As a new mum everything can seem overwhelming and strange. Your life pattern changes and you may adapt very quickly to these new and exciting challenges or for some mums they can feel physical and emotionally exhausted by the whole event.

The good news is that it is normal to feel like this. Post natal depression can be a very debilitating condition and in no way should you ignore any signs that could indicate depression no matter how mild or severe they may be. You are not failing you are just adjusting. Make sure everyone around you understands whats going on and ask for support and help.

The role of nutrition and herbs for treating this condition can improve your quality of physical and mental well being but in no way is this information a replacement for medical drugs if and when they are required.

One thing to clearly understand is that there has been a dramatic change in hormones levels after child birth. Post natal depression can occur any time within the first year of the baby’s life.

Some of symptoms and signs are a feeling of isolation, obviously lack of sleep can lead to a heightened stress level, anxiety, poor appetite or overeating, loss of libido, mood swings, tearfulness and in severe cases suicidal thoughts.

A lack of essential nutrients such as Vitamin B, Calcium, Zinc, Magnesium, Omega 3 oils, iron and amino acids can have a huge impact on the nervous system. If you are breastfeeding constantly and skip meals there is a very likely chance that some of your daily nutritional requirements are not being met. There are some great natal nutrients that include most these major nutrients and using these twice daily can assist greatly in building up your depleted levels.

Many nutrients can be derived by eating a wholesome balanced diet. Ensure your diet is high in fresh dark leafy green vegetables, salads, nuts and seeds are great snacks throughout the day to maintain energy levels. Spiking sugar levels can lead to mood swings and therefore regular meals are a must.

B vitamins through eating pork, liver, wholemeal bread and brewers yeast are really important for coping with stress and improving energy levels. Spirulina is a good source of B vitamins and can be made into a delicious smoothy with dark berry fruits such as blueberries or raspberries which contain high levels of antioxidants. Antioxidants help to prevent oxidative stress to the body and helps to improve the immune system.

Fish such as salmon and tuna are important for omega 3 oils. Omega 3 feeds the brain and helps to reduce symptoms of depression amongst it’s many other health promoting properties. Fish is also a great source of lean protein. Avoid caffeine and alcohol and any other stimulants to the nervous system.

Oats for breakfast are a very nutritious start to the day and a great source of fibre which helps to maintain blood sugar levels and a regular bowel. Oats are used in herbal tinctures for their calming and sedating quality.

Herbs such as chamomile in the form of a tea or tincture is very calming and acts a nervine tonic. It is also incredibly calming for baby too and aids the digestive system.

Lemon balm is another great herb that can be used for it’s calming effect. It really makes a delicious tea.

There are some great homeopathic remedies which are safe to use during lactation and pregnancy. Avena Sativa and Chamomilla are two popular homeopathic remedies for the nervous system.

If something stronger is needed then St. John’s Wort and a product called 5HTP are great for mild depression and anxiety. These however can not be combined with any anti depressant or anti anxiety medications that may be prescribed by the doctor.

Make sure you take some time for you, drink plenty of water to keep your ph balanced and your digestive and lymphatic systems working well.

Adding these simple things into your daily routine can really improve your physical, mental and emotional well being and remember you may not have depression that requires medical treatment with drug therapy. If you try some of these little tips then you will certainly improve your chances of coping with your life and if you still feel that you are depressed then go and see the doctor.

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Tracy Harris is a registered NZ naturopath and herbalist, and natural health writer, who has both a natural health shop and a natural mother & child store in Auckland.

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