Natural Postpartum and Mood Support
I want to start off this blog post by saying that these are merely my opinions and my experience, this is not intended to be medical advice so I always recommend working with a skilled practitioner to determine what is best for your situation. I also want to be very clear that I am not condemning the use of anti depressants. There are definitely times and reasons why medication would be necessary. I am also a firm believer in the body's ability to function properly when given the right building blocks to do so- so it's often a matter of figuring out what is going to work best for you.
When I was in my early teens, I was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) It was gradual in onset but soon progressed to the point that I was almost non functioning. My symptoms were atypical, meaning that it wasn't your typical urge to wash your hands and then having to wash a certain amount of times in order to relieve the obsessive impulse. Mine was all internal. My obsessions were focused on myself and my actions being "right or wrong", and this led to my compassion to "pray" and then have certain rituals in order to feel better about any mistakes I made. I had intrusive thoughts that were constantly self condemning. I was obsessed with every thought I had and every action. I couldn't go more than 1 second without praying (that was my obsession...strange...I know). I was tormented by these thoughts and how small my life had become. I lost all of my friends, which for a 13 year old is a BIG deal. It was a very traumatic experience. It took me a long time to regain my confidence in friendships and trust in myself again.
Here's a little infographic on some of the different types of OCD.
Thankfully, I was put on medication and taken to counseling to retrain my brain (Cognitive behavioral therapy). However, the anxiety that I had over experiencing that depth of despair and turmoil ever again lingered. I was afraid of my own thoughts and feelings. I was super afraid of going off my medication, so I stayed on for 7 years before finally gaining the courage to see if my body and brain could handle life without them. I truly didn't think my brain would function without antidepressants, but also felt very blunted emotionally and didn't like that feeling. I couldn't experience a full range of emotion- I was just kind of BLAH most of the time. This is unfortunately one of the downsides of a medication that turns down anxiety- it also tends to tone down every other emotion and even healthy processing.
I did successfully go off of the medication until the birth of my first daughter when I developed postpartum anxiety and insomnia that was exacerbated by the death of my father. This was different than what I had experienced before . My anxiety was very physiological. I had heart palpitations, couldn't control my thoughts and was unable to sleep even after my daughter had learned to sleep through the night. I began developing panic attacks, and went to my doctor for help. I asked if she could test my thyroid and cortisol levels because I had lost 10 lbs in a week...yes 1 week... and felt that there was something else going on that was affecting my health. She did the testing begrudgingly, but not without strongly encouraging me to be on medication and insinuating that I was overreacting. I mean she may as well have just told me I was suffering from what is known as "children", dismissed my concerns and sent me home! I didn't leave feeling empowered or heard, but rather that it was something I was expected to just tolerate as normal. Ya'll....we can do so much better to support new moms- just sayin.
I really didn't like the idea of going back on medication because I strongly felt that there was a physical issue in my body leading to all the insomnia and weight loss. Out of desperation to feel better, I was referred to a naturopath who took one look at me and diagnosed me with adrenal fatigue, and sent me home with a whole bunch of supplements to help. Guys...within 2 weeks, my insomnia was gone, I stopped having panic attacks, and my anxiety was markedly decreased!
He did further testing and discovered that I had an issue with zinc and vitamin B metabolism (pyroluria), which also explains my experience in my teens with OCD. Zinc is an essential mineral that is extremely calming. You also cannot make neurotransmitters without it. My body essentially was just peeing out zinc and b vitamins. I began supplementing and felt IMMEDIATELY better! I didn't realize how much I had been suffering until I began to feel better! I began taking fish oil, probiotics, Zinc and vitamin D along with some homeopathies and slowly but surely, my postpartum anxiety and depression started to improve, my milk supply came back and my insomnia went away!
(Fancy picture of neurotransmitters)
We as a society have been trained to believe that you can only support your neurotransmitters in one way- through medication. I know this is what I thought! And again, there are certainly times for that. The truth is, however, that when your brain is given the right supports, it can make the neurotransmitters it needs for optimal function. I have been off of antidepressants for 7 ish years now and even in the midst of very challenging seasons (aka having a chronically ill kid), have managed to stay off of them because my body is getting the support it needs through targeted nutrition.
Here are some reasons why I recommend the above supplements:
Fish oil: Research suggests that Fish oil helps to get neurotransmitters like serotonin into the cells easier. I use Young Livings Omegagize. It is infused with essential oils that are known to boost brain function, in addition, the presence of the essential oils makes it easier for the fish oil to be absorbed (bioavailable) to the body! You can order it here: The most affordable way to get these products is with a wholesale account which I've detailed in this post : )
Probiotics: As I've shared in previous posts, about 70% of your immune system is in your gut! Also, you cant make happy neurotransmitters without a healthy gut. Probiotics help to get rid of bad bugs, and strengthen the good bugs so that your gut and your brain can function properly! This is my favorite brand to use!
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is crucial for healthy brain function, it has also been linked to healthy mood when you take adequate doses. I've linked my favorite brand above, but here it is again.
Essential oils. Lavender essential oil has been shown to support normal dopamine and serotonin function in the brain. Because oils can be inhaled and cross the blood brain barrier, they are highly effective in helping to support normal neurotransmitter function. They work almost instantly in normalizing cortisol (the stress hormone) and boosting the mood. I diffuse this, apply it topically to the bottom of my feet and take internally when needed for extra stress and mood support.
Stress away is another favorite and is a combination of lavender, vanillin, copaiba, lime and cedar wood. This particular combo is particularly helpful for all things stress related and is a staple in our home! You can get these here.
Zinc. Zinc is an essential mineral that is required for multiple processes throughout the body. For the brain, it helps to build neurotransmitters (those chemicals in your brain that make you feel as you do, behave as you do and function properly.) This is one of my favorite brands!
Methylated B vitamin: Methylated B vitamins basically just means that the B vitamins are more available for your cells to use. You can think of it as pre broken down so that your body doesn't have to work so hard to use them. These are super cheap, and very supportive for the nervous system!
L Theanine: L theanine is an amino acid found in green tea that has been shown to lower stress hormones, as well as reducing blood pressure and heart rate. It has also been shown to increase attention and boost memory. L Theanine also increases the quality of sleep- which is often a problem for moms in the post partum period, and is also a symptom of other mood disorders. It is able to cross the blood brain barrier, and begins to immediately support serotonin, dopamine and gaba. All 3 are very important neurotransmitters to have functioning properly for healthy mood! This is the brand we use. Most of the data I found suggested starting at 200mg in the morning, then increase to the same dose in the am and pm, and increase as needed.
Magnesium: Magnesium is an essential mineral that is required for almost every cellular process in the body. To name a few, it helps the body convert food to energy, assists in protein formation from amino acids, helps repair DNA and RNA, helps to regulate neurotransmitters. Unfortunately, our modern food supply is extremely deficient in magnesium due to soil depletion, so supplementing is usually essential! If you are experiencing low mood, anxiety, or insomnia, get some magnesium!
I had no problem starting all of the above together, but some people prefer to start with one and add slowly over time. Neither is wrong! I tend to be very sensitive to supplements and prefer to go low and slow.
Depending on the severity of the deficiencies, it may take a while to start feeling better, but I noticed better sleep and mood almost instantly! Give your body the nutrition it needs to heal and it will recover.
Have questions? Please leave a comment! Have you supported your emotional health naturally? If so what has worked for you?
To your wellness,