Are fad diets like Keto and intermittent fasting good for new moms?

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A new mother has to take extra care of her diet, particularly when she is breastfeeding her baby.

By Seema Khanna

The Keto diet, scientifically known as the ketogenic diet, is low in carbohydrates and high in fats. By consuming this diet, our body starts composing ketones (that break down fats) in the liver. Low consumption of carbs is incredibly efficient for burning fat to produce energy, which is why ketosis is a swift method for weight reduction. However, low carbs or a keto diet may interfere with a woman’s hormone system.

Hormones are secreted from three major glands—hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal. All three glands interact in complex ways to keep hormones in balance. They are responsible for regulating stress levels, moods, emotions, digestion, the immune system, sex drive, metabolism, energy levels and more. Long-term stress through low carb diets can cause you to over-produce the hormone cortisol and norepinephrine, which are mainly responsible for burning fat, creating an imbalance that leads to improper functioning of the hypothalamus, pituitary and adrenal glands. This ongoing dysfunction may eventually lead to fatigue, a weakened immune system and greater risk of long-term health problems such as hypothyroidism, inflammation of joints, diabetes and mood disorders. Low carb or Keto diets may also cause irregular menstrual cycles.

To reduce weight after delivery, the best way is to count your calories, such as empty calories of sweet drinks, simple sugar, extra ghee or oil; increase proteins from egg, chicken, fish and milk; increase the fibre intake and consume lots of fluids to avoid constipation and maintain the viscosity of breast milk. Keep your meals small and frequent. Lastly, strictly avoid processed foods.

Intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting is not a type of diet plan, rather an eating pattern where you cycle between periods of eating and fasting. It does not say anything about which food to eat, rather when you should eat them. There are several different intermittent fasting methods which last a day or a week. Humans have actually been fasting since thousands of years in the name of religion or at times to remove toxins from the body. There’s nothing unnatural about fasting. Our bodies are well-trained to handle extended periods of not eating.

All sorts of processes in the body change when we don’t eat for a while, which has to do with hormone secretion and cellular repair processes. When we fast, we get significant reductions in blood sugar and insulin levels, as well as a drastic increase in the growth hormone (GH). It increases the release of the fat-burning hormone norepinephrine (nor adrenaline) because this short-term fasting may increase your metabolic rate (BMR).

However, for new moms, intermittent fasting is not advisable as the new mom and newborn baby who is on breast feed, role of all nutrients, vitamins, minerals, carbs, fats, protein in recommended amounts is very important.

During lactation, women’s nutritional requirements double. If the mother ingests a lower amount of nutrients than required to cover nutrients secreted in the milk, her body stores may get depleted resulting in deficiency diseases in the young one.

Any kind of change in eating pattern or fasting will lead to nutritional deficits, in turn inducing hair loss, diminished vision, joint pain, decrease immunity and leave you more prone to common bacterial infections. As it is, when a mother feeds the baby, the size of uterus decreases during the first year of lactation. It’s more important and advisable to increase physical activity like yoga, walk and stretching exercises to tone up loose muscles especially of abdomen and arms. By increasing physical activity and exercise, the body metabolic rate (BMR) increases, in turn reducing body weight.

I would suggest that moms, during gestation and post-delivery, take adequate amount of nutrients for proper growth of the child and their own replenishment, to make up for the time when their body was nurturing the womb.

(The writer is a nutritionist.)

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