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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Folic acid vs Folate

Do you know the difference between the two vitamins above?  Most people commonly interchange these two vitamins, medical professions included, without knowing that there is a small but very significant difference between the two.

Folate is a group of water soluble B vitamins made up of tetrahydrafolates also known as B9.  It is the vitamin that is found naturally in foods such as spinach, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, beets, collard greens, kale, asparagus, turnip greens, broccoli, mustard greens, lentils, garbanzo beans, and parsley to name a few.  Folate is necessary during rapid cell division and growth. In fact, pregnancy is known to actually double the need of dietary folates.

Folic Acid is the synthetic form (does not occur naturally) of B9 that is oxidized and found in dietary supplements and food fortification.  According to an article found in pubmed, humans exposure to folic acid was nonexistent until 1943 when it was chemically synthesized and then later introduced as a mandatory additive for food fortification in 1998 to help aid in the decrease of Neural Tube Defects in babies.  Unfortunately, many did not take into account how much processed foods people would eat, and therefore taking a folic acid supplement caused there to be a build up of it in our blood.  This has lead researchers to find many studies linking the build up of unmetabolized (not broken down) folic acid in the blood to an increase in the chance of certain cancers. (more studies here and here and here )

So what is my advice?  Number one, make sure you are eating a healthy diet full of all those delicious dark leafy greens, as you can see cauliflower and beets are also a great addition to add.  Secondly, ditch that folic acid supplement.  You are already getting enough of folic acid in the food fortification process.  Lastly, if you are not pregnant, trying to get pregnant or not breastfeeding, you do not need to be taking a folate supplement.  If you are pregnant, are trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding you should be taking a FOLATE supplement.  You should be getting an average of 800-1200 mcg of folate a day, so depending on your dietary intake I would recommend taking around 600-800 mcg of Folate/day.  Some popular or good brands include Metagenics (we sell this brand at the office), Designs for Health, Solgar, and Pure Encapsulations to name a few.

Elderberry Syrup

Fall is a common time for colds and/or the Flu to start showing up.  If you or any of your family members have ever gotten the Flu, you know how helpless you feel to watch them suffer because there is no antibiotic to give to treat a viral infection.  Elderberry syrup is one way to treat the flu naturally by speeding up the healing, and getting you or your family member better at a faster rate.

Elderberries are a type of plant that is known is have therapeutic benefits.   The berries contain high doses of vitamin A, B, and C all of which stimulate the immune response.  Black Elderberries (sambucus nigra) have been shown to prevent flu and speed recovery in those who have the flu.

Elderberry syrup can be purchased online.  We found ours on amazon, it is by the brand Nature’s Way.  You can also make your own after purchasing the elderberries , which also can be found online or at your local health food store, like Nature’s Nutrition in Brick.  Here is the recipe below:

Ingredients

  • ⅔ cup black elderberries
  • 3½ cups of water
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh or dried ginger root
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • ½ teaspoon cloves or clove powder
  • 1 cup raw honey (we get from our farmer’s market)
  1. Pour water into medium saucepan and add elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves (do not add honey!)
  2. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour until the liquid has reduced by almost half. At that point, remove from heat and let cool enough to be handled. Pour through a strainer into a glass jar or bowl.
  3. Discard the elderberries and let the liquid cool to lukewarm. When it is no longer hot, add 1 cup of honey and stir well.
  4. When honey is well mixed into the elderberry mixture, pour the syrup into a pint sized mason jar or 16 ounce glass bottle of some kind.
  5. Hooray! You just made homemade elderberry syrup! Store in the fridge.
  6. Standard dose is ½ tsp to 1 tsp for kids and ½ Tbsp to 1 Tbsp for adults. If the flu does strike, take the normal dose every 2-3 hours instead of once a day until symptoms disappear.

It is recommended to take daily during the flu season, but if you have a healthy diet and get your rest like us, we only take it when we start to feel like we are coming down with something or if one of us in the house gets sick.

Should you or your kids be taking a multivitamin?

There is only one answer here and that is YES.  Unfortunately, every year we are taking more and more from our soil and not putting enough back into the soil.   According to the Nutritional Security Institute (NSI), we are eroding the topsoil at a rate 10x faster than the rate of replenishment.  Today, the NSI estimates that the US and Canada agriculture soils had lost 85% of their mineral content.  So basically what this is telling us is that we are not getting the the same amount of  micronutrients from our fruits and vegetables like our grandparents did when they were younger.  For example, a study found in the Trace Element Medical Biology Journal in 2008 said that we would have to eat 8 oranges today to get the same amount of Vitamin A your grandparents got from a single orange!!!  So please, if you or your children are not on a multivitamin start taking one today so that you can support your effort at eating healthy!!  Additionally, a multivitamin does not take place of a healthy diet, you still have to eat well!  You want to look for a good quality multivitamin.  Please stay away from Centrum Vitamins or Flinstone Vitamins, there have been studies done on both where the vitamins don’t even dissolve in your system, instead they go right through the body and into the toilet!!! Plus Flinstone vitamins have also been known to add sugar to their vitamins to make them more appealing! The multivitamin we use is from Anabolic Labs, we use their essential nutrition pack, which includes the multi, omega 3’s, vitamin d3, and magnesium.  If you are interested in purchasing the same thing, we sell it at the Chiropractic Family Center.  Our daughter uses the Child Life Multi Vitamin and Mineral that we got from our local nutrition store down the block called Natures Nutrition.  We have been giving it to Harper ever since we stopped breast feeding, but I would recommend 6 months and on if your child is formula fed.  Otherwise, wait until you stop breastfeeding before you start giving your child a multivitamin because if you are taking one he or she is getting all the nutrients they need from your breast milk supply!