Pregnancy and Depression

According to The American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology , 14-23% of pregnant women suffer from depression.  Women suffering from depression usually have the following symptoms that persist for 2 weeks or more:

  • Persistent sadness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Loss of interest in activities that you usually enjoy
  • Recurring thoughts of death, suicide, or hopelessness
  • Anxiety
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Change in eating habits

There are many treatments that are commonly used to treat depression during pregnancy, such as psychotherapy, light therapy, support groups, and medication.  Treatment with medication typically involved SSRI’s or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. Lately, research has been coming out against medicating for depression during pregnancy because it has been linked to a lot of problems in newborns, such as physical malformations, heart problems, low birth weight, pulmonary hypertension, and an increase in the likelyhood to give birth to a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  This evidence scares me, so I wanted to present moms with a more natural option of treatment to go along with their support groups, light therapy, and psychotherapy.

So what typically causes depression anyway?  One of the recurring themes I have been reading in my research is that chronic inflammation is the culprit. According to studies found in JAMA (1) (2), “Higher levels of inflammation dramatically increase the risk of developing depression.  And the higher the levels of inflammatory marks, the worse the depression.”  In more detail, inflammatory cytokines (inflammation) increase the breakdown of serotonin, which means our impression should not be that depressed people are unable to make enough serotonin.  The problem with depression is that a chronic inflammatory state is associated with a loss of normal serotonin levels.  This means that one of the major natural treatments for depression would be to reduce chronic inflammation.

One way to reduce inflammation is encourage patients to exercise more.  Studies have shown that exercise can be as effective as Zoloft.  Exercise naturally increases serotonin levels and decreases cortisol (inflammatory) levels.  Another way to help reduce inflammation is adequate sleep, around 8 hours a night, which is essential in allowing your body the time to heal and rejuvenate for the next day.  Your body and mind will then have a better chance at handling the next day’s stressors more effectively.  Next, you can  reduce inflammation by consuming a diet of anti-inflammatory foods such as lots of dark leafy greens (kale, spinach, brussel sprouts, collared greens, broccoli, cabbage) and adding anti-inflammatory spices to your meals (turmeric, curcumin, cayenne pepper, ginger, oregano, curry, basil, coriander, cumin).  The more vegetables you add to your diet the better.  Almonds, walnuts, and cashews are also anti-inflammatory.  You can add teas to your diet as well (ginger, herbal rest tea or sleepy time tea, white tea, etc) Basically you want to stay away from processed foods with sugar or grains.  According to research, people that consumed a Mediterranean-type diet, rich in healthy, anti-inflammatory fats and proteins, enjoy significantly lower rates of depression.  Next, make sure you are taking your prenatal multivitamin, probiotics, magnesium (150 mg), fish oil (2 grams), and vitamin D3 (400o IUs).  All of these supplements have been shown to reduce inflammation.   Lastly, chiropractic adjustments are another added benefit.  Not only do the adjustments cause you to be in less pain, but it will also elevate your mood because you will feel better and be able to do more things that you like to do.

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Importance of Priobiotics

Probiotics are a type of “good” bacteria used by the body to aid in natural and healthy digestion.  Friendly bacteria are vital to proper development of the immune system, to protect against microorganisms that cause disease, and to maximize the digestion and absorption of food and nutrients.  Due to unhealthier diets and the increased number of people on antibiotics and other medications, men and women’s natural flora (good bacteria) have been decreased leading to digestive issues such as bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome.  Probiotics have also been linked to strengthening the immune response and help reduce the severity of colds, flu’s, UTI’s, vaginal yeast infections, and certain skin infections such as eczema.  Did you know that 70% or more of our immune system function is in our gut?  Your stomach has 5-7 pounds of good bacteria which is constantly under attack by the foods we eat or the medications we take.  Another fun fact is that 90% of seratonin production is made in the gut which helps prevent anxiety and depression.

Probiotics can be found naturally in foods such as yogurts and kefir.  Kefir is a drinkable form of yogurt which contains beneficial yeast as well as probiotics, which when found together actually produce an enzyme called lactase (lactase is what helps break down lactose in the body).  Kefir also has been found to help cleanse the intestines and boost immune system function (www.kefir.net).

Probiotics may also be taken in supplemental form.  The most effective probiotics are found in the refrigerated section of your health food store.  It is recommended that when taking antibiotics and certain medications you should supplement with probiotics offering around 85 billion organisms per day.  If you are not taking any medications or antibiotics, I would recommend getting a good probiotic and following the bottle’s instructions.  Here at the Chiropractic Family Center, we sell a probiotic by Metagenics for adults, and soon we will also offer probiotics for your children and infants as well!  The infant probiotic is actually a liquid so it can be used right from birth for both breastfeeding mom’s and for formula feeding mom’s!  If you have additional questions please don’t hesitate to ask!

How to support Testosterone Naturally

Low testosterone is a pretty common diagnosis lately.  Most people associate a low sex drive with low testosterone, but that isn’t always the case.  In men, testosterone slowly decreases with age, but sometimes it decreases more than it should.  Some other common reasons for low testosterone in the body are obesity, trauma to the testicles, infection, and type 2 diabetes.  The symptoms men with low testosterone present with are hair loss, fatigue, lower libido than normal, low sperm count, loss of muscle mass, increase in body fat, decrease in bone density, and mood changes like depression and irritability.

There are many things you can do to boost your testosterone.  First, start to loose weight.  Get yourself back into a work out routine, and stick with more burst type exercises.  Don’t get stuck in a work out rut, and keep switching up your routines.  Next, you need to start eating better.  Stay away from processed foods that are going to be loaded with sodium and sugar, and add more foods that contain zinc.  Zinc is an important mineral in keeping healthy testosterone levels.  The following is a list of foods know to help boost testosterone levels:

  • oysters (zinc)
  • olive oil
  • beans (zinc and iron)
  • nuts – almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, walnuts, and pecans.
  • garlic – contains allicin and quercetin, which inhibit cortisol production
  • salmon – high levels of vitamin d
  • cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts, kale, watercress, broccoli)
  • eggs (yolk contains good cholesterol – the building blocks for testosterone)
  • pumpkin seeds (zinc, magnesium, and healthy fats)

If you are still not noticing much of a change after a couple of months, you can always go to your primary and get your testosterone levels checked.  Sometimes the lack in sex drive, low energy levels, and depression could be a thyroid issue.