I was talking on the phone with a friend last night. She’s been experiencing some depression lately. One of the things we pinpointed that could have been contributing to her mood swings was nutrient deficiencies. She had left her stash of vitamins and supplements at a family member’s home while on a trip, so she hasn’t been taking them.
During my first three pregnancies I was pretty lax about taking prenatal vitamins. But after seven straight years of being pregnant and breastfeeding, my body was seriously depleted. I suffered from some depression during my fourth pregnancy, but once I began taking a whole-food prenatal vitamin, my depression disappeared. When my baby was about a year old, after getting lax again with taking vitamins, I began suffering from anxiety and depression. It wasn’t until I began taking my whole-food prenatals again (among other positive changes) that I felt my mind-body-spirit regaining balance.
I’m a huge proponent of getting vitamins and minerals from food sources whenever possible. But I am also a huge proponent of happiness. If you’re a mom-of-many like me, and if you’ve been giving, giving, giving from your body through pregnancies and breastfeeding for many years, sometimes food isn’t enough to restore the nutrients lost while baby-making/feeding/caring. High stress (mommyhood is stressful!) depletes some of the most important nutrients involved in keeping moods stable (B vitamins, magnesium, etc.). Nutrient loss + stress = fewer resources for the creation of feel-good chemicals in your body. For some of us, that can lead to depression and other mental illnesses. So… when the going gets tough, the tough make sure they’re getting high-quality supplements to replenish lost stores.
One of the biggest lessons I learned during this past year of difficulty was: if I don’t take care of me, I can’t take care of anybody. My mother spent nearly two months flying down to stay with us every week while I tried to pick up the pieces of my life and find myself again. That was two months that I was incapacitated by my illnesses and virtually incapable of giving my family the nurturing they needed. I don’t ever want to let myself get that depleted again.
With medication (still taking 1/4 of my prescribed dose), whole-food vitamins, lots of protein/b-vitamin-rich foods, green smoothies, sleep, good music, meditation (I need to get back on the ball!), and now the addition of a high-EPA omega-3 supplement, I am doing really well.
I can’t stress enough how important it is for us to take care of ourselves as mothers. We work so hard, 24-7. We give so much of ourselves. If we don’t recharge/restore/rebalance, can we really expect to keep plugging along without difficulty? Please do whatever you have to do to keep your physical and emotional health a priority. I’ve seen the consequences of failing to do just that, and I don’t want you to suffer like I did.
Here are some more helpful facts about nutrients and mood quoted from the book Food Cures:
- Low iron is associated with fatigue, apathy, irritability, and an inability to concentrate. . . . Research showed that postpartum depression improved among new mothers with anemia who received 125-milligram iron tablets.
- Harvard researchers found that between 15 and 38 percent of people with depression are deficient in folate.
- Studies suggest that some B vitamin supplements can help regulate mood.
- The important omega-3 components for depression are EPA and DHA. Several double-blind, randomized controlled trials showed improvements in mood after participants took at least 1 gram a day of EPA.
- Several studies have found that magnesium can improve PMS symptoms. . . . Another study found that 360 milligrams three times a day, taken from day 15 to the start of a period, helped diminish mood swings.
- Gobble up some turkey. Not only is it a good source of tryptophan [critical to the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which regulates mood], but it also contains those brain-critical B vitamins along with good amounts of iron, selenium, and zinc, other nutrients being studied for their connection to alleviating depression.
If you’re feeling run-down or depressed, and you haven’t been taking any supplements (or any high-quality ones), you might want to consider it. Supplements can’t replace a good diet, but they may help speed your recovery when food isn’t replenishing your stores fast enough. If you’re losing your will to live, please call your health care provider. There is no shame in taking medication to give you a leg-up in your recovery, even if you’re kinda crunchy like me. Using medication in conjunction with beneficial supplements and life-changes saved my life.
Take care of yourself, Momma.