Congratulations, mama! You made it through pregnancy and delivered your beautiful baby. During pregnancy you had your body stretched in ways you never thought possible. Now that you’re postpartum, you notice a big gap where your six-pack muscles used to be. You might be wondering what in the world happened to your abdomen. The answer is 'Diastasis Rectus Abdominus' (also knows as DRA).
DRA starts in pregnancy when the growing uterus stretches your abdominal wall. This causes fascia, known as the Linea Alba to get thin and widen. The result is a separation of the two sides of the Rectus Abdominus, creating a squidgy gap in the middle. In mum terms, it’s that a frustrating post-baby pooch that won’t seem to go away! Diastasis can also contribute to back pain, incontinence and constipation. Ugh!
If you’re experiencing DRA, you’re not alone! In fact, most pregnancies end with some degree of abdominal separation. At six weeks postpartum 60% of women have a tummy gap. Women's intrinsic healing mechanisms do kick in though and by 6 months the number falls to 40%. For some new mums the problem persists, as almost 33% still have it by 12 months postpartum . What these figures show is that the early months are important for healing. Good nutrition is one of the most powerful tools to support your recovery. If your diastasis hasn’t healed quickly—don’t fret. Physiotherapy and targeted nutrition can help you recover too.
Using nutrition to heal diastasis
The nutritional strategies for DRA focus on optimising fascia and soft tissue recovery. This is because weakness of the abdominal wall causes the condition to persist. By choosing to include collagen and connective tissue-building foods in your diet, you can reclaim your abs. Whilst the following advice is particularly beneficial for diastasis, it’s also helpful for postpartum recovery in general. So all new mums reading this can benefit from applying these tips. Let’s get started!
Eat foods high in Vitamin C, E & A
Foods high in vitamins C, E, and A are essential when it comes to recovering from diastasis recti. These vitamins aid in collagen production and promote the healing of connective tissue. They can be found in colorful, delicious fruits and veggies including oranges, kiwis, strawberries, pineapple, dark leafy greens, red peppers, tomatoes, avocados, asparagus, sweet potatoes, carrots, and broccoli. These colorful foods are also high in bioflavonoids which can aid in the repair of connective tissue damage.
Include protein-rich foods
Protein is vital for repairing damaged tissue so aim to include some protein with every meal. Healthy sources include wild-caught fish, nuts, eggs, quinoa, beans, or brown rice.
Consume zinc-rich foods
Zinc is a diastasis healing all-star and should be included as often as possible. This mineral is essential to connective tissue production and can be found in lentils, pumpkin and sesame seeds, sardines, tofu, red meat, poultry, oysters, and mushrooms.
Consider bone broth
While our bodies naturally produce collagen from many foods, you might want to consider pulling out the “big guns” and supplementing your healthy diet with a direct source of collagen such as bone broth. As the main protein of connective tissue, the more collagen the merrier.
Make sure you get enough fiber
The fiber in plant foods keeps your digestion flowing smoothly, which is very important since constipation can increase abdominal strain. Good sources of fiber include whole grains, nuts, flaxseeds, figs, beans, lentils, berries, broccoli, green beans, and courgette.
Make a goal of drinking at least two liters of water a day. Water helps improve circulation, which is essential in delivering nutrients and oxygen to the connective tissue. It also keeps your digestion moving, boosts energy levels, and aids in detoxifying your body. So bottoms up!
Avoid inflammatory foods
Avoid inflammatory foods, such as sugar, alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, and trans fats at all costs, as they put stress on your body and can slow down your healing. Stick to unprocessed, whole foods as Mother Nature intended.
The bottom line
These seven tips are important both in early recovery and in persistent cases. By applying these strategies soon after delivery, you can optimise your diastasis recovery. If the condition is already persistent, then nutrition should be combined with physiotherapy. With a well-rounded approach, you’ll be well on your way to healing this bothersome condition.