Breastfeeding, your hormones, and your weight

Here’s a quick starter guide for moms trying to understand what the heck is going on with their body, weight and mood postpartum.

For some women, pregnancy is a hormonal rollercoaster. I personally loved my pregnancy (due in part to discovering how amazing magnesium is, and being allowed to nap at work), but breastfeeding did me in. After getting my supply up, my prolactin was sky high, and my estrogen (thanks, prolactin) and progesterone (thanks lack of ovulation) were low. I gained weight, had zero sex drive, and felt detached from the world.

Estrogen is really important to our health for a number of reasons, and while estrogen dominance is often blamed for weight gain, lack of estrogen messes up our metabolism because it normally helps temper insulin and cortisol. When we eat nothing but lactation cookies and sweetened oatmeal, we might be exasperating this situation and throwing our body into an insulin loop, which further weakens our resistance to stress and our ability to get rid of stress-induced cortisol. Estrogen also helps produce leptin, which controls hunger.

If you aren’t ovulating you’re also not making progesterone, which also mitigates cortisol’s effects on fat cells and has been linked to hindering belly fat storage.

Estrogen also helps produce serotonin and dopamine, and progesterone increases GABA, all of which we require to keep our brains happy and healthy.

Now, if you’re like me, this hormonal state is the perfect place for stress, weight gain and postpartum depression to breed, which is why reducing sugar and eating a nutrient-dense diet with estrogen boosting ingredients (flax, soy, etc), can help you recover more quickly.

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