I was thinking that those first two posts may have caused a lot of people to question their own Jelly Bellies. I figured it would behoove everyone to let you know how you, too, can check yourself for diastasis recti, in the comfort of your own home!
First off, I feel compelled to let ya'll know that diastasis is not just a problem with post-partum women. Men can also develop a diastasis. Even children. What we so quaintly refer to as a "Beer Belly" in our husbands, dads or grandads may actually be a separation of the abdominal wall.
What I have learned in all these years of trying to understand what had happened to my body, is that diastasis recti is caused by "forward, forceful pressure," as my physical therapist, Kelly Dean, would say. This could happen from gaining too much weight. Or performing pilates or yoga or endless crunches without properly holding in the transverse abdominus. When you slouch, and see your belly pooch out in front of you, that is causing "forward, forceful pressure." From what I understand, nobody has an answer as to why some people can develop a diastasis from all that repeated forward, forceful pressure, while others remain perfectly fine. Although, I do feel that my diastasis might have been averted if I had exercised more consistently (with the proper exercises, of course) before, during and after my pregnancies. However, I have seen many stories of women who were very fit and health-conscious - triathletes, even - who still developed a more severe diastasis than what I have. It seems some of us are more genetically predisposed to it and others are not.
And I am part of that lucky bunch. Yipeeeeeee.
As I explained in a previous post, there are a lot of different muscles all crisscrossed around the midsection. It takes a lot of work to hold all those organs in! The "six-pack" muscles are the rectus abdominus, and they are the two long muscles that lay side-by-side, stretching from your ribs down to your pelvis. But something has to hold these two muscles together. The linea alba is a line of tissue in between the two rectus abdominus muscles. Underneath that are the obliques on your sides that allow the torso to twist. And underneath everything is the transverse abdominus, a corset of muscle that wraps all the way around your midsection.
It is common knowledge that during pregnancy, everything gets stretched out.
(And if you have never been pregnant, now is probably the time to stop reading this post. I don't want to scare anyone. Come back here after you get yourself knocked-up someday, then we'll talk!)
I believe that few women really think about what exactly is being stretched. There is a combination of two things happening that results in a diastasis and/or jelly belly. First off, the linea alba is stretched. This is tissue, not elastic. Imagine stretching out a ball of playdoh. When you push the two sides close together again, the playdoh does not reabsorb into itself. Rather, that stretched out part in the middle folds in half and hangs there, much like the linea alba. For many women, after months or years, the tissue will eventually reabsorb, if the two sides of the rectus abdominus are kept close together for long enough. For others, and for a myriad of reasons, it doesn't.
Now add in the fact that your transverse muscle has also been stretched. Yes, the muscle can regain its strength, which will help it shrink back down to a normal size. But the transverse is a difficult muscle to work. And for many, because it has been through so much trauma, there is a disconnect with that muscle altogether. So even though you are taking Zumba or Kickboxing or CrossFit classes four days a week, your transverse is never really engaging because it sorta forgot how.
If the transverse is unable to regain strength and shrink back down, add to that all of your resulting bad postures which is repeatedly pushing your stomach out further multiple times a day, then that linea alba tissue never has a chance to be held closer together to allow for reabsorption.
Hence, a diastasis.
But enough about all this physiology crap, you wanna know whether or not you have a diastasis! Here is a video that explains exactly how, featuring the same Kelly Dean I had mentioned earlier...
Kelly Dean is a physical therapist with an online course that helps you to strengthen your core and put you on the path to healing. After years of trying different methods, this 8-week course has been the most effective for me. But that is another story for another post! I've had several readers ask me what I have been doing for my diastasis lately, so I wanted to quickly include that information here. To check out the program, click on The Tummy Team link below.
OK, enough talk. Now get on the floor and check that core!!!
And be sure to email or leave a comment if you have any questions.
(Please note, The Tummy Team link is an affiliate link, which means I have a chance to earn a couple of bucks if you choose to make a purchase. This does not change my opinions about the program, and I look forward to sharing what that journey was like with you!)