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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What causes the rise in colds/Flu’s in the fall?

Most of us know that Flu season and cold season is during the fall, but a lot of us don’t know why it occurs every year at the same time.

As Fall nears, the season starts to change from warm sunshine to a cold and dreary place.  Meaning we get less hours of sunlight, and we get less exercise.  Therefore, we are getting less Vitamin D which in turn will start to tax our immune system.  The journal Nature Immunology provides details of the synergy between the sunshine vitamin and our adaptive immune killer T cells. Vitamin D is shown to provide the activation key that stimulates T cells into action when invaders are detected.  Maintain your vitamin D blood levels between 50 and 70 ng/ml for optimal protection.

Another common trigger is the Holidays.  The fall brings Halloween where we and our kids get lots of candy, and eat more than usual because it is Halloween. Next comes Thanksgiving, where we are overindulging with appetizers that really could be a meal in itself, and then eating a full course meal for dinner with stuffing, gravy, breads, biscuits, candied ham,  candied potatoes.  All filled with excess sugar than our bodies are used to.  And don’t forget we haven’t even gotten to dessert!   Then we have leftovers!  And just when we think we are done with the leftovers, the holiday parties start, the cookie bakes, Hanukkah, and Christmas Eve and Day.  Are you starting to understand what I am saying?  We are eating WAY more sugar than ever before.  There are actual research studies and papers showing the negative effects of sugar on our immune system.  it basically shuts our immune system down because it is so overloaded by the sugar.  The results of a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) demonstrates that the amount of sugar in two sweetened beverages lowers immune response by 50% for up to five hours after drinking or eating. A diet filled with complex carbohydrates has no detrimental effect on immunity and the high nutritional content of fresh vegetables, nuts and seeds provide the building blocks required to mount a healthy attack as needed.

So what can we do about it?  Being informed that sugar, exercise, and Vitamin D all play a role in weakening our immune system is a start.  Get yourself outside as much as possible, try to exercise or do some form of vigorous activity at least an hour/day.  Start taking a Vitamin D3 supplement.  Dr. Chris and I take 4000 IU’s /day, and Harper takes a combined Fish Oil/Vitamin D3 supplement which we follow the directions on how much to give her according to weight/age.  (nordicnaturals.com)   We have found her supplement at Nature’s Nutrition, Amazon, and even diapers.com.  Next, watch what you eat.  Try not to overindulge.  If you have a problem with saying no, don’t keep it in the house.  Eat more salads with dark leafy greens (ex. spinach, kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, arugula).   Try to skip all the sugary juices, sodas, or alcoholic beverages.  Drink more water!  Be sure to wash your hands especially after using the restroom or being in any public place.  We need to start to become more proactive with our health and not wait for the symptoms to start.