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Mum of 3, Becky  talks about the impact nutrition & diet has on our mental health

Lets talk digestion

About Becky

Becky graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition where she learned innovative coaching methods, practical lifestyle management techniques, and over 100 dietary theories – Ayurveda, gluten-free, Paleo, raw, vegan, macrobiotics, and everything in between.

The information given here is advice only.  Any changes of diet and/or addition of dietary supplements should be discussed prior to consumation with a medical professional.
First, before we talk about the food, I urge you to find a good quality probiotic and take during pregnancy and after. The gut microbiome is responsible for so much, including hormone control, healthy immune system, a healthy stress response and healthy digestive system. When taken in pregnancy your baby also receives the benefits. You need these guys so the gut brain connection is healthy.

Why?
If the gut is full of toxins and not enough nutrients are there or being absorbed, the brain is starving from the essential nutrients it needs to function and the liver is over worked and this messes further with hormonal imbalance. The gut microbiota influences serotonin and dopamine production, which are our feel good, calming, wellbeing neurotransmitters. 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut. The enteric system which is one of the pathways connecting the gut to the brain directly makes use of more than 30 neurotransmitters, including serotonin, dopamine and acetycholine. Knowing the connection between gut and brain and emotional health is an important step in making your decisions about what you are feeding yourself. As with everything quality is important when taking supplements and I recommend choosing a capsule full of a variety of billions of pre-and probiotics rather than one that is based in dairy and sugar drink. Dairy and sugar are two of the most inflammatory foods available to us so not only is there little point in using this as a base for such a needed product it is counterproductive. Dairy and Sugar as well as causing all types of problems linked to cellular inflammation they REALLY mess with hormones which you seriously don’t need any help with messing up, just after having a baby.

Your primary focus at this time has to be make you self-care a priority.

This leads me on to nutritional guidelines to lessen the chances of PND. Your diet needs to be one that naturally nourishes and energises and makes all your cells happy. Your body is relying on you to support it right now.
We are told to eat lots of carbohydrates after having a baby and specially to breast feed for more energy. What is not obvious is what carbs to have. Wheat products such as bread, pasta and rice and white potato are very starchy and cause spikes in blood sugar levels. Why does this matter? Our moods and our energy are affected by our blood sugar levels, if your blood sugar is going through highs and lows so are your moods and your energy levels. This is a bit of a recipe for disaster. So, what are the best ones to choose. Keep any wheat based bread to a minimum or not at all. Why? Because more than any other organ in the body wheat is known to affect the brain negatively. Gluten sensitivity of the brain is lesser known than sensitivity to the digestive tract but it is very real. I myself being a sufferer of depression as a child and a mum could feel noticeable differences when eliminating any stodgy wheat products. There is a wonderful book called Wheat Belly where a Doctor/Professor much more qualified than me has some very interesting statistics on wheat and depression and anxiety. Any form of white carbohydrate, pizza, bread, cake etc. is going to enhance the feeling of depression.

Instead of wheat based pasta, try buckwheat soba noodles or the latest trend of courgetti. A spiraliser is a cheap kitchen piece of equipment and you can spiralise sweet potatoes or courgettes and the process is so quick as its just swirled then maybe heated slightly so is a food option in under 5 minutes really.       Quick Recipe. Add to your courgetti 1 tbsp. of green pesto, 1 tablespoon of olive oil some spinach and a squeeze of lemon with some nut or seed combo for a quick easy nutrient hit, you now have a meal for now and or to save for later.

Depression is the curse of the strong no matter when it hits, it is your body’s way of making you stop when you keep trying to push through.

Rice
White rice is far inferior to brown rice when it comes to nutrients this is partly due to the fact white rice is refined meaning they have removed the bran and germ which is the most nutritious part of the grain. Brown Rice itself has been used by many as a natural remedy to treat depression. It is high in magnesium which is the anti-anxiety mineral and lowers blood pressure naturally, is anti-pain, aids relaxation, aids sleep and controls blood sugar levels. Replacing white rice with brown rice has been shown to lower blood sugar levels and decrease risk of type 2 diabetes. Brown rice is also high in B vitamins including B6 and B12 which are essential for healthy moods, hormones, energy levels and digestion.           
      Quick  Tip: Feeding yourself is often hard after having a baby so you need to make everything simple and prepare. Boil up a load of brown rice. Use some of it for a meal maybe in the evening for everyone whatever you like but more importantly make extra and keep it cold in the fridge. One big Bowl of Rice could feed you a different meal up to 4 times so that’s two lunches and two dinners. When you are hungry just scoop out a portion of rice and add in any chopped vegetables or grated veg. You could add in chopped cucumber which is loaded with b vitamins and very hydrating all important for fighting depression as well as celery which is high in alkalising nutrients, broccoli which is an oestrogen detoxifier
which is needed to settle the levels after birth, as well as being a great source of magnesium, calcium , fibre, iron and vitamin c. Parsley for the chlorophyll which is in all greens and is an important blood cleanser, kiwi fruit which amongst other things is high in vitamin c and iron both important for healthy mood and hormones as well as energy and a little dressing maybe made with sesame oil or olive oil, lime and chili or ginger. And throw on some blueberries and walnuts and blueberries. Walnuts are great for depression as they are one of nature’s richest sources of omega 3 which is essential anti-inflammatory component for both brain health and hormone control as well as helping us reduce cravings for sweet and salty junk food. Blueberries are very high in antioxidants and above everything are delicious. It again is ready in 5 minutes and you don’t have to worry about it going cold as it already is.

Sweet potato & Advocado
Sweet potato is a great carbohydrate to have is it lower GI than white potato. More importantly it is super rich in B6 which we are often deficient in after giving in birth and is a key nutrient in emotional and hormonal health. They are great for digestion, for liver health, to control blood sugar, for your skin. So many benefits to the.     Quick Tip. Try roasting sweet potato wedges or chips and dunking them in to some homemade guacamole. Avocado is a food as a depressed person I don’t think we can do without! It is a complete food, a complete protein, loaded with omega 3, reduces inflammation in the brain and repairs damage to the digestive tract with its L-Glutamine. Simply blend up 1 avocado with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, ½ lemon or lime and if you like add in some garlic or chili. Make it how you like it.
Quinoa
Most people are now familiar with the ancient endurance grain of quinoa. Notice the word endurance there meaning when you are flagging in energy this seed is a wonderful versatile option. For ease supermarkets have started to do the quinoa in pouches just like the rice and this is a much better option than a sandwich when you are fighting depression. If you really want to win, copy the advice above with the rice and cook it from scratch as per the instructions but cook it in a yeast free veg stock cube to enhance the flavour. If you haven’t had quinoa before it basically tastes like whatever you cook it with. It is a great accompaniment to a nice stir fry instead of wheat noodles. The nutrient content of quinoa is just amazing. It is gluten free, contains all the 9 essential amino acids you need and is loaded with B vitamins again for good mood and energy production, the anxiety mineral magnesium and vitamin E which is important for depression and healthy liver function. It is also a very rich protein source which means it balances blood sugar levels and then in turn helps you balance your mood. It is also super rich in fibre which is important for preventing and easing haemorrhoids which can be a common inconvenience after pregnancy. It is high in Iron which is needed for healthy brain function and neurotransmitter production. It contains Lysine which is a nutrient used for tissue repair and new growth. This is important after your body has been through the process of giving birth or a c section.      Quick Tip. If you chop and roast up some root vegetables such as sweet potato, butternut squash, and carrots with maybe some crushed garlic, sprinkle of cumin and cooked in coconut oil you can add this in to your leftover quinoa that you have kept in the fridge. Again, like the rice this is great to just keep cold in the fridge to add in to whatever you have. You could add all the roasted sweet veg as suggested and then maybe some chopped mango or peach with it if you like the sweetness as well as a pumpkin, sunflower and seed sprinkle for the omega 3 and zinc content, both important for treating a depressed brain. You can add in spinach which is rich in folates and tryptophan which are the precursors to producing serotonin. You can also add to it raw spiralised beetroot, carrot and herbs. Just think quick convenient and fresh.

Calcium & Seeweed

We are told to consume a lot of dairy products to increase our calcium intake for strong bones and teeth. What you may not know is a deficiency in this can also lead to feelings of depression and anxiety as well as fatigue. It is now a fairly recognised fact that 75% of the human population CANNOT digest calcium. If we cannot digest it we cannot absorb the nutrients from it. Dairy has a few issues and I invite you to investigate for yourself so you can make an informed choice. To ensure you are getting enough calcium there are so many plant based foods some already mentioned such as sweet potato, celery, Kale, Watercress, sugar snap peas, almonds, rocket, seeds. The list is endless and all is easily absorbed by the body and unlike dairy these foods are all anti-inflammatory and further boost your mood and balance hormones where as we have already said dairy being that it already is a concoction of hormones really can cause our emotional wellbeing to suffer. This leads me on to the highest vibrational superpower food against depression which is one of nature’s richest source of calcium and all nutrients. Seaweed.
Seaweed is a very high source of calcium, magnesium, omega 3, minerals and iodine! Iodine is essential for your thyroid control which controls mood, energy and weight. Seaweeds are great at boosting your energy and reducing fatigue. It cleanses the blood which in turn creates healthy organs and a heathy you. I continue to use seaweed as a very absorbable and digestible source of B12. B12 is a key nutrient for many things but is a key player in depression, anxiety, fatigue and irritability. How to eat these foods quickly and easily?       Quick Tip. First there is a wonderful mineral rich seaweed broth which can be your saving grace and feed you for a few days or a few meals if you don’t have the time to do anything else. Order some strips of kombu from the internet. In a big saucepan of water add one strip of kombu, chopped mushrooms, 1 chopped potato, 1 chopped carrot, 2 sticks of celery, 1 x quartered onion, 2 garlic cloves, chuck of ginger and if you have it 1 x tsp of miso paste, handful of parsley, pepper and Himalayan rock salt. Bring all this to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Drain the broth and drink this through the day when you need a pick me up, it feeds your gut and your mood positively and is a habit I encourage you to maintain.
You can also add nori flakes as seasoning to any veg or salad dish to give your meal a nutrient boost.

Drinks & Hydration

  1. Hydration
  2. Alcohol
Sugar drinks and fizzy are no good for depression or anything really. Choose instead water be it hot or cold and keep caffeinated drinks to the minimum I would recommend limiting coffee as it messes with blood sugar levels which as discussed then messes with your energy and your mood. Green tea has a little caffeine in it but also components that there are some benefits to help with depression.
Being hydrated with water is a crucial part in tackling the symptoms of Post-natal depression. A hydrated body can use and distribute essential nutrients around the body and it’s the body’s easiest way of combatting fatigue. A well hydrated body is an energised body. If you find yourself suffering in a state of panic or anxiety I highly recommend you make yourself two mugs of hot water and sit and drink them. Hot water is absorbed by the body quicker, it cradles the adrenals and always felt like an instant de-stressor to me personally, it was the last thing I tried after spending a fortune on different herbs etc and the only thing that ever worked so instantly and it really is so easy. Just plain hot boiled water and breathe.

Alcohol is a known depressant. Many people rely on their glass of wine at the end of the day to de stress or wind down. You may feel a small instant relief but the lows that follow make it a very bad idea if you are already suffering post-natal depression. It strips the digestive tract, decreases nutrient absorption, uses up many nutrients stored in the body to alkalise the cellular acidity caused by drinking and it puts huge pressure on the liver, in turn affecting hormones and leaving you vulnerable to bouts of crying and overwhelm. You must keep your body strong if you want a healthy mindset. Instead of alcohol. Try meditating, or practice mindfulness or yoga or just go for a walk outside and get some fresh air. You many think you want alcohol but your emotional health will never thank you for it. I advise no alcohol at all if you are a sufferer of depression.

Smoothies

Then of course in comes the nutribullet or some appliance similar which is a super power when done properly for energy, mood and convenience. Home made fresh vegetable juices and smoothies are a great way to flood your cells with nutrients and I personally found it to be my saving grace in those early manic mum days.
For breakfast or a snack go to the smoothie maker but remember to make sure there is more protein in there to slow down the release of any natural sugars. I recommend for post-natal depression a Green smoothie such as a base of water or coconut water, ½ avocado, 2 kiwi fruit, ½ lime, handful of parsley, ¼ cucumber, 1 x tsp of seaweed powder such as spirulina or chorella as well as 1 x tbsp. of coconut oil which is anti-inflammatory to both brain and gut. All the nutrients in this are geared up to increase energy, and calm, relax and boost your mood.
You can also try one with cashew milk as a base as two handfuls of cashes are not only nutrient dense but have the same effect on depression as a dose of Prozac. Add in 1 banana for the tryptophan to convert in to the serotonin, frozen mango and pineapple. (Yellow fruits are all mood boosting foods) and 1 x tablespoons of seeds such as chia, flax, pumpkin and sunflower, 1 x
tablespoon of coconut oil and even better look in to the range of herbs called adaptogens. Adaptogenic herbs are so powerful they enter the body and see where anything is out of balance and gently adapt the body so it is in all working order again. A adaptogen that is known to help balance women’s hormones, boost libido and energy as well as mood is maca and adding a tablespoon of this to your smoothie is going to be a big help to your recover. If you are breastfeeding you may need to check if it is safe to use, although it is just a root from the radish and broccoli so I would consider it much less toxic than say aspartame which is in diet coke which leads me on to the next point.
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