A postpartum feeling of low mood, and even depression, is very common as levels of oestrogen and progesterone which have been high during pregnancy, drop dramatically in the first 24 hours after birth. Levels of thyroid hormones, responsible for helping the body use energy from food, may also drop which contribute to the feelings of low mood. Tiredness, feeling sore, feeling overwhelmed and perhaps recovering from a caesarean can all play a role in how mothers feel after birth.
Research in recent years has shown an important link between food and mood. Clinical studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can effectively treat depression, whereas low levels of B vitamins, particularly B2 and B6, and magnesium can contribute to feelings of low mood.
The amino acid tryptophan is the starter substance from which the brain neurotransmitter serotonin is made. Brain levels of serotonin are often low in sufferers of depression. Foods rich in tryptophan are trout, pumpkin seed, chicken breast and sesame seeds. When carbohydrate is eaten with tryptophan rich food the tryptophan is given preferential admission to the brain cells, it can then be converted into serotonin which reduces depression and helps you feel relaxed and tranquil. The amino acid tyrosine forms dopamine, the happiness molecule, that research suggests plays a key role in depression. It is derived from the amino acid phenylalanine, especially found in chicken breast, chickpeas, lima beans and walnuts.
Research has shown that complex carbohydrates are important not only in ensuring the production of brain chemicals that promote feelings of well being but to balance blood glucose levels and energy. Choosing low GI carbs, like whole grains, lentils, buckwheat, quinoa, carrots broccoli & celery helps to regulate blood glucose levels which in turn will help maintain our energy levels and ultimately our mood.
Zinc protects brain cells from free radicals, selenium improves mood and diminishes anxiety and in addition iron deficiency is known to cause fatigue and low mood, whilst chromium and iodine play a major role in mental health.