Depression & Postpartum Depression
Have you ever experienced a moment where you felt so tired that you really didn’t feel like moving off the couch, yet had no explanation behind it? It may have been possible that you were actually suffering from a small case of depression. Most people at some point in their lives will experience a temporary moment of depression; described as a mood, a state of being, or energy level that includes a lack of motivation, a sense of hopelessness, and a lack of physical energy (Haas, 732). Most of the time, we are able to pick ourselves up and continue on with joy in our lives with no assistance at all; but for some people, this ‘depressed’ state may continue and show many more symptoms than the more obvious emotional or psychological states.
Postpartum Depression, abbreviated PPD, is a specific form of depression that is evident in some mothers following the birth of her child and may last for several weeks or months. The challenges of carrying and birthing a child may deplete a woman’s strength and energy. As a result, a proper diet including whole foods abundant in vitamins and minerals will prove beneficial in alleviating the symptoms such as fatigue, mood swings, and depression that may occur (Haas, Pg 737). These whole foods should consist of lean proteins, an abundance of complex carbohydrates including lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes as well as healthy fats which all help to build strength, and aid in digestion and metabolism. If possible, foods choices should be organic, unprocessed and unrefined to reduce the amount of chemical toxins and additives, as these too may increase symptoms. Additionally, when suffering depression it is best to avoid reactive foods, such as milk and yogurt as well as junk food, caffeine and alcohol.
This paper will delve into the causes and symptoms associated with depression, with specific detail on Postpartum Depression. Further, a five day meal plan will follow focussing on adequate protein, carbohydrate and fat intake that a woman battling this horrible illness could use. Explanations of the nutritional benefits of these powerful foods will also be given so that people may create their own nutrient rich recipes.
Associated Symptoms, Causes and Dietary Suggestions for Depression
At some point in our lives we may have had temporary moments where we feel as though we are useless and have no purpose. This would be described as depression. Though most cases of depression are mild and we are able to pick ourselves up and get going again, some individuals may experience much more chronic and severe cases which may last months or even years. Genetics, family and relationship dynamics, exercise activity, biochemical and mental states, and diet are all triggers of depression. Some individuals may experience “metabolic and hormonal imbalances or sensitivity to environmental agents or chemicals” (Haas, 728). Symptoms of depression may be visible or contained within the individual, often making it difficult to diagnose. A depressed person may demonstrate anger, aggression, fear, sadness, and frustrations. Additionally, they may show a “loss of affect or lack of enthusiasm toward life and low self-esteem...” (Haas, 728)
Women suffering PPD may not wish to hold their child; they may demonstrate mood swings and fatigue, or they may refrain from going out in public all together. It is believed that that PPD is a result of hormonal changes brought on from the pregnancy as “low thyroid levels or imbalances of estrogen and progesterone in women can produce many psychological symptoms” (Haas, 728). From a nutritive standpoint, the childbearing and birthing process leave a woman nutrient depleted in such vitamins and minerals as Folic Acid, B6, B12, iron, zinc and magnesium. Increasing these vital vitamins and minerals will help “...alleviate the fatigue, mood swings and depression...” (Haas, 737) Including organic whole foods, with particular focus on the consumption of adequate lean protein, legumes, fruit and healthy fats will not only help with getting these vital vitamins but also in reducing contaminants and additives ingested. These chemicals lead to depression and anxiety as a result of their negative effect on our brain functions as well as on neurotransmitter levels (Haas, 735). Sulfuric foods, such as broccoli, asparagus and leek, produce flatus and may result in stomach distress which may also lead to aggravation and increased feelings of fatigue and depression, and should also be avoided along with alcohol and caffeine which may stimulate or negatively alter moods.
Adequate protein helps to rebuild strength and repair the body’s sources. A daily amount of 50-75 grams will be recommended, found from lean cut meats and fish as well as legumes combined with grains which will work together in the body to make complete proteins (Haas, 738).
Focusing on eating complex carbohydrates and fresh fruit will ensure sufficient dietary fibre intake, of approximately 15 grams daily. Dietary fibre assists with the maintenance of good digestion, which in turn may help with the depression through the elimination of extra toxins within the body. Avoiding refined carbohydrates and simple sugars will be very beneficial as “sugars – especially refined sugars and sweet foods – alter glycemic index and are often associated with mood changes and depression” (Haas, 735). Meals will include an array of foods including swiss chard, spinach and a variety of legumes, some sprouted to increase absorbability and digestibility.
The final focus of the meal plan, but by no means the least important, will be fats. Meals will include linoleic acid and linolenic acid, known as omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids or EFAs, which help to stabilize the brain and nervous system, enabling better stress management. “This is because electrical properties of EFAs heighten the capacity for electric tension across our membranes (Erasmus, 356). Flax seeds, avocados, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds will all be used to boost the EFA content. Cashews, almonds and walnuts should also be incorporated in the diet to increase healthy fat content. These seeds and nuts will also provide high amounts of quality vitamins and minerals as well as some protein, and though needed, should still be consumed in moderation. Additionally, meals will incorporate cod fish and salmon to increase the omega 3 and omega 6 derivatives EPA and DHA needed to assist with the “brains synapse functions” (Erasmus, 313), which in turn can decrease the feelings of depression.
When suffering from Postpartum Depression, a wholesome diet with adequate protein, carbohydrate and fat intake is strongly recommended. In addition, drinking 2-3 litres of water daily should be encouraged. Avoiding refined sugars, preservatives and alcohol will also be of great assistance in helping the woman recover from this horrible condition and increase her desire to care for her new little one. Shortly after changing her nutrition the mom can expect to see some improvements in her well being. Listed below are some of the foods, including explanations of their nutritional benefits, that have been recommended in a 5-day meal plan for a woman suffering with Postpartum Depression. Many of these same foods will be very beneficial in other forms of depression as well.
Organic apples and pears
· Plentiful in iron and fibre with “cleansing and detoxification potential” (Haas, 303)
· Good source of each of the macronutrients as well as good amounts of folic acid, B vitamins and magnesium (Haas, 309)
Swiss chard, collard greens, spinach, beet greens
· High in fibre, folic acid, phytonutrients and power antioxidants with cleansing abilities to remove toxins in the liver (Haas, 312)
Organic yams and carrot
· Vitamins and mineral dense especially potassium, folic acid, and magnesium (Haas, 314)
Peppers (red, green and yellow bell peppers)
· High in vitamin C, bioflavonoids as well as folic acid, potassium. They contain some B vitamins and have many phytonutrients. (Haas, 318)
· Complete proteins and full of health promoting fats(Haas, 343)
Legumes: garbanzo beans/lentils/mung beans (sprouted)
· Complex carbohydrate, high in fibre and low in calories and fat. Sprouting increases protein and vitamin content, and activates enzymes to aid in digestion (Haas, 323)
Whole grains including quinoa and oatmeal
· Good source of complex carbohydrates and high in B vitamins, iron and fibre; acts as a complementary protein source for legumes (Haas, 325)
Organic seeds and nuts
· Contain EFAs and have high mineral content of zinc, iron, magnesium and rich in B vitamins as well as protein. (Haas, 333)
5-Day Meal Plan for Postpartum Depression (PPD)
Millet cereal with raisins, sunflower seeds and walnuts; sprinkled with cinnamon and honey
Egg whites with oatmeal, cinnamon, and almond butter; add pure organic maple syrup for additional sweetness
Oatmeal with apple sauce, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds
Spinach and egg breakfast burrito with parsley on a whole grain wrap topped with salsa
Egg omelette with spinach and peppers; organic Rye bread toasted with almond butter
Handful of organic mixed nuts
Bean salad: parsley, organic garbanzo beans, red kidney beans and parsley with olive oil, lemon juice and garlic; 1 C carrot and parsnip soup
Spinach salad with sprouted chickpeas and mung beans, red cabbage, veggies; balsamic and olive oil dressing
ground organic flax seed, sesame seed
Chicken soup with organic carrot, turnip, celery, veggies
1 slice of Rye toast with butter
Mexican Black Bean soup with shredded yams topped with organic avocado and green onion
Quinoa tabouli with sprouted chick peas and mung beans, parsley, bell peppers, zucchini; small mixed green salad with olive oil and lemon juice
Avocado and tomato slices drenched in lime and sprinkled sea salt
Rice cakes with almond butter
Carrot and celery sticks with organic humus
roasted yam, and
Swiss Chard and Lentil Stew with vegetables and sweet potato, herbal tea
Baked Cod Fish with quinoa salad (sweet bell peppers, scallions and peas); Herbal tea
Brown rice, with grilled chicken and mixed veggies; herbal tea
Grilled salmon with lemon and dill;
Grilled peppers and sautéed spinach with cashews
Haas, Elson. Staying Healthy with Nutrition – 21st Century Ed. Berkeley: Celestial Arts, 2006
Erasmus, Udo. Fats that Heal Fats that Kill. Alive Books, 1993