that is causing an increase in our intra-abdominal pressure. As you know, if this isn’t controlled, then it’s very difficult for our cores to become 100% functional again. In the case of our nutrition, there are two main culprits we can look at – foods that cause bloat, and foods that increase visceral fat.
Foods that Cause Bloat
We know that anything that causes the pressure inside our abdominal cavities to push out or down isn’t good for the function of our core, and yet this is what happens when we get bloated. We get extra gas in our gastro-intestinal system that can increase this intra-abdominal pressure. This extra pressure outwards is thought to put continued pressure on the linea alba (similar to pregnancy) and keeps the abdominal muscles in a position where they don’t connect well or function properly.
The result? Continued separation of the rectus muscles, which is actually a bit of a Catch-22 in this case. The core muscles actually play a big role in digestion, in helping to move the food along. If that motion doesn’t happen, food sits in the stomach and intestines longer where it begins to ferment and give off gas. The gas changes the balance of the intra-abdominal pressure and the cycle continues.
So, what can you do?
We need to look at a few things when it comes to fermentation and bloat. They first area to attack is to reduce the foods that are known to cause bloat. Beans are obviously one of those (we all know the old song), but there are several vegetables that fall into the cruciferous category that are known to increase bloating in some women. Some examples of these are cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. If you really want to be on the safe side, you can stick to vegetables identified as being low FODMAP, which are basically foods containing short-chain carbohydrates that are poorly absorbed in the small intestines.
You can find a full list of these common foods here: (https://www.monashfodmap.com/about-fodmap-and-ibs/high-and-low-fodmap-foods/ )
Cut the carbonation
The solid food we’re eating isn’t the only concern when it comes to gas. Carbonated drinks and caffeine can also lead to bloating in some women. If you’re having issues in this area, it’s not a bad idea to give these up for a bit, or at least cut back, and see if that improves your situation.
Finally, some people develop food sensitivities that cause inflammation in the gut and lead to bloating as they age due to changes in the gut microbiome. This can be due to a number of factors, but the good news is that these sensitivities are usually easily identified and even corrected when proper measures are taken. The most common sensitivities that are experienced are to dairy, gluten, soy, eggs, corn, and tree nuts. One easy approach that you can do is to remove these common allergens from your diet for about a month and see if your condition improves. Slowly add them back one at a time and see if any symptoms return. I’ll admit that this can be a challenge, so even trying one at a time can be helpful.
Identify food sensitivities by keeping a food log
Write down what you are and when, and then return about an hour or so later to record how you are feeling. Start noticing any patterns that emerge regarding the foods you are eating and any gas, pain, or bloating that occurs when you eat them. Try eliminating those foods and see if there is any change. It’s best to do this kind of log for at least a few weeks to give the patterns time to reveal themselves. Don’t make it difficult – even keeping a note going on your cell phone can be very helpful.
Of course, one of the best ways to approach the gas and bloating, and the root cause of these symptoms is to work with a professional who is trained in gut health. This may be a dietician or clinical nutritionist, or you may choose to work with a functional medical practitioner. Even a skilled health coach can lead you through some of the options available and connect you with a qualified professional if needed. All of these professionals can also help you identify other lifestyle habits or conditions, such as lack of sleep or stress, that might be exasperating the gut issues. It’s truly amazing how it’s all connected.
Trim the Fat
This is the part that I don’t like to get into, because we’re all very sensitive when the “F” word is brought to the table. However, we have to talk about the role of body fat in healing our diastasis recti.
In this case, I’m not referring to that pinchable layer that many of us battle with, but rather the amount of visceral fat we’re carrying around in our bodies. Visceral fat is the fat that is found in the muscles tissue and surrounding the organs. You cannot pinch it, and it often is an area that we don’t think about because it is not seen. However, it’s actually the unhealthier of the two and we need to take steps to reduce it for our general health.
When it comes to diastasis recti, the visceral fat can be the reason that our cores are not healing as quickly as we’d like them to. The nutritional suggestions outlined above are also great for managing the amount of visceral fat we carry around. Other changes that we can make is beginning to replace some of the processed and high-sugar foods in our diets with those containing less starch and higher amounts of fiber. Eating foods that are lower on the Glycemic Index (GI) Scale (http://www.glycemicindex.com) is another way to start controlling this fat accumulation. These foods don’t cause the dramatic spike and dip in blood sugar that foods high in starch and sugar do, which leads to our bodies using more of those nutrients as fuel now, and to store less as fat for energy later.
Making sure you are drinking plenty of water and consuming adequate amounts of protein are two more ways that we can start reducing the visceral body fat and promote tissue healing. A good place to start is to try to drink half of your body weight in ounces each day. For the protein, trying to consume 20 grams of protein at each meal is best. You may need to work your way up to this if you’re not used to eating this much protein in your diets. Collagen powder is a great way to sneak some extra protein into your diet, and also get some great extra healing nutrients for your connective tissues.
Studies are beginning to emerge that show that women who suffer from diastasis recti are deficient in type I and II collagen. While the research is still out regarding if collagen peptide supplementation aids in the healing of diastasis recti, my thought is that it can’t hurt. Add it to your morning coffee or tea or replace your protein powder with the collagen peptides in smoothies.
Finally, finding ways to add in more movement into your day is a great way to combat visceral fat gain. You’re already doing the workouts on Fit2B, now start exploring other ways to move during those other hours. This all-day movement not only supports a healthy metabolism, but it moves the fat that’s released into your blood stream to the muscles that need it and can burn it off. The more you move, the more burning occurs.
Putting It All Together
Hopefully you have a better idea of how nutrition can be a valuable tool when rehabilitating your diastasis recti. I’ve given you a lot of information to process, but I wanted to lay out a few key points that you can start implementing right away:
- Drink more water – aim for half your body weight in ounces each day.
- Cut out the sugar and processed foods
- Eat protein – about 20 gram per meal
- Start a food journal. Write down what you’re eating and how it’s affecting you. Look for patterns that are emerging that might reveal food sensitivities.
- Aim for fruits and veggies that are low on the GI Index and also low FODMAPS (if bloating is an issue).
- Experiment in eliminating or reducing gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, corn, nut, caffeine, and carbonated drinks, especially if bloating is an issue.
I hope these suggestions have given you a good starting place for integrating nutrition into your rehab plan. I’m always happy to answer and questions that come up. I’m an injury recovery and women’s health coach and specialize in helping women navigate their path back to play by combining rehab, nutrition, functional strength, and life coaching into a plan that makes sense with their crazy lives and aligns with their goals. You can find me a Beth Jones Movement and Health (www.shemovesathleticwellness.com) or follow me at @midlifemomsmove on social media.
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