If there is one constant in every culture on the planet, it’s that food is used to heal.
The recipes that we use for our best health are often the ones that have been passed down through the generations. But there is another common thing that happens to recipes as they’re passed along – they change.
It’s natural. As we experience and integrate the wisdom of other cultures we experience new foods and ideas. We take them and add them to the things we’ve carried with us, changing them and evolving them.
For me, I’m constantly tweaking recipes because 1) I am a food therapy nerd and 2) I’m always looking for ways to make healthy food taste good.
That’s where this recipe comes from. I wanted a way to make the most nourishing porridge recipe possible. Breastfeeding mothers need ways to get as many calories and nutrients in their mouths as possible and this oatmeal recipe is a great way to do it.
Sprinkle on some Traditional Chinese Medical schooling, add a dash of something I heard on a podcast once and let simmer with experience and BAM! a great tasting, filling and nourishing oatmeal recipe.
If you want to scroll down to the recipe, it’s at the bottom. But if you’re a food nerd like me, read on:
Food as medicine
One of the most important things to note with food therapy recipes is that you have to treat them as just that – therapy. Which means that every aspect of the recipe needs to be carefully considered, from the ingredients to the preparation.
For instance, the basis of this porridge is the oats. Oats are warm and sweet, making them very nourishing. They’re good for tonifying qi, nourishing blood and yin and helping circulate qi. This is what makes them the perfect lactation food.
There are two main patterns for “insufficient lactation” – liver qi stagnation and qi and blood deficiency. Oats help build up your qi and blood while moving qi and blood, addressing both issues at the same time.
So, oats in and of themselves are an amazing lactation boosting food but then we supercharge them by toasting them with salt. This has two purposes:
- Toasting or dry frying is called chao. By browning the oats slightly, they help wake up the spleen and stomach strengthening properties of the oats. Your spleen and stomach are a big part of the process of creating qi and blood and a good portion of breast milk development belongs to the stomach in TCM.
- Dry frying with salt directs some of that attention down to your kidneys which if you remember are your foundational energy. Doing this may help with night sweats and boost your yin a bit, something commonly deficient in postpartum women.
These boosts demonstrate exactly why choosing your preparation methods carefully can be incredibly useful.
The problem with oats
But there’s a problem with oats. They’re grains and as it turns out, some of us have a really hard time digesting grains. Most grains and legumes have compounds called phytates that can bind to nutrients and make them less bioavailable.
One way around this is to ferment the grains. Don’t worry, I’m not talking about putting them in a jar and burying them in your backyard for a month, but even an evening on a stove can help “pre-digest” them a bit, and make them easier on your system.
You see, you only have one stomach. Most animals that live mainly on grains have four. Sometimes our bodies just need a little bit of extra help to do the work.
Fermenting the Oats
For this I like to use kefir – a yogurt like drink that’s becoming more and more popular. Sally Fallon has other options for you too, so if you don’t want to go the kefir route check out Nourishing Traditions on Amazon (affiliate link). I prefer whole milk kefir because the fats help reduce the impact lactose has on sensitive systems. If you want to take it a step further you can try goat’s milk kefir. Goat’s milk is warmer than cow’s milk and is good for the digestive system, but not as good at tonifying qi and blood.
It’s these three simple items – oats, the water and kefir mixture and salt that are the heart of this recipe. If you only use these three things prepared in this way, you can make a lot of headway in terms of energy and milk production. Heck, you don’t even have to ferment the grains if you tolerate them well! Just toast the oatmeal with some salt and cook as directed on the container.
The Most Fun is in the Accessories
Oatmeal is a canvas, and the toppings and stir-ins are where the magic happens.
I have two very specific stir-ins I highly recommend you include: honey and eggs.
As women, we are yin. At the beginning of my ob-gyn class in school my teacher said that if we were ever questioning what to treat, we should treat the yin/blood. It’s what we dominate and what dominates us. Our bodies age based off the building and the deterioration of yin. Our breast milk production, menstrual cycle, skin moisture, hair luster – all of the things that (fairly or unfairly) are associated with women are linked to blood. It’s natural to tonify blood when treating any women’s issues.
Honey is not only an “herb” in Traditional Chinese Medicine, it’s an incredibly common substance used to augment other herbs and help them with any moistening functions (yin!). Called feng mi it is sweet and neutral and is an excellent yin/blood boost and natural sweetener to the porridge.
Eggs are important because they not only tonify blood and yin, but they tonify jing. Jing is roughly translated as our essence. The reason our kidneys are our foundational energy is because they are where the jing is stored. Jing governs our aging, our fertility and our eventual decline. Stirring in eggs takes this porridge firmly into yin territory while adding healthy and lean protein to your breakfast.
Everything else? Let your soul guide you. I’m a fan of fresh fruit but many people like savory porridge and will add onions, cheese and bacon. Go wild! Enjoy!
Lactation Boosting Oatmeal
This simple recipe is a great way to boost qi and blood which can support lactation and overall health
- 1 cup oats
- 2 cups water, divided
- 2 tablespoons goat’s milk kefir (or another fermenting agent)
- honey to taste
- butter (optional)
- half and half (optional)
- fruit (optional)
Mix your kefir with your warm water and set aside in a saucepan.
Toast oats with sea salt until they smell delicious.
Add oats to sauce pan, cover and leave on your stove overnight.
The next morning add one more cup of water. Once the mixture is steaming add two eggs and cook thoroughly.
Add butter or half and half to desired consistency.
Add honey and sea salt to taste.
Dish and top with fresh fruit.
If you are having issues with breast milk production, make sure you talk to a lactation consultant. Your midwife or ob-gyn should be able to provide you some options. Food therapy and supplementation can make a huge difference but there’s no substitute for an appropriate latch and completely draining the breast. LCs can help with that.
If you’d like to talk to me about addressing your issues through Traditional Chinese Medicine, click the link below to schedule online and fill out your paperwork:
Disclaimer: I am an acupuncturist in the state of Minnesota, and the information falls within my scope of practice in my state. However, unless I have directed you here as your homework I am probably not your acupuncturist. The information in this post is for general purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. As always, check with your own acupuncturist or primary care provider before making any lifestyle changes. This post does not create a patient-practitioner relationship and I am not liable for any losses or damages resulting or relating to the content in this post.
Resources and Links
Sally’s Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions
Paul Pitchford’s Healing with Whole Foods
Jessica Gustafson is a licensed acupuncturist in St Paul, MN specializing in women’s health and fertility. She loves working with patients through the Health Foundations Birth Center on Grand Avenue in St Paul as well as doing home visits in the Twin Cities area. Check out the services page for more information!
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