All posts by Stacy Claxton

Hydrating Herbals

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

If you’re a new mom, you’ve likely heard the common refrain. While ample fluids after birth are critical for your recovery and well-being, as well as making plenty of breast milk for the baby, there’s more to the story than keeping your water bottle full at all times.

Teas and tonics have historically featured prominently in postpartum care. Traditional healing systems like Ayurveda, in which I’m formally trained, recognize the value in herbal medicine and use much more than plain-Jane H2O for hydrating new moms. In fact, they often viewed the unadorned stuff straight from the faucet a lamentable missed opportunity. After all, with so many changes after birth, every sip and morsel can make a difference, so why not give your hydration the biggest bang for the buck?

Common spices like cumin, coriander, and fennel can be brewed into a simple digestive tea, as can ginger and fenugreek, with added support for breastfeeding. Other mineral-rich plants, like nettles, can infuse postpartum hydration, while more substantive tonics, like specially prepared kinds of milk, provide easily assimilated nutrition as well as hydration.

Before we look at each of these options, in turn, notice the emphasis on heating hydrators like herbal teas. In proper postpartum care, warmth is key! Food and drink should be served warm, with even plain water no colder than room temperature.

This is because birth disperses the newly delivered mother’s critical warmth, which must be rekindled from the inside out. Learn more.

Reaching for warm drinks serves another, less tangible purpose: ritual.

Medicinal and celebratory drinks permeate all cultures and cuisines—and not only for their powerful healing compounds. The ritual of savoring a warm drink can steady the mind and emotions far beyond the capacity of the given constituents to heal the body.

Furthermore, sharing a warm drink with a companion or community, or even in solitude if it’s a brew that’s been cherished throughout the ages, can create a sense of unity, a type of soul synergy that defies time, place, and even explanation. Postpartum hydration is indeed nourishment for body, mind, and soul!

Spiced teas

Cumin, coriander, and fennel (CCF) are powerful digestive spices that create a synergistic blend when simmered together. A traditional Ayurvedic remedy for a number of gastrointestinal symptoms, CCF tea especially benefits new mothers. In addition to gently removing gas, relieving abdominal distension, and enkindling the digestive fire, it aids hormone balance and milk production. Mildly laxative and diuretic, this easy-to-prepare tea benefits both mother and baby, since fussiness may be due to digestive discomfort.

While not classic components of CCF tea, fenugreek and ginger can be welcome additions. For new moms, fenugreek is often the go-to lactation aid, but it has other perks: in addition to supporting digestion and rejuvenation, it encourages the uterus to release remaining placental fragments. It also supports normal bile production, healthy pancreatic function, and blood sugar balance.

Ginger is also a well-known digestive aid. Gently warming with anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, fresh ginger features liberally in postpartum cooking. In fact, Ayurveda affectionately dubs it the “universal medicine,” so throw in a few slices whenever you can!

Cumin-Coriander-Fennel Tea

Ingredients

  • 1 quart filtered water
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (optional)
  • fresh ginger, peeled and sliced (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring seeds, water, and optional ginger to a boil on the stove.
  2. Simmer for 10 minutes or more.
  3. Strain and serve hot.

Especially for postpartum moms, the thermos method is even easier. Add the seeds and boiling water to a quart-sized thermos. Drink throughout the day, aiming for 5 to 10 minutes before breastfeeding if trying to counteract digestive discomfort in the baby. Chew some of the seeds while you drink for a little extra strength or strain them and add to a meal later.

If tea isn’t possible, you can still benefit from these healing plants. Herbal suppliers like Motherlove, a family business that makes organic products for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and babies, crafts supplements with similar ingredients. Their More Milk Plus and More Milk Special Blend alcohol-free liquid herbal extracts contain both fennel and fenugreek. Motherlove also makes a plain Fenugreek extract.

Herbal infusions

Other time-honored herbal favorites for both pregnancy and postpartum include red raspberry leaf, nettle leaf, and oat straw, often prepared as infusions. When used regularly over time, they have myriad benefits, including

  • nourishing both mother and baby
  • strengthening bones, teeth, lungs, nerves, and the circulatory system
  • preventing miscarriage and hemorrhage
  • easing morning sickness
  • providing vital nutrients like iron and protein
  • reducing pain during labor
  • speeding birth
  • assisting milk production

Infusions are stronger than teas, extracting more vitamins, minerals, and proteins from the plant leaves. Yet they are easy to prepare: steep overnight and drink in the morning! Pick two herbs and prepare on alternating days, or combine several herbs into a large glass jar for storage and then infuse together.

Basic Herbal Infusion

Ingredients

  • ½ cup dried herbs (like red raspberry leaf or nettle leaf)
  • 1 quart filtered water
  • fresh lemon wedges (optional)
  • stevia to taste (optional)

Instructions

  1. Put a large handful of herbal matter (about ½ cup) into a quart-sized glass jar or a small handful (about ¼ cup) into a pint-sized glass jar.
  2. Fill the jar with boiling water and cap tightly.
  3. Let stand for 4 to 6 hours or overnight.
  4. Strain and drink, adding a few squeezes of fresh lemon or a few drops of stevia to taste, if desired. Refrigerate what you do not consume, reheating later as needed.

Again, Motherlove offers alternatives, if tea isn’t available. Check out their More Milk Two alcohol-free liquid herbal extract, which is specially formulated to include both red raspberry and nettle.

Tonics

If you tolerate dairy, consider warm milk tonics for additional nourishment and rebuilding. Make sure to choose raw (or at least low-temperature pasteurized), grass-fed, non-homogenized, organic cream-top milk whenever possible. You can also replace dairy milk with nut kinds of milk like almond, cashew, or coconut. Either way, make sure to warm it up and spice it up with tasty digestive aids like cinnamon, cardamom, and clove.

Here’s one new-mom-approved recipe for a warm milk tonic. You’ll notice that I often camouflage traditional herbal medicine, like Shatavari, in my postpartum tonics. Shatavari is a classic rejuvenating herb that promotes vitality and strength, nourishing the tissues and supporting healthy lactation.

While I like the simplicity of powdered Shatavari, it can also be taken in supplement form, like the Shatavari capsules or Shatavari extract from Motherlove.

Proper hydration with heating herbal brews can ease the transition into motherhood for body, mind, and soul. But much more goes into successful breastfeeding and a peaceful postpartum experience. Learn more.

And if you’re interested in other herbal products designed especially for the delicate and sacred season of new motherhood, check out the whole line of Motherlove products. They’re 15%  off right now at Soap Hope, but only for only a limited time! Use code MLVDD.

 

Stacy Claxton is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner (FDN-P) and an Ayurvedic Health Practitioner (AHP) specializing in preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum care. She offers a range of services that merge the laboratory investigation of her FDN training and her foundational background in Ayurveda and yoga. As an educator and a clinician, she believes strongly in the transformative power of diet and lifestyle and desires to inspire wise stewardship in the realm of holistic health. Stacy is one half of the dynamic duo behind Preparing to Parent (P2P), where she and her identical twin, Erin, are “growing families with purpose…on purpose.” To learn more about Stacy’s private practice and the mission of P2P, please visit www.preparingtoparent.com.

A holiday wish list (especially for new moms)

 

I love sitting with expectant and newly delivered mothers.

Birth often steals the limelight, but the season before and especially the season after are oh-so-sacred, perhaps even more so than that fleeting moment.

How similar is Christmas Day! Like birth, it woos our attention but represents a mere day in a significant, hope-filled season.

Advent began a few weeks ago and with it this sacred time of waiting. Our hearts resonate with this season, don’t they?

I’m waiting. We’re waiting.

Many of you are also waiting—and even longing.

  • for birth
  • for conception
  • for a soul mate
  • for personal or vocational fulfillment
  • for Christmas break
  • for a new year of new possibility…

But what happens when the yearned-for arrives? Is it an end in itself? Or perhaps a gateway in a grander narrative?

Like the days after Christmas, the postpartum period may feel like a letdown (pun intended). But for anyone with the privilege of bearing a child, this may be the most pivotal passage of your life. Below are a few hopes I wish I could share with every new mom.

Even if you’re not a new mom (or a mother at all), there’s something universal about my wish list. You might find that these points resonate with you this season, too.

These 12 points are my (very tangential) ode to the 12 days of Christmas, which like the postpartum days emerge on the heels of a pivotal day yet give rise to a richly imbued time of reflection, joy, and awe for this miraculous, life-giving season.

What I long to tell every new mom

  1. Hold your baby. From meal time to naptime, a kid kept close provides infinite comfort for both mother and newborn. Babies, whether awake or asleep, belong in arms, especially in those precious first few weeks! And it’s much easier to do if you…
  2. Do you really need to go anywhere? Eliminate all non-essential travel, recruit help whenever possible, and savor this season of solitude. That sets you up for success to…
  3. Nourish your baby well. Breast milk is best. Prioritize natures perfectly designed first food. If for some reason breast milk isn’t available to you in your situation, seek out donor milk or a high-end formula that is best for your baby’s needs. But most birth mothers can produce enough potentially if you…
  4. Nourish yourself well. Simple and soupy is the way to go. Favor ample fats, easily digested proteins, and slow-releasing carbs. The well-intentioned casseroles can wait until you’ve emerged from the sacred six-week window, and your digestion can stomach denser fare. And if you want more than just good food…
  5. Sip warm drinks. Teas and tonics (caffeine-free!) help with 3 and 4. Plus, a savored mug provides more than hydration—the ritual can nourish mind and soul, too. And it’s a great carrier to…
  6. Spice it up. From food and drink to aromatics and decorations, herbs and seasonings fortify your body and ward off the maladies of the season. Heating spices like ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, clove, garlic, and star anise also help you…
  7. Stay warm. Wrap up in a blanket, put on a hat, pull out the leggings, take a hot bath—dispel chills in any way you can. Ensconce yourself in not only external warmth but also the ethereal warmth provided when you…
  8. Cherish family. Babies bring generations together in ways that nothing else can. If you have healthy relationships with parents and grandparents, siblings and cousins, aunts and uncles, and whoever else makes up your extended family, let them help to the extent that you’re comfortable. If you don’t have access to family, then…
  9. Invite friends. It does indeed take a village to raise a child, and postpartum especially is not a time to go it alone. Find ways to re-create that village, perhaps even before birth, so you have helping hands when you need them most. Even with help, there may be times when life feels surreal, overwhelming, disorienting—and you just need to…
  10. New motherhood presents a time of great physical upheaval as your body reintegrates and returns to normal—and also presents unforeseen challenges. Talk through your birth story, confide in a friend, process your emotions now, and then let them go. But at the other end of the spectrum (or perhaps merely the other side of the same coin), take ample opportunity to…
  11. Especially at your baby. She sees little more than the hazy glimmer of your face in those early days, but she can’t get enough of it. You’re her world. Your expressions help her understand that all is alright. But also smile—and perhaps laugh—at yourself. Offer grace in this season. Give yourself space to…
  12. Savor each day. It’s far too easy to count the days. The days to Christmas. To another year. To your baby’s monthly milestones. To the time you can exercise again. To the end of your maternity leave. But this is a precious passage. Let go of expectations and destinations. Enjoy the journey through.

If you have a new baby around, how well are you taking these hopes to heart?

If you will have a baby around soon, how well are you preparing for the pivotal postpartum passage? (If you need help, feel free to connect with me personally.)

And if you don’t have any babies around, this still applies! Don’t merely dismiss this list and move on. Do you see how apropos these points are for so many of life’s transitions? We all thrive on wholesome foods, material and immaterial warmth, community support, and periods of introspection to ponder the miracle and solemnity of life born and sustained. This wish list, while penned with new mothers in mind, isn’t far from what I hope for each of you this season.

Happy Advent!

In this hope-filled season, the mission of Soap Hope rings loud and true: bringing hope to many by investing in women to end poverty. We invite you to support women around the globe—many of them mothers young and old—by gifting your loved ones with products that advance this powerful mission. Here are a few gift-worthy, family-friendly favorites.

Stacy Claxton is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner (FDN-P) and an Ayurvedic Health Practitioner (AHP) specializing in preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum care. She offers a range of services that merge the laboratory investigation of her FDN training and her foundational background in Ayurveda and yoga. As an educator and a clinician, she believes strongly in the transformative power of diet and lifestyle and desires to inspire wise stewardship in the realm of holistic health. Stacy is one half of the dynamic duo behind Preparing to Parent (P2P), where she and her identical twin, Erin, are “growing families with purpose…on purpose.” To learn more about Stacy’s private practice and the mission of P2P, please visit www.preparingtoparent.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Tips to Tame Thanksgiving Indigestion

When this time of year rolls around, gratitude is in the air. Even if we’ve weathered some storms over past months, we’re thankful for so much. But that stomachache or hazy food hangover that follows a holiday meal? Not so much.

Yes, there is a dark side to the holidays that few take seriously but most feel internally: gastrointestinal distress. When you approach the holidays as permission to overindulge, a pleasant occasion can precipitate minor discomfort or degenerate into physical agony—and every gradation in between.

This isn’t merely unpleasant. According to the healing tradition of Ayurveda, which minces no words when it comes to indigestion, this is the root of all disease. Moreover, indigestion impairs fertility and compromises the nutrition of the children you might already be nourishing. It’s a multigenerational problem!

So you do well to mind your tummy this holiday season, for your future health as well as your temporary comfort. These 3 simple tips can help.

Chew your food

This is a fundamental, easy, but often overlooked step, yet the mouth is central to human digestion.

While Ayurveda has lauded saliva for thousands of years, modern scientists are finally latching on. In fact, one researcher built a laboratory simulator of the human digestive system and though confronted with all the wonders of our internal structures, concluded that chewing is the single most important step in the process. It allows saliva to moisten food and mix with enzymes that begin the breakdown of starch. It’s also critical for the proper production of stomach acid (hydrochloric acid), which contrary to popular opinion is deficient in 90 percent of people experiencing heartburn.

So do yourself a favor and avoid acid blockers for digestive distress; they actually do more harm than good (but that’s a topic for another day). Instead, try chewing your food.

Aim for 25 to 50 chews for each mouthful of food, or simply make the food a paste or liquid in your mouth. Follow the adage “chew your liquids and drink your food,” meaning that even beverages should get active mastication and your solids should be liquid before they’re escorted down your esophagus.

Drink this tea

If digestion is seen as a fire, then cold substances put out that fire, impairing the whole process of metabolic breakdown, absorption, and assimilation of nutrition, ultimately creating a breeding ground for disease.

Tea to the rescue! Warm beverages stoke that digestive fire, and enlisting the aid of herbal helpers makes them exceedingly effective.

Cumin, coriander, and fennel (CCF) are powerful digestive spices that create a synergistic blend. As a traditional Ayurvedic remedy for a number of gastrointestinal symptoms, CCF tea deserves a place at your holiday table. Sip it mindfully (read: no chugging) before, during, and after that Thanksgiving feast for less distress.

New mothers also love this drink! In addition to gently removing gas, relieving abdominal distension, and enkindling the digestive fire, the CCF combination aids hormone balance and milk production. Mildly laxative and diuretic, this easy-to-prepare tea benefits both mother and baby, since fussiness may be due to digestive discomfort.

Ginger is also a well-known digestive aid. Gently warming with anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, fresh ginger features liberally in autumn and winter fare, as well as postpartum cooking. In fact, Ayurveda affectionately dubs it the “universal medicine,” so throw in a few slices regardless of your season in life!

Cumin-Coriander-Fennel Tea

Ingredients

  • 1 quart filtered water
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • fresh ginger, peeled and sliced (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring seeds, water, and optional ginger to a boil on the stove.
  2. Simmer for 10 minutes or more.
  3. Strain and serve hot.

Offer thanks

Not merely reserved for holiday gatherings, a prayer or word of thanks to inaugurating eating encourages optimal digestion.

Pause to breathe deeply (more on that here) and express gratitude before a meal. When done with intention and awareness, this practice switches the body from a state of stress (the sympathetic nervous system) to a state in which we can rest and digest (the parasympathetic nervous system). It not only turns off the stress signal and better regulates immune function but also releases more digestive enzymes and bile, helping your body assimilate the food that comes next. Likewise, pausing for a moment at the end of the meal preserves that parasympathetic state and allows for a more lasting sense of satiety and gratitude.

Conscious breath and a centered heart encourage mindful eating and being fully present, a rare state in our lives of busyness and multitasking. So set the to-do list aside, turn off that football game, and enjoy the sensory engagement and pleasant conversation of a slow meal shared. Your digestion—and your overall well-being—will thank you for it.

Gratitude really is the best attitude—for optimal digestion and so much more. Invite it to your table this season.

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you want further support, Soap Hope carries products that improve digestion and more. Have you tried these?

Stacy Claxton is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner (FDN-P) and an Ayurvedic Health Practitioner (AHP) specializing in preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum care. She offers a range of services that merge the laboratory investigation of her FDN training and her foundational background in Ayurveda and yoga. As an educator and a clinician, she believes strongly in the transformative power of diet and lifestyle and desires to inspire wise stewardship in the realm of holistic health. Stacy is one half of the dynamic duo behind Preparing to Parent (P2P), where she and her identical twin, Erin, are “growing families with purpose…on purpose.” To learn more about Stacy’s private practice and the mission of P2P, please visit www.preparingtoparent.com.

Pumpkin & Spice | Autumn’s Natural Remedies

Pumpkins traditionally herald the arrival of autumn, taking center stage when it comes to fall decorating. But how often do you put this perennial favorite on the menu, apart from the classic Thanksgiving dessert?

While they tend to adorn more doorsteps than dinner tables these days, pumpkins can respectably round out the main course, no fancy holiday meal required. Whether cubed and baked, boiled and mashed, sautéed into saucy dishes, or pureed into savory soups, pumpkins, like other winter squashes, have an esteemed place among seasonal fare.

And for good reason: pumpkins are nutritional superstars. They are among nature’s richest sources of the antioxidant beta-carotene and provide a host of other vitamins and minerals, including more potassium than a banana with much less sugar. If you’re game for maximizing the whole plant, those seeds inside are a great source of zinc, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, copper, iron, protein, and fiber, in addition to being potent anti-parasitic.

So don’t wait until Thanksgiving to feature pumpkin on your dinner table; welcome it into your home for a simple weekday meal. Try your hand at this autumnal favorite, a warming blended soup featuring pumpkin or squash.

Of course, if you prefer your pumpkin camouflaged into something sweet and sliceable, go right ahead! But may I suggest a healthier alternative that still satisfies the sweet tooth? This Creamy Pumpkin “Cheesecake” is not only refined-sugar-free but also dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, grain-free…and freely approved by at least one die-hard sugar fiend!

Perhaps you noticed something in those recipes or from your experience with traditional pumpkin pie?

Spice!

In Ayurvedic medicine, one of the healing modalities I study and practice, herbs and spices are simple yet powerful medicinal healers. In fall and moving into winter, we favor warming spices that support the body’s naturally augmented need for heat, improving digestion, absorption, assimilation, and circulation and thereby immune function.

While recipes vary, pumpkin pie spice classically includes cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice, and clove—all warming spices that maintain a prized position in Ayurvedic medicine for their numerous benefits.

  • Cinnamon improves digestion, eliminates toxins, enhances circulation, and thins the blood, helping prevent heart attacks. It’s also a known blood sugar regulator, effective especially in those with diabetes or diabetes risk but equally beneficial for the average person when consuming a carbohydrate- or sugar-rich meal. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties and can be used medicinally with a pinch of clove and a teaspoon of raw honey in cases of cold, congestion, and cough—the quintessential winter maladies.
  • Ginger likewise rates high as a digestive aid, an anti-inflammatory, an analgesic, a decongestant, a blood thinner, a blood sugar regulator, an infection fighter, and an all-around tonic that deserves a place in your daily diet.
  • Nutmeg, acting first as a stimulant and then as a sedative, is both analgesic and hypnotic, meaning it soothes pain and induces sound sleep.
  • Allspice, a potent antioxidant, eases digestion and helps balance hormones, especially related to the female menstrual cycle.
  • Clove deemed the “best” natural antioxidant by researchers given its superior activity against free radicals, reduces inflammation, relieves pain (especially in the oral cavity), supports wound healing, and targets unwanted bacteria and fungus.

You need not whip up a pumpkin dish to enjoy these classic pumpkin pie spices. Sipping herbal tea is a quick, comforting way to invite the power of spice into your life this season. And Soap Hope’s wide collection of teas makes that easy. Have you tried any teas like these?

And with all the internal benefits of pumpkin and spice, how about showing your outer layer a little love? Plenty of personal care products press into action these healing ingredients. Check out these favorites.

  • Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask from Andalou Naturals provides fruit stem cells, glycolic AHA, and vitamin C, combined with beta-carotene-rich organic pumpkin and manuka honey, delicately sweep away and dissolve dry, dull surfaced cells, all the while resurfacing and exfoliating the skin for a brighter complexion, smoother texture, and more even tone.
  • Ultra-Hydrating Coconut + Pumpkin Body Wash by Acure Organics is great for skin conditioning during this winter for the whole body, deeply hydrating body wash that smells a little like a cool winter evening – in a good way. With omega rich Organic Argan Oil, Organic Pumpkin, and cell boosting Argan Stem Cells, all serve to make your skin it’s healthiest while making you smell great.

Stacy Claxton is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Practitioner (FDN-P) and an Ayurvedic Health Practitioner (AHP) specializing in preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum care. She offers a range of services that merge the laboratory investigation of her FDN training and her foundational background in Ayurveda and yoga. As an educator and a clinician, she believes strongly in the transformative power of diet and lifestyle and desires to inspire wise stewardship in the realm of holistic health. Stacy is one half of the dynamic duo behind Preparing to Parent (P2P), where she and her identical twin, Erin, are “growing families with purpose…on purpose.” To learn more about Stacy’s private practice and the mission of P2P, please visit www.preparingtoparent.com.