As part of our ongoing recommendation for self-care here at PPPSS, we are focusing on nutrition and health in this week’s post. Specifically we are highlighting Fish Oils/Omega-3 fatty acids and their benefit to physical and emotional health. If you have any questions or would like to conduct additional research into the health benefits of the following Fish Oils and supplements, please contact your health care professional. These recommendations are not intended to be used in place of medical care, prescription medications, or therapy. Rather, studies show that while used in conjunction with treatment and a balanced diet, these supplements may improve health.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of good fat needed for normal brain function. Our bodies can’t make omega-3s on their own, so we need to obtain them through our diet.
Cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, and anchovies are the richest food source of omega-3 fatty acids. But instead of eating more fish, which contain mercury, PCBs, and other chemicals, fish oil capsules are considered a cleaner source of omega-3 fatty acids. Many companies filter their fish oil so that these chemicals are removed.
Fish oil capsules are sold in health food stores, drug stores, and online. Most brands should be stored in the fridge to prevent the oil from going rancid. When comparing brands, the key active components for depression are EPA and DHA.
Studies have linked depression with low dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids. In countries with higher fish consumption, such as Japan and Taiwan, the depression rate is 10 times lower than in North American. Postpartum depression is also less common.
Studies suggest that omega-3’s together with antidepressants may be more effective than antidepressants alone.
Some other nutritional and health recommendations
Reduce your intake of sweets
Sweets temporarily make you feel good as blood sugar levels soar, but may worsen mood later on when they plummet.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Caffeine and alcohol both dampen mood. Alcohol temporarily relaxes us and caffeine boosts energy, but the effects of both are short-lived. Both can worsen mood swings, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
Vitamin B6 is needed to produce the mood-enhancing neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. Although deficiency of vitamin B6 is rare, a borderline deficiency may occur in people taking oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy, and drugs for tuberculosis.
Most people do not get enough magnesium in their diets. Good sources of magnesium are legumes, nuts, whole grains and green vegetables. Like vitamin B6, magnesium is needed for serotonin production. Stress depletes magnesium.
Perhaps most importantly, regular exercise is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to improve mood and is something that can be integrated into a treatment plan. Exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, releases mood-elevating chemicals in the brain and can decrease stress hormones. What’s important is that you choose something you enjoy and will stick with, whether it’s going to the gym, signing up for dance classes, playing tennis, gardening, or taking a brisk walk outside each morning for at least 30 minutes five days a week.
If this feels like a lot, particularly while coping with PPD/A, start slowly. Begin with a short walk or bike ride and increase the duration each week. Incorporating exercise into your routine can become an excellent way to cope, while also improving overall health.