Diastasis recti is a separation between the left and right side of the rectus abdominis muscle, which covers the front surface of the belly area.” –Wikipedia
W H A T I S D I A S T A S I S R E C T I
Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds. Diastasis Recti is actually an incredibly common condition found most typically in pregnant and postpartum women (roughly 60%), but can also occur within men and children of any age. Actually, no one has truly “connected” abs to begin with, and if you think about it, it makes perfect sense for our bodies to have the ability to adjust size if need-be. Envision a widening and thinning of the midline “fascia” tissue between the abdominal muscles, AKA the “Linea Alba”, in response to intra-abdominal pressure (IE: pregnancy, obesity, intense exercise movements, poor posture/alignment, chronic coughing, chronic constipation – BASICALLY, anything that pushes your belly OUT can have lasting damage). From now on, lets consider DR an “unnatural distance between the abdominal muscles” which is a more accurate definition.
..Anything more than a 2-finger-width gap is considered problematic. Some symptoms include back pain, headaches, fatigue, severe bloating, hernias, chronic constipation, tight shoulders and neck. What often isn’t mentioned though, is that almost all pain is likely due to a domino effect of bad habits and movements rather than the condition itself being at fault for much of anything really, well, other than not being able to hold organs inside. It’s safe to say that if sorry alignment was existent prior to pregnancy, having that much more weight on an unsteady foundation results in popping seams.
H O W T O K N O W I F I H A V E D I A S T A S I S R E C T I?
Checking yourself for DR is relatively simple, and can be done by yourself at home. When you do the self check, make sure to relax your stomach muscles, keeping your shoulders on the floor, a neutral spine, and knees bent. I find it interesting to check friend and family midlines as well, just for a helpful reference.
You’ll soon learn that checking your DR doesn’t always lend consistent results. Try not to worry if your gap fluctuates and use the self check as more of a general idea of your condition status. Checking it often does more harm than good, so doing it only once a week or so is sufficient enough for tracking progress.
If you are very lean enough, you can even see the separation just by standing and looking in the mirror, but usually DR is completely invisible to the naked eye besides maybe a distended belly.
(Click to watch Lara Catone’s video to try the DR self check )
H O W T O T R E A T D I A S T A S I S R E C T I
Forgetting that there is actually a surgery to repair DR, there are several pieces to what I like to call, a PUZZLE (to healing it on your own). I call it a puzzle, because you truly cannot mend what has been broken with one simple cure-all. No single exercise or some silly diet change like avoiding gluten is going to cut it. I’m sorry, but this is a package deal. The benefit of changing your lifestyle though, is to become a more complete person… take this opportunity to allow a frustrating condition to blossom into a full-out journey of deep self healing. When you un-prioritize the gap, and heal all elements of your body and mind, THAT is when you strangely start noticing REAL results. I know it’s cheesy, but I say it because I’m living it and now know it’s TRUE.
Diet is EVERYTHING when it comes to healing the muscles, fibers and tissues of the body that have been damaged. DR is technically an injury. Cutting refined sugars and processed foods is absolutely essential to healing, especially to restore a healthy core. I’ve learned from experience how much a clean diet is key to reaching body/health goals, but I didn’t always know what healthy even MEANS. It really is going back to something simple.
- NOT eating refined (white) sugar or (white) flour
- NOT eating processed foods (boxed foods, foods with labels, foods with multiple ingredients)
- NOT eating “Low fat” foods which contain more harm than good
- Eating food as close to their original form as possible
- Portion control (not over or under-eating)
- Balanced nutrition
- Making sure to get sufficient amounts of water
Ok, so I guess it’s clear that I’m implying the only way to good health is to eat a nice home-cooked meal. I’m also implying to make the majority of your grocery-store purchases from the fresh produce/meat section of the store. Cooking and preparing meals from scratch is the only way to guarantee real freshness, quality, and nutrients. I know, I know, it’s hard to do with a busy lifestyle. Especially as an overwhelmed parent or socially active family, or anyone really. I’m right there with ya. But it gets a whole lot easier as you make home cooking into a daily ritual. There are tons of ways to make it easier/faster if need be, like making enough for left overs and preparing meals in advance. (No option but to eat out? Click here for some pointers….)
If you have DR and are struggling with abdominal distention (bloating), diet is what you need to focus on improving. Let me tell you, someone can have a gap between their abdominals and still retain a flat stomach… but ANYONE and EVERYONE struggles with bloating if they eat the bad foods.
DR+Nasty food= CRAZY ABSURD AMOUNTS OF BLOATING AND FEELING LIKE A STUFFED SAUSAGE.
M A C R O N U T R I E N T S…
I am a huge fan of watching and counting my macronutrients, they are the way to go if a person has particular body goals (like making my butt bigger, heehee). There are three macronutrients; carbohydrates (sugar), lipids (fats), and proteins.
// Carbohydrates have a bad rep. I really don’t know why, carbs are in pretty much everything and are basically unavoidable. Currently, the USDA recommends that adults get 45-65% of their daily caloric intake from carbohydrates. Yes, there are good carbs and bad carbs, but after you learn the difference you will never need to sweat carbs again. Obviously, things like doughnuts or bagels have tons of carbs… which turn into sugars during digestion, resulting in bloating and belly fat from cortisol and spikes in insulin levels, blah blah blah. BUT veggies also have carbs, fruit tends to be high in carbs, and other healthy foods like oatmeal have lots of carbs.
// Lipids, or fats, are also very important. I know it’s strange but, we actually need HEALTHY fats; from sources like grape seed oil, olive oil, coconut oil, REAL butter, nuts and nut butters, avocado, and fish. Healthy fats give you that gorgeous glow to your skin and nice hair.
// As for protein, fascia tissue is primarily made of collegian and getting proper amounts of protein will encourage muscle development and stimulate collagen improvement. At least 46 grams of protein per day for the average sedentary woman, and more if you’re a man or active. Items such as meat, tofu, eggs, legumes, nuts, nut butters, yogurt and milk are wonderful ways to get protein in.
DON’T FORGET ALSO…
- Water cleanses our bodes and works as a natural and gentle way to flush our systems of toxins and other nasty little things. Also, constipation is one of the worst enemies of DR and should be avoided at all costs… getting in sufficient levels of liquid, especially water, is the most important tool in keeping a flat belly.
- Fruits & Veggies are an obvious one. Right? But are you really getting enough? We should be getting about 5 portions a day. I recommend eating your fruit in the morning, because eating fruit following a meal is a recipe for disaster (fruit digests the quickest, so it sits waiting and ferments… resulting in bloating).
- Grains are delicious, but we eat waaay to many of them. I tend to have one or maybe two forms of grains per day, such as oats for breakfast or a piece of whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter. I’m not against grains persay, but try to limit them and get them as close to their original form as possible. Check out Wendy’s Mums’ Guide to Paleo articles translating a few ‘no grains’/ Paleo-esque principles easily onto the family dinner table.
- A L I G N M E N T
Alignment is a VITAL piece of this puzzle, and a puzzle-piece for anyone whether they know it or not. It’s also something I’m still presently researching, practicing, learning, and failing at on a daily basis… so can’t claim to be an expert. What I can say is, alignment is a completely separate thing all together than posture, but they are sorta linked. Well, posture is just the way you look and alignment is the way your body holds up. With that said, most of us are destroying our skeletons (and muscles) with terrible daily movements and “posture” without any awareness of it in the slightest. The way we stack our sections; our head, ribs, hips, legs, feet… makes a difference in more than just our appearance, but over-all health and well being! It’s so important, and I’m finding that out in the most amazing ways.
…Nothing was improving with my diastasis recti for quite a while… maybe 5 months or something. I had decided that the gap must be closed after all the exercises and hard work, and that the fascia must be stretched to the point of no return. I was stuck with a two-finger gap (which is still in the safe zone, right?), and that’s just the hand I’ve been dealt. But THEN I somehow came across katysays.com and learned about alignment vs posture, and my eyes were opened to a whole new level of fitness and health. Suddenly, it became less about strict exercise and more about being strict with HOW I use my body upon daily movements. I learned that I am a terrible rib thruster, meaning that I stand (or sit) with an exaggerated arch to my back. So then… my abdominal muscles are being constantly stretched(!!!). Tight glutes, tight shoulders, and a tight back are also symptoms of poor alignment, which are also symptoms of DIASTASIS RECTI. I probably had DR before children and got it worse with children. See where I’m going here? Check yourself before you wreck yourself, yo. As soon as I learned how to lower my ribs and stand without a tucked pelvis and tilted ribcage, I saw dramatic improvement. So now I HAVE to recommend Katy’s site and her blog and Alignment Snacks.
- FITNESS (And Rest)
There are several bullet points I like to keep in mind when training to heal my DR. Strengthen my Back/ strengthen my core/ strengthen my glutes and thighs.
D I A S T A S I S R E C T I M Y T H S