Autoimmunity and the Postpartum Time Period

As many of you know, I recently gave birth to my second child so I am taking some time off from creating new content while I recover from birth and pregnancy and spend time adjusting to life with a new little one. In the mean time, I have been blessed to have some other bloggers and practitioners step in to share their stories. Today’s post is from Dr. Lindsay Mumma.  I am looking forward to being back and creating new recipes and posts soon! 

autoimmunity in the postpartum time period

After my second son was born, I recognized some signs and symptoms consistent with Lupus.  It was a little frightening, but putting these pieces together did offer me some comfort, as I had a “why” behind a few weird symptoms that had been present for years.  This “why” can be used as a compass to make decisions, but there is danger in pointing a finger at the “why” if we use that information/diagnosis/explanation as a crutch.  I wanted to ensure that rather than something to explain my symptoms, this diagnosis would serve as a catalyst for changes in my life that needed to occur in order for me to live my best life.  I love sharing my story with others because I think there is power in hearing personal experience. I intend to heal and reverse my autoimmunity rather than be plagued by a diagnosis for the rest of my life.

A lot of women learn about or have an onset of autoimmune symptoms postpartum.  Pregnancy doesn’t cause these things, but it certainly can challenge the body’s systems in a multitude of ways.  As an advocate for women making empowered, educated decisions during the Motherhood Transition, I knew I wanted to make the most educated and empowered decisions regarding my health; not just for me as a human, but for me as a mother.

I immediately knew that I wasn’t going to go the conventional Western medicine route regarding my autoimmune conditions.  I told my husband I suspected that I had Lupus after presenting with a malar rash – while not pathognomonic, it connected a few dots for me.  He said I needed to go see a rheumatologist, and I asked why. He told me I couldn’t diagnose myself, despite being a doctor. I told him that if I could find a rheumatologist who would be supportive of my diet and lifestyle rather than recommending immunosuppressants and anti-inflammatories right off the bat, I would go.  

I didn’t find any such practitioner close to me, but I did want some direction in my care.  Despite being a chiropractor and having a lot of information and resources available to me, I wanted to be the patient rather than the doctor when it came to caring for myself.  I decided to work with a Naturopathic Doctor and to establish care with a family medicine physician.  I had blood tests run which confirmed my positive ANA and also pointed to a diagnosis of Sjogren’s Syndrome.  I also ran stool and urinalysis, and had testing for intestinal permeability.

Unsurprisingly, my HPA axis was not functioning optimally, I had a leaky gut, and a gram negative bacterial infection somewhere in my gut.  Being newly postpartum and breastfeeding, I needed to be cautious of my supplementation. My youngest son turned out to be very sensitive to supplementation, which meant that a large part of my initial healing had to strictly come from my diet and lifestyle choices.

Lifestyle Changes

For me, the lifestyle changes were both subtle and dramatic.  It sounds so esoteric to say “lifestyle changes”, but I truly started implementing small changes into my lifestyle that would facilitate health, growth, and restoration.  I began practicing kundalini yoga at the recommendation of my ND, which included kriyas, meditations, and even cold showers; I followed the BIRTHFIT online postpartum programming (and repeated it three times) so that I could intentionally heal my physical body postpartum while working on my inner healing; I developed a more regular meditation practice as opposed to my sporadic practice; I set specific boundaries for myself, my family, my friends, and my businesses; I relied on my support network and allowed myself to receive gifts/support/help/love being offered.  

Dietary Changes

From a dietary standpoint, I began the Autoimmune Protocol diet.  I had been exposed to this years ago, and then was fortunate enough to know Samantha as she began her journey with AIP initially.  Seeing the transformation that she underwent firsthand gave me a clear picture of what was possible with dietary changes. I actually used AIP after my first pregnancy to heal my gut after antibiotic use during labor.  I followed the protocol for about 60 days and experienced incredible results as well as gained valuable information regarding my body’s tolerances and preferences to certain foods. I had already started AIP three weeks prior to self-diagnosing my Lupus simply because I knew my postpartum body would need an intentional healing and reset.  

I have been gluten- and dairy-free since 2012, and fairly strict Paleo for almost as long, so changing to AIP was not an incredibly difficult task.  My husband is astoundingly supportive and cooks most of the meals in our house, so a lot of the food preparation went to him. Entrusting my health to his love and attention I believe is an additional facet of my healing process; it’s hard to trust someone else to ensure that you are not exposed to things that might wreak havoc on your system, and I think a lot of autoimmune patients end up feeling the need to control every detail of their lives as a safety precaution.  Relinquishing control of the majority of my food sources to someone else is very healing in itself.

I will admit that the hardest thing for me to avoid was eggs (especially because we have our own chickens!).  I was so thankful to be able to reintroduce whole eggs at the guidance of my ND after only being without them for 3-4 weeks.  

I have heard a lot of questions regarding the ability to nurse while following AIP or other healing diets, but to me it makes the most sense.  Ensuring that my body is as healthy as possible will allow me to nurse my children effectively without depleting my own nutrient stores to my detriment.  I tandem nursed my two boys for 16 months before my oldest weaned, all while following a modified AIP.

I have gradually introduced foods, taken them away again, re-committed to strict AIP for months at a time, and once again begun the reintroduction process. I am so grateful for a diet that allows me to function at my best and allows me to tune in to the communication and signals that my body is offering me on an ongoing basis.  From a testing standpoint, I am due to re-test several markers, but after only four months of the above diet and lifestyle changes, I was able to achieve optimal HPA axis function, heal my intestinal permeability, and decrease my symptoms significantly.

The diet and lifestyle changes that I’ve made were not and are not huge in the grand scheme of things, but overall have allowed me to experience more health, growth, and restoration.  This is so key for anyone experiencing autoimmunity, but especially for those of us in the postpartum period.

 

About Lindsay

lindsay headshot 2Lindsay Mumma, DC, is a chiropractor and Regional Director for BIRTHFIT NC.  She is the COO and Editor in Chief of BIRTHFIT.  She serves women in the Motherhood Transition to help them intentionally prepare for and mindfully recover from pregnancy.  Her books, The Trimester Series detail her personal journey through her second pregnancy.

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Jesse St. Jean

Jesse St. Jean

I am many things: a wife, a daughter, a sister, a nutritional therapist, a dog-mom… and I’m an autoimmune warrior.

Nutritional therapist Jesse

Hi, I'm Jesse

I empower women autoimmune warriors to reclaim their health by teaching each woman how to make the right food choices to heal her body while confidently owning her journey so she can live a vibrant life with chronic illness.

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