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Updated: Oct 10




We all know that nutrition plays an important role in our physical health, but did you know it is also crucial for our mental health? With the growth in depression rates especially in mothers, I get asked a lot: what can be done nutritionally to combat this?


While 80% of new mothers experience the “baby blues,” they typically go away within a few weeks without treatment, but if your negative feelings continue or intensify, you could have postpartum depression. This mental illness has been reported to affect 1 in 7 new mothers in the year after giving birth, but it can persist even after the first year, or develop into full blown depression. (1)

In fact, many mothers suffer with depression and / or anxiety beyond what’s considered the postpartum period. Feelings of depression are often exacerbated by the daily stresses and demands of being a mother with little time to devote to self-care and getting the help a mother desperately needs.


Natural support for depression


Depression is a mental illness and often requires medical treatment, but there are also many ways to help with your recovery through nutritional changes. At Mother Nutrient, we provide a range of products, including nutraceutical supplements and superfoods that are known to help with a variety of health issues related to motherhood, including (postpartum) depression and anxiety. Currently, common treatments for depression include talk therapy and pharmaceutical medications, but the following natural supplements have been shown to help with depression and are safe to use while breastfeeding.



1. Saffron extract - Saffron extract is made from the stigma of the saffron crocus flower, which has been traditionally used as a cooking spice and herbal medicine for over 4,000 years. Multiple studies have shown that supplementing with saffron significantly reduced symptoms of postpartum depression. In one double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, participants were given 15 mg of saffron twice a day for 8 weeks. This supplementation led to a 96% remission rate of mild postpartum depression, which was more than twice the rate of the control group (2). Another trial by Tabeshpour et al. demonstrated that giving participants 30 mg of saffron petal for 6 weeks led to a better antidepressant effect when compared to the placebo control (3). A meta-analysis that compared saffron supplementation with antidepressants also reported that saffron had a similar antidepressant efficacy without side effects, citing its “serotonergic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuro-endocrine and neuroprotective effects” (4). Studies have indicated that saffron extract is also an effective treatment to reduce anxiety and has been reported to reduce snacking and increase satiety, which may help those who struggle with emotional eating (5, 6).



2. Omega 3 DHA + EPA - Omega-3 fatty acids play a vital role in the health of both mothers and babies. Of the different forms of Omega-3s, DHA is known to be extremely important for brain function, accounting for 10 to 15% of the total fatty acids in our brains. Women typically become deficient in omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and the postpartum period because of the high demand on the mother to provide DHA to the growing fetus and infant, and it has been reported to take 6 months for these DHA stores to be replenished (7).


Several studies examined the relationship between omega-3 levels and depression and found that those with depression had significantly lower levels of EPA and DHA. Conversely, mothers who consumed more omega-3s (through high seafood consumption) had a lower prevalence of postpartum depression (8). Another 8-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled preliminary trial compared pregnant women with major depressive disorder who took omega-3 fatty acids with women who took placebos. After 6 weeks, women who took omega-3 fatty acids reported lower ratings for depressive symptoms, and higher remission rates compared to the placebo group (9).


Because of the benefits of taking omega-3s to improve your mood and cognitive function, in addition to the lack of sufficient levels in current Western diets, it is best to take an omega-3 supplement with high levels of DHA + EPA (I recommend 150 to 300 milligrams of DHA and 180 to 300 milligrams of EPA per day) to help support your depression.


3. Probiotics - It’s true, a healthy gut is linked to a healthy mood. Probiotics increase the amount of healthy microbiota in the gut, which positively alters the immune system and anti-inflammatory pathways to help with postpartum mental health issues. Long-term supplementation with probiotics has been shown to decrease sad mood, rumination, negative thoughts, and aggressive thoughts that are associated with depression and anxiety (10). A more recent study of 423 women in New Zealand observed the effect of giving a probiotic during pregnancy through 6 months postpartum (if breastfeeding) on postnatal mood (11). Mothers in the probiotic treatment group reported significantly lower scores for both depression and anxiety, as well as half the risk of developing clinically significant anxiety compared to those who took the placebo.


Mother Nutrient offers a Women's Probiotic made up of a high-strength 40 billion CFU blend of 4 probiotic strains that are designed to help improve the gut bacteria and boost your mood.

4. Vitamin D - Vitamin D has been shown to have profound effects on the brain. Studies have linked low levels of vitamin D in the blood with symptoms of depression (12, 13). In fact, most of the US population is deficient in this key nutrient, so supplementation is important, especially for mothers. While the average prenatal multivitamin offers only 400 IU of vitamin D3, the recommended dose for nursing mothers is 6,400 IU of vitamin D3 in order for sufficient levels to reach their baby.


Mother Nutrient’s liquid Vitamin D3 is combined with MCT (coconut) oil for easy absorption (vitamin D is fat-soluble), and the D3+K2 capsules include vitamin K2 to enhance benefits of vitamin D. Both have the preferred form D3 form and have a high potency of 5,000 IU.




5. Zinc - Zinc is a trace element that plays an important role in over 300 biological processes in our bodies, including cellular function, immune health, and digestive health. Studies have explored the relationship between zinc levels and depression, and many have demonstrated that depressed individuals (and those with high depression severity scores) had reduced serum zinc levels compared to healthy controls (one study found levels to be 1.85 umol/L lower) (14, 15). There is a lot of evidence through numerous randomized controlled trials that zinc supplementation is an effective adjunctive therapy to improve mood for depressed individuals, even in cases of those who resist treatment (16-20). To determine if you have a zinc deficiency, it’s best to have your plasma zinc level tested (below 15 umol/L indicates insufficiency), and have your doctor repeat blood tests regularly to assess improvements in zinc levels.



It’s okay to ask for help.


If you think you have depression or anxiety, it’s important to seek the help that you need. We understand the challenges of caring for yourself when you have a baby and other children who need you, but it becomes even more important that you take care of yourself so that you have the ability to care for others and form a positive bond with your child. But you don’t have to (and shouldn’t!) struggle alone, because you are not alone. Talk to a family member, a friend, be honest with your doctor, and consult with a therapist.


Mother Nutrient is here to support all mothers through holistic nutrition. You can read more about other nutritional recommendations to help postpartum depression in our post “10 Diet Recommendations For Postpartum Depression.



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We also offer a free wellness quiz to help you determine where you stand on a variety of health dimensions including energy level, nutrient deficiency, and emotional wellbeing.


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Content found on this website is not considered medical advice. Please consult with a physician before making any medical or lifestyle changes.

References

1. Postpartum Depression Facts [Internet]. National Institute of Mental Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; [cited 2019May16]. Available from: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/postpartum-depression-facts/index.shtml

2. Tabeshpour J, Sobhani F, Sadjadi SA, Hosseinzadeh H, Mohajeri SA, Rajabi O, et al. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of saffron stigma (Crocus sativus L.) in mothers suffering from mild-to-moderate postpartum depression. Phytomedicine. 2017;36:145–52.

3. Moshiri E, Basti AA, Noorbala A-A, Jamshidi A-H, Abbasi SH, Akhondzadeh S. Crocus sativus L. (petal) in the treatment of mild-to-moderate depression: A double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2006;13:607–11.

4. Lopresti AL, Drummond PD. Saffron (Crocus sativus) for depression: a systematic review of clinical studies and examination of underlying antidepressant mechanisms of action. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental. 2014;29:517–27.

5. Mazidi M, Shemshian M, Mousavi SH, Norouzy A, Kermani T, Moghiman T, Sadeghi A, Mokhber N, Ghayour-Mobarhan M, Ferns GAA. A double-blind, randomized and placebo-controlled trial of Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) in the treatment of anxiety and depression. Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine. 2016;13.

6. Gout B. Bourges C. Paineau-Dubreuil S. Satiereal, a Crocus sativus L. extract, reduces snacking and increases satiety in a randomized placebo-controlled study of mildly overweight, healthy women. Nutr. Res. 2010;30:305–313.

7. Al MDM, Houwelingen ACV, Kester AD, Hasaart TH, Jong AEPD, Hornstra G. Maternal essential fatty acid patterns during normal pregnancy and their relationship to the neonatal essential fatty acid status. British Journal of Nutrition. 1995;74:55–68.

8. Hibbeln JR. Seafood consumption, the DHA content of mothers’ milk and prevalence rates of postpartum depression: a cross-national, ecological analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2002;69:15–29.

9. Su K-P, Huang S-Y, Chiu C-C, Shen WW. Omega-3 fatty acids in major depressive disorder A preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. European Neuropsychopharmacology. 2003;14:173.

10. Steenbergen L, Sellaro R, Hemert SV, Bosch JA, Colzato LS. A randomized controlled trial to test the effect of multispecies probiotics on cognitive reactivity to sad mood. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. 2015;48:258–64.

11. Slykerman R, Hood F, Wickens K, Thompson J, Barthow C, Murphy R, et al. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001 in Pregnancy on Postpartum Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety: A Randomised Double-blind Placebo-controlled Trial. EBioMedicine. 2017;24:159–65.

12. Wilkins CH, Sheline YI, Roe CM, Birge SJ, Morris JC. Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated With Low Mood and Worse Cognitive Performance in Older Adults. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 2006;14:1032–40.

13. Anglin, R.E., Samaan, Z., Walter, S.Det al., Vitamin D deficiency and depression in adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Psychiatry, 2013. 202: p. 100-7.

14. Swardfager W, Herrmann N, Mazereeuw G, Goldberger K, Harimoto T, Lanctôt KL. Zinc in Depression: A Meta-Analysis. Biological Psychiatry. 2013;74:872–8.

15. Swardfager W, Herrmann N, Mazereeuw G, Lanctôt KL. Reply to: Serum Zinc and the Risk of Depression in Men: Observations from a 20-Year Follow-up Study. Biological Psychiatry. 2015;77.

16. Nowak G., Siwek M., Dudek D., Zieba A., Pilc A. Effect of zinc supplementation on antidepressant therapy in unipolar depression: a preliminary placebo-controlled study. Pol. J. Pharmacol. 2003;55:1143–1117.

17. Siwek M, Dudek D, Paul IA, Sowa-Kućma M, Zięba A, Popik P, Pilc A, Nowak G. Zinc supplementation augments efficacy of imipramine in treatment resistant patients: A double blind, placebo-controlled study. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2009;118:187–95.

18. Sawada T, Yokoi K. Effect of zinc supplementation on mood states in young women: a pilot study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010;64:331–3.

19. Lai J, Moxey A, Nowak G, Vashum K, Bailey K, Mcevoy M. The efficacy of zinc supplementation in depression: Systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Journal of Affective Disorders. 2012;136.

20. Ranjbar E, Shams J, Sabetkasaei M, M-Shirazi M, Rashidkhani B, Mostafavi A, Bornak E, Nasrollahzadeh J. Effects of zinc supplementation on efficacy of antidepressant therapy, inflammatory cytokines, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor in patients with major depression. Nutritional Neuroscience. 2013;17:65–71.

Updated: May 4



The beginning of motherhood is already a tumultuous and uncertain time for mothers. It’s no surprise, since following birth your body goes through intense physiological and psychological changes. The sudden lifestyle changes and responsibilities of caring for a newborn while recovering from birth can often lead to feelings of sadness, anxiety, and uncertainty. In fact, 80% of new mothers are estimated to experience negative feelings and moodiness directly following birth, which are typically referred to as “baby blues.”(1)


While it’s normal to have baby blues (think: drastic changes in hormones, lack of sleep, nursing), it can be expected to dissipate within a few weeks postpartum. For 15% of new mothers, though, these negative feelings can continue or intensify and become postpartum depression (2). Sometimes it can even manifest over a year after birth.


So how do you know if you have postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression can vary from person to person in severity and length, but the following are common symptoms and can be an early indication that you have it (1):


  • Depressed mood

  • Loss of interest

  • Hopelessness and despair

  • Anxiety or excessive worry

  • Irritability

  • Confusion

  • Lack or excessive concern for baby

  • Disturbances in sleep and appetite

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Impaired memory

  • Panic attacks

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Excessive crying

  • Feelings of hurting the baby


If you find yourself experiencing multiple symptoms from this list, it is important to seek treatment from a medical professional early on to prevent worsening. Reach out to your primary care physician and find resources at organizations like Postpartum Support International (https://www.postpartum.net).


Women with a history of depression or have experienced postpartum depression in the past are more likely to experience PPD in subsequent pregnancies. Teenage mothers and those who have unsupportive partners, or those dealing with high-stress situations such as complicated pregnancies or delivering preterm babies are also at a higher risk.


Another risk factor for PPD is nutrient deficiencies, all too common after pregnancy, so one of the most proactive things you can do if you start to feel low is to make sure you are nourishing yourself with the right foods. Taking in high-quality, nutritious foods will help restore nutrients and hormonal balance that are essential for stabilizing your mood (3).


Try to incorporate the following to your diet:


  1. Start the day with a breakfast rich in protein and low glycemic index carbohydrates such as bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchinis, leafy greens, and other colorful vegetables. Eggs are a breakfast favorite! They are delicious, nutritious, and versatile. A 3 egg spinach and mushroom omelet contains about 18g of protein and 1-2 servings of veggies.

  2. Focus on protein intake for each of your meals, about 20 to 30 g per meal. Protein helps create mood-stabilizing neurochemicals like dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin. Remember that if you eat meat, grass-fed, roam-free and organic choices are your best options. Eggs are also a great option as they contain all essential amino acids your body needs and pack 6 g of protein each.

  3. Avoid sugar and reduce consumption of grains (especially gluten-containing grains as gluten has been linked to depression) to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Choose low-glycemic carbohydrates, such as crunchy and colorful vegetables as well as nuts and seeds.

  4. Incorporate leafy greens in each meal, including algae. These contain many important nutrients and are calming to the nervous system. Kale, spinach, seaweed, and swiss chard are great options!

  5. Eat plenty of omega-3-rich (DHA) foods like sardines, pastured eggs, wild salmon, and algae. Flax and chia seeds contain ALA which needs to be converted into DHA in your body, but unfortunately, a smooth conversion doesn’t always take place. This may be why most studies show that flax seeds don’t raise DHA levels in blood and breastmilk as efficiently. I recommend all lactating mothers (and pregnant mothers too) to take an omega 3 supplement since our modern diet is typically very low on this nutrient and it is imperative for baby’s brain development and mother’s mental health. Mother Nutrient offers a great Omega-3 supplement with high levels of DHA +EPA.

  6. Incorporate B-vitamins, which are essential in proper brain and nerve function. Their deficiencies (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12 and folate) have been linked to depression. Try adding nutritional yeast, chicken liver, salmon, ground beef, eggs, and avocados to your diet. Our Complete Postnatal Multivitamin packets were formulated to include all B-vitamins in adequate quantities to support you with postpartum recovery and prevent nutrient deficiencies.

  7. Low-fat diets have been linked to changes in mood, so add healthy fats like avocado, coconuts, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and eggs to your diet. (4)

  8. Vitamin D has been shown to have profound effects on the brain, and research has linked depression to low levels of vitamin D (5). In fact, most of the US population are deficient in this important nutrient, so supplementation is highly recommended. Take no more than 1,000 IU of D3 daily if levels have not been tested, and 2,000-5,000 IU if levels are low. Mother Nutrient’s Vitamin D3 comes in liquid form and is combined with MCT (coconut) oil, since vitamin D is fat-soluble and better absorbed with fat. We also have a Vitamin D3 + K2 in capsule form with 5,000 IU. Yes, we’ve thought of everything ;-)

  9. Take a probiotic – have you ever heard that your gut and your brain are connected? Having a healthy gut has a huge impact on your brain function and mood. Long-term supplementation with probiotics has been shown to alleviate both anxiety and depression (6). We have a Women's Probiotic that offers a high-strength blend of probiotics (40 billion CFU) that is designed to improve your overall gut function through 4 unique probiotic strains.

  10. Take Saffron - Saffron extract, which is made from the stigma of the saffron crocus flower, was traditionally used for cooking and medicinal purposes. It has been clinically proven to enhance mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety without the side effects of traditional antidepressants (7,8). Our Saffron Extract contains 100% pure saffron extract to enhance mood, boosts energy, and supports weight loss by suppressing appetite.

  11. Exercise. I know, this one is not diet-related, but research has consistently found that even gentle exercise can be as effective as medication in combating depression. No need to go all out or do strenuous exercise, get your blood flowing with daily stroller walks at first and ramping it up as you feel stronger.


If making these changes seems overwhelming, don’t worry! Start small and try incorporating a few nutritious foods every day. I know you are super busy now, so I’ve made it easy by choosing and developing the best supplements for new mothers. Explore our products here.


Most importantly, if you are struggling with mental health, PLEASE get help! It's one phone call away: 1-800-944-4773 (Postpartum Support International Helpline).


We offer a free wellness quiz to help you determine where you stand on a variety of health dimensions including energy level, nutrient deficiency, and emotional wellbeing.



It takes less than 5 minutes, and you get targeted diet, lifestyle, and supplement recommendations and a detailed nutrition report based on your results!



Join our mailing list! When you sign up to receive my newsletter, you will receive a free copy of my "Top 10 Postnatal Nutrition Tips."







Have questions about postpartum nutrition? What were some ways you incorporated healthy foods into your day? Tell me in the comment section below!


If you know someone who would benefit from this post, please share!



Content found on this website is not considered medical advice. Please consult with a physician before making any medical or lifestyle changes.

References

1. Evans, Joel M. The Whole Pregnancy Handbook. An Obstetrician's Guide To Integrating Conventional And Alternative Medicine Before, During And After Pregnancy. Gotham Books, 2005.

2. Northrup, Christiane. Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom: Creating Physical And Emotional Health And Healing. Bantam Books, 2010.

3. Bauman, E., Friedlander, J. Therapeutic Nutrition – Part 2 Nutrition Consultant Training Program. NC209: Neurological Health. 2015

4. Wells A, Read N, Laugharne J, Ahluwalia N. Alterations in mood after changing to a low-fat diet. British Journal of Nutrition. 1998;79:23.

5. Wilkins C, Sheline Y, Roe C, Birge S, Morris J. Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated With Low Mood and Worse Cognitive Performance in Older Adults. The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 2006;14:1032-1040.

6. Steenbergen L, Sellaro R, van Hemert S, Bosch J, Colzato L. A randomized controlled trial to test the effect of multispecies probiotics on cognitive reactivity to sad mood. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. 2015;48:258-264.

7. Tabeshpour J, Sobhani F, Sadjadi SA, Hosseinzadeh H, Mohajeri SA, Rajabi O, et al. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of saffron stigma (Crocus sativus L.) in mothers suffering from mild-to-moderate postpartum depression. Phytomedicine. 2017;36:145–52.

8. Lopresti AL, Drummond PD. Saffron (Crocus sativus) for depression: a systematic review of clinical studies and examination of underlying antidepressant mechanisms of action. Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental. 2014;29:517–27.

Content found on this website is not considered medical advice. Please consult with a physician before making any medical or lifestyle changes.

© 2020 Mother Nutrient

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