The Mother Load: The Story Behind the Protocol
Dr. Oscar Serrallach has a special knack for helping women recover from the postnatal period (he helped our head of content get back on her feet after her first kid—all the way from his post in Australia). We worked with him to design a natal protocol that we’re calling The Mother Load to support women pre-conception, through pregnancy, and in their recovery after:
A Q&A with Dr. Oscar Serrallach
Are there specific ingredients that are heroes that were important to include? Any that work together to become more powerful?
The superhero of the macronutrients (nutrients that the body requires relatively large amounts of) in this regimen is DHA—a long chain omega-3 fatty acid that literally helps rebuild a depleted brain and soothe a stressed nervous system.
The superhero of the micronutrients (required in trace amounts) include:
CHOLINE, which also plays an important supporting role in brain recovery.
ZINC—essential in making GABA, the brain’s “relax and slow down” neurotransmitter. Zinc is also needed to help increase and maintain stomach acid levels, and therefore supports digestive health, among other systems.
IRON is important not only for making blood, but for energy production in the cells, and for detoxing in the liver.
IODINE helps balance the thyroid and supports breast and ovarian health.
MAGNESIUM works in the background, making sure all the other ingredients can do their job to the fullest. (It’s like Pepper Pots in Iron Man.)
Why do we need these ingredients in supplement form?
The extra demands of being pregnant, “making a baby,” birthing a baby, and breastfeeding mean that moms require a lot of nutrients for recovery to occur. Supplements help moms-to-be to reach optimal health before this depleting process begins, and, post-baby, they help moms recover quicker while fixing any specific deficiencies. Food can be good for the healthy maintenance of nutrient levels, but supplements are often needed when the body has deficiencies.
While taking this regimen, what kind of diet do you recommend?
Diet is complex and there may not be a one size fits all. What I do find is important is that my recovering mothers (and mothers-to-be) are prescribed a low-inflammatory diet. Pregnancy, when it goes well, is a controlled inflammatory state of being. It can get out of hand with increased inflammation during or after pregnancy, which can cause myriad medical issues. The most potent and quick (non-pharmaceutical) way to achieve lower levels of inflammation is via the gut bacteria, or microbiome, with a healthy diet and proper supplementation. Given the right foods and environment, our gut bacteria can help us to lower inflammation to optimal levels.
Generally, the most inflammatory foods that you want to avoid are:
Those fried in vegetable oils
Grains, especially wheat: I think for most people, gluten-free grains are okay from time to time, and especially the more traditional ones, such as buckwheat and millet. People who are very inflamed may need to be strict for quite some time, but for the majority, the 90/10 rule likely applies: It is what you do 90 percent of the time that makes the difference.
A1 casein from cow’s dairy
Some women will be okay with legumes, and for others, all or some legumes may cause bloating and/or a foggy mind
The diet that usually works best for mothers is:
Rich in colorful, above-ground vegetables
Includes moderate amounts of below-ground vegetables (take caution with potatoes, though—they are an anomaly because they have a very sugar-like effect on our metabolism)
Small amounts of in-season, naturally ripened fruit
Moderate amounts of good quality animal products
Liberal use of health-regaining fats, such as avocado, coconut, olive oil, butter, cacao butter, quality lards, and duck fat
Pre and probiotics are great for the microbiome. Raw fruits like blueberries are a good way to add prebiotics to your diet, and fermented foods are naturally high in probiotics.
[For a complete food plan, plus recipes, to partner with The Mother Load regimen, see here.]
What kind of exercise/activity best complements the regiment?
For my recovering mothers, we talk about activity being more important than exercise. A big part of recovery is reducing physical and emotional stress, and establishing or continuing healthy relaxation practices. While it should be stimulating and not sedating, it is important that the activity or exercise is not too stressful for the body and doesn’t put too much strain on muscles and joints.
Walking in nature is great; swimming is a wonderful cardiovascular exercise without joint impact and can be quite meditative. Yoga, pilates, and Qigong can also be terrific because they combine movement with strength, alignment is mindfully based, and you often do these activities in a connected group. For my very depleted mothers, I find specifically restorative yoga to be very useful in their recoveries.
Are there other lifestyle changes that can make a noticeable difference?
Sleep is the great restorer. I focus a lot on sufficient sleep and quality sleep. For good sleep practices, I recommend that patients minimize clutter in the bedroom, and have a calm wind-down period before bed without TV and social media. You want to avoid blue-light exposure from screens during this time, and also overhead house lights (that mimic sunlight).
Drinking filtered water or bottled spring water to avoid chlorine and fluroide is an easy, useful lifestyle change.
Last: Get support—in what ever form you can get it. Housework, child minding, a babysitter for date night, counseling, relationship support, etc. You don’t get a gold medal for being a parent whom never needs or asks for support. GET SUPPORT!
What kind of impact can people expect the regimen to have and when?
Good, quality sleep has the most immediate benefit, but in general, we typically see incremental improvements in how moms are feeling, with noticeable differences occurring about every two weeks. The initial recovery phase is typically three months, with major improvements experienced at this time. The period to full recovery is another six months—so, nine months total, the gestation time of pregnancy!
Oscar Serrallach graduated from Auckland School of Medicine in New Zealand in 1996. He specialized in general practice, family medicine, and did further training in functional medicine, working in a number of hospital and community-based jobs, as well as in an alternative community in Nimbin that exposed him to nutritional medicine, herbalism, and home birth. He has been working in the Byron Bay area of NSW, Australia since 2001, where he lives with his partner, Caroline, and their three children. Serrallach currently practices at the integrative medicine center, The Health Lodge, and his first book, Mothermorphosis, comes out in 2018 from goop Press. He also developed the goop vitamin/supplement protocol, The Mother Load, designed to support moms and moms-to-be.
The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of goop, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.