Just like “Monday Blues'' which begins in the beginning of the week, Postpartum depression as they say, is felt in the beginning of the first few months after the delivery of the baby. The birth of a baby can trigger multiple emotions, from excitement, joy, fear to anxiety. It is a change in everyone’s lives, especially mothers who experience physical, emotional, and social challenges. These symptoms can begin just after birth and last for a few months. But remember, it is ok, it is ok to experience such feelings and it will pass. In this article, I give you some evidence based research which has helped many women who have gone through postpartum depression.
1. Go antioxidants
Free radicals are the unstable molecules which damage the tissues which play an important role in development of depression. Free radicals or oxidants lead to shrinkage of certain emotional centers in the brain, so we must consume foods which are rich in antioxidants. Natural colours like yellow, orange and red pigments like sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables, red, yellow and green capsicums are rich in antioxidants.
For example: red color has lycopene and carotenoids which helps in brain functioning. Vegetables including antioxidant rich tomatoes and super greens are packed with pigments which can be good for the mind and body. Green leafy vegetables like spinach, amaranth leaves, and cauliflower greens are essential to reduce the symptoms of depression. Some dishes include palak soup, broccoli soup or salad, spinach pilaf, spinach kofta, wheatgrass shot. Apple, berries, grapes, onions, These foods are also allowed during breastfeeding. Mothers should continue to take folate or folic acid during postpartum.
2. Let us Ferment
Fermented foods improve gut health, it also helps in the mechanism to boost the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Post Pregnancy mothers should eat fermented foods like idli, dosa, kimchi, sauerkraut, dhokla, khandvi, yoghurt, gundruk, appam and consume fermented drinks like kanji water, chaas, lassi. Our brain and gut are connected through the brain- gut axis. Our friendly gut bacteria communicates with the brain through neurotransmitters which helps in uplifting our mood. Fermented foods are rich in vitamin B12 which also helps in boosting folate levels.
3. Herbal Mix
There are important classes of neurotransmitters called monoamines which include serotonin and dopamine. These enzymes are controlled by monoamine oxidase that breaks down monoamines. In Postpartum depression levels of these enzymes are high, hence causing higher breakdown of monoamines ( the neurotransmitters). Some antidepressants work around the theory of controlling these enzymes while holistic specialists work on improving them through herbs like cloves, oregano, cinnamon , saffron and nutmeg. It is easy to add these herbs to the diet.
For example: combine milk with a pinch of nutmeg or chew an inch of ceylon cinnamon stick or sprinkle some oregano on your salads or meals to boost serotonin and dopamine levels.
4. Power of seeds
Some plant foods contain happy hormones serotonin, the so-called happy hormones. But the issue is serotonin cannot cross the blood -brain barrier alone. So, the dietary sources of serotonin can’t make it to the brain, but tryptophan which are the building blocks of serotonin can get to the brain from mouth to blood to our brain. Tryptophan gets transported to the brain with the help of protein and carbohydrates. This could be the reason why at the time of feeling low or depressed we crave for sugars. Ideally, food which has a high tryptophan to protein ratio helps to facilitate brain access. Seeds like sunflower seeds. Sesame seed and pumpkin seeds fit into this combination well.
5. Vitamin D
Lack of vitamin D is strongly linked with postpartum depression. Inadequate exposure to the sunlight due to staying mostly indoors and the reduced ability of the body to convert it into an active form of vitamin D can trigger depression. Some of the foods rich in Vitamin D are cod liver or fish oil, sea greens like seaweeds, wheatgrass- Seagreens is where fishes get their vitamin D from. Ideally the best way to uplift mood is to consume 1000 Iu vitamin D a day or supplement with 1000mg of fish oil including DHEA and EPA.
Exercise elevates mood and decreases the symptoms of depression. Studies have shown that even mild to moderate exercise four times a week can improve mood. Caffeine can trigger depression symptoms and artificial sweeteners. Aspartame present in diet soft drinks, diet and sugar free foods can exhibit depression, irritability and more symptoms of feeling low. Even mints, cereals, chewing gums, jam and jellies, drinks, desserts which have artificial sweeteners can trigger the symptoms. Meats, eggs and chicken release arachidonic acid, a proinflammatory compound and cause neuroinflammation.
Exercise, reach out to your support whether family or friends or your partner for help. Chant, meditate and have a sound sleep where possible. We don’t need a reason to laugh and stay Happy , we just need a bowl of greens, some nuts and soak up in the sun.
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