How Your Diet Can Raise The Risk of Postpartum Depression

The MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health has written a great analysis of recent research into the impact of diet and nutrition on mental health. They take a look at two different studies, one published in the Archives of General Psychiatry and the other in the American Journal of Psychiatry, that show that the foods we eat and our weight can lead to higher risk of depression and anxiety, including postpartum depression.

“These findings suggest that a diet rich in processed food leads to higher rates of depressive illness. This has practical implications for our patients, suggesting that it may be prudent to provide nutritional information and interventions focused on incorporating ‘whole foods.’ These are foods such as fruits, vegetables and fish. In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Marlene Freeman of the MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health notes, ‘It is both compelling and daunting to consider that dietary intervention at an individual or population level could reduce rates of psychiatric disorders. There are exciting implications for clinical care, public health and research.'”

I’m embarrassed to say it but I have a terrible diet. I eat way too many carbs and am in love with sugar. On the occasions when I find the willpower to eliminate white flour and sugar and potatoes from my diet and eat meat, fish and vegetables, I feel a WHOLE lot better. I have more energy. More concentration. I think I handle things better. From personal experience and just plain old common sense, I believe this research ison the moneyand it will be interesting to see how (or if) it becomes incorporated into the treatment of women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

Sleep and nutrition. Sleep and nutrition. How many problems could we eliminate if we alljust made sure we did those two things right?

Photo credit: © Elena Schweitzer – Fotolia

Tell Us What You Think

  1. I'm not surprised by this study at all. I think we eat way too much processed food in this country and it affects everything in our bodies…especially the brain.

  2. Thanks for pointing this out! My wife had PPD pretty badly and is now pregnant agin. When we went into this pregnancy, we had a long talk about how to handle the expected future PPD and lined up a number of great resources to hopefully help handle it.
    We have been starting to think about what she eats on a "what is good for baby" level, but had not really thought about it on a mental health level. This is certainly one more reason to focus on our family eating habits.

  3. Food can be medicine. If it's the right kind. Including foods high in trytophan( which builds serotonin) like meat, banana's etc… are good for preventing depression. Balancing them out with a complex carb will help us absorb the tryptophan. Tryptophan is the reason why we feel so mellow and good after a big turkey dinner!
    Keeping bloog sugar stable will prevent mood swings. So lots of fruit and veggies and complex carbs like quinoa and brown rice. Dark chocolate is also good for in moderation! (In case you're wondering why I have the right to post nutrition advice I trained as a nutritionist!)

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