Podcast Episode #61: Postpartum Wellness
Dr. Erica of Root Functional Medicine gives moms some tips about staying healthy through pregnancy and into the postpartum period. We also talk about her upcoming Postpartum Wellness class on March 7. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
This podcast episode is sponsored by LifeFuel, providing healthy meal delivery in West Michigan. We love partnering with LifeFuel!
Alyssa: Hello! Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas. I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and today I’m talking to Dr. Erica Armstrong of Root Functional Medicine. Hello, Dr. Erica! Welcome.
Dr. Erica: Hello, thank you for having me!
Alyssa: My business partner, Kristin, has been talking to you, but I want to know a little bit about Root Functional Medicine, and then we will talk about an event that we’re going to have together here in our space. So tell me a little bit about what you do.
Dr. Erica: So I am a functional medicine doctor. My background was in family medicine for several years before I went through functional medicine training, and Kelsey, our dietician, and I created a specialty practice in functional medicine, the first of its kind in West Michigan, and we partner up to help patients really get to the root cause of why they’re not feeling well. That’s kind of the basis of functional medicine; we look at people in a holistic sense and try to solve problems at the root, and a lot of the time, we do need to make nutritional changes, and so it just made perfect sense to partner up with a dietician to do that.
Alyssa: So explain to me what a functional medicine doctor does versus a regular medical doctor. How would you, in very simple terms, explain what functional medicine is?
Dr. Erica: Sure, I would say there’s not a simple explanation other than it’s a different model of healthcare entirely. Functional medicine isn’t the symptom, one diagnosis, one treatment, the typical path that gets rushed through. It really is stepping back, looking at the entire picture since birth and even before birth of a patient because they’re not just a snapshot in time. We look at their genetics. We look at their microbiome. We look at their nutrition and lifestyle and really plot everything on something called a functional medicine matrix, and we try to balance the imbalances. And then we look at lab testing that’s simply not available in traditional labs to see how the body is actually functioning, and with that information, we can be much more preventative and not only help people stay away from disease but actually help them feel well.
Alyssa: Yeah, I think of it as — you know how you go to a doctor within one medical system, and then you go to another one, and you’re answering the same questions all the time, but nobody seems to be talking together. And functional medicine is like having all those specialties together talking to one another, so the heart specialist isn’t just looking at your heart. The heart specialist should also be asking about nutrition and diet. You know, it’s not just all these segmented pieces.
Dr. Erica: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. In traditional healthcare, we tend to silo things, but yes, if you have a heart issue, it doesn’t stop there. There are other things that we need to look at, so it’s really putting the big picture together.
Alyssa: So you and Kelsey — she does the dietician part of it? We should have her on sometime, too, because I love talking about diet and sleep since I do sleep consults and food, especially for little ones. Do you see children, as well?
Dr. Erica: We do, yeah. We can see all ages, and I do a lot of nutrition, too. Just in functional medicine training, a vast majority of that is nutrition, but Kelsey does help a lot with specific diets and troubleshooting, and she has a lot of nutrition knowledge that she shares with patients, too.
Alyssa: Let’s talk about this event and tell people what it is that you do to help pregnant women and what they can look forward to if they come to this event.
Dr. Erica: Yeah, so even before pregnancy, really optimizing wellness and things like just trying to make sure they’re eating balanced, healthy meals is important, and then things to look out for in the postpartum period where we’re often sleep deprived and have higher cortisol levels and how to navigate and troubleshoot those areas, how to plan ahead for that.
Alyssa: So this event we’re having is on March 7th from 6:30 to 8:00 PM and it’s going to be here in our office in the Kingsley Building. Seating is limited because our office can only hold so many people. It’s $35.00 per person, and we’re going to create a link and post it on Facebook and put it on our website. Are we calling it How to Set Yourself Up for Success in the Postpartum Period?
Dr. Erica: Yes!
Alyssa: So we’re going to talk about good foods during pregnancy, what to watch out for, sleep deprivation and cortisol, like you just mentioned, tips for dealing with that, and then how to evaluate adrenals and thyroid, which I know is a common question for a lot of women, pregnant or not.
Dr. Erica: Yes, we end up seeing a lot of thyroid disease coming after pregnancy, for a variety of reasons. So how to test for that and assess it from a functional standpoint.
Alyssa: And then we have — and you might need to help me with this; talk about some adaptogens in food? What is that?
Dr. Erica: So adaptogens just means that it helps your body adapt to situations, so certain things like mushrooms or ashwagandha, those are called adaptogens. So if people are having a lot of high cortisol levels, actually eating that food helps because food can talk to your genes and tell your genes to turn on or off and produce more or less cortisol. That’s a very scientific answer, sorry!
Alyssa: No, I get it! And then the last thing I have on here, “some supportive things to do such as basic ideas that can be forgotten during the postpartum period.” What do you mean by that?
Dr. Erica: So even just remembering to continue your prenatal vitamins. Things can get so out of routine with a newborn baby that you forget to do simple things that can help you feel well. We end up seeing a lot of nutritional deficiencies just after giving birth, especially vitamin D. There’s a lot of vitamin D deficiency in general in West Michigan, but if you’re breastfeeding, you’re at more risk for that. And then magnesium deficiency, which many of us are deficient in. So just those two simple vitamins, we can test those levels, and people end up feeling a lot better when we replace those.
Alyssa: So who would you say should come to this event? Women who are pregnant, trying to conceive, postpartum, all of the above?
Dr. Erica: I think all of the above, for sure, because we’re going to talk about a lot of general health tips, as well, as focusing on the postpartum period.
Alyssa: Okay! So again the event is called How to Set Yourself Up for Success in the Postpartum Period, but even if you’re pregnant, I always tell people to plan ahead. So it’s good to learn this stuff so that you’re not in the midst of all this chaos with a newborn at home, and going, oh, shoot. If you know this stuff, you can plan ahead. And again, that’s going to be on March 7th from 6:30 to 8:00 PM, so if you’re interested, you can go to our contact form and let us know you’re interested in the event. I would still like to know a little bit more about your practice. Where are you located?
Dr. Erica: We’re located in downtown Grand Rapids, and we mainly see people in person, but we can also see people virtually throughout the state of Michigan via telemedicine, and some people will drive in for the first visit and then follow up virtually, as well. We have different packages on our website. You can either work with Kelsey in nutrition package or with me in functional medicine or with both of us in what we call the Get to the Root package in where we work together for at least three months and really help get to the root cause of feeling better.
Alyssa: I love that you can do it virtually, especially for postpartum moms!
Dr. Erica: Yes, it makes a lot of sense not to have to lug the baby in!
Alyssa: Yeah, it’s the last thing you want to do! You’re in your yoga pants; you don’t want to have to drive downtown and probably run in to somebody that you know with no makeup on and all that stuff. It’s just a lot easier, especially if you have a newborn and toddlers at home to not have to leave.
Dr. Erica: Yeah, and we can attach all the food plans and wellness plans right to the patient portal.
Alyssa: That’s really convenient! Well, if anyone is interested in getting ahold of you, what’s the easiest way?
Dr. Erica: There’s a contact form right on our website. And we’d be happy to answer your questions. We’re also on Instagram and Facebook as Root Functional Medicine, and we post most of our updates there.
Alyssa: And we’ll share the Facebook event, as well. Again, it’s How to Set Yourself Up for Success in the Postpartum Period and it will be on March 7th from 6:30 to 8:00 PM here at the Gold Coast Doulas office. Well, thank you, Dr. Erica! Thanks for joining us!
Dr. Erica: Thank you!
Alyssa: And tell Kelsey we’ll have her on sometime, too.
Dr. Erica: Sounds good!