Dietary Supplements Shown to Help Eliminate Postpartum Blues

Dietary Supplements Shown to Help Eliminate Postpartum Blues

Alexis Reid

This week I wanted to take some time to expand on the recent Facebook Live Video I did on the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto’s study on Postpartum Blues. To read the study, please click here. I think this research is great in that brings to light simple interventions that new moms can do at home to help ease their transition after giving birth.

Postpartum Blues are quite common after giving birth, and usually start around 4-7 days postpartum. Postpartum Blues and Postpartum Depression are not the same thing, but when the blues get severe it significantly increases a woman’s risk of being diagnosed with Postpartum Depression. Many women do not suffer depressive symptoms at all but are afflicted with a strong Postpartum Anxiety. Postpartum Blues are caused by a surge in the enzyme monoamine oxidase, which breaks down our “happy neurotransmitters” dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. Having less dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine can lead to feelings of sadness and lack of motivation. An increase in monoamine oxidase is also observed in people who suffer from depression, so trying to reduce this surge soon after it starts is an essential component of successful treatment of Postpartum Blues. The typical peak for monoamine oxidase levels in women is 5 days postpartum.

The supplement that they used in this study contained 3 key ingredients

  • Tryptophan- Building block of serotonin
  • Tyrosine- Building block of dopamine
  • Blueberry Extract- Anti-inflammatory effects


The participants were given the supplements in the following manner

Night of Postpartum Day 3- Blueberry extract and Juice

Morning of Postpartum Day 4- Blueberry extract and Juice

Night of Postpartum Day 4- Blueberry extract and Juice and 2g L-tryptophan

Morning of Postpartum Day 5- Blueberry extract and Juice and 10g L-tyrosine


The levels given of L-tryptophan and L-tyrosine are higher than you would get from diet alone, but they were determined to be safe for breastfeeding.

Results: On postpartum day 5 the women underwent tests to assess their mood. One of the ways they were tested is via sad mood induction, which measured their ability to be resilient against sad events. The women read statements that expressed pessimism, dissatisfaction and lethargy, and listened to sad classical music.  Depressive symptoms were measured both before and after. There was a stark difference in the women who received the supplements and those who did not. The women who received the supplements did not experience any depressed mood, while the women who did not receive the supplements had an increase in depression scores.

These results are very impressive! Having worked with many postpartum moms in my practice, I know it is considered common place for moms to feel very down and out mood wise for the 4-10 days after giving birth. This simple intervention can help to stabilize mood in these moms which could help to smooth out their transition to mother hood and would make them more resilient to the challenges that early breast feeding can present.

This study is great example of how our moods can be so greatly impacted by the foods we eat.

Another well studied intervention for Postpartum Blues and Postpartum Depression is fish oil. Fish oil, specifically the DHA component of the oil can help to stabilize mom’s mood and helps with baby’s brain growth postpartum.

One great way to help a new mom is to feed them! Here is a recipe for a postpartum smoothie that is high in the nutrients necessary to help reduce the symptoms of Postpartum Blues

Postpartum Blues Smoothie

Serves 2

2 Cups Water

2 Cups Baby Spinach

1 ½ Cups Frozen Blueberries

3-4 Chunks Frozen Pineapple

1 Avocado

¼ Cup Cashews (soaked in water)

¼ Cup Hemp Seeds (soaked in water)

  • Combine Cashews, Hemp Seeds and Water and allow to soak for 10-20 min before blending. Blend until very smooth
  • Add in Baby Spinach, Frozen Blueberries, Frozen Pineapple, and Avocado. Blend again until smooth. Divide into glasses and enjoy!


Did you suffer from Postpartum Blues? Please share in the comments below


Dr Alexis

Dr Alexis practices in Kanata. To schedule your appointment, click here 



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Magnesium, The Mineral Superstar!

Magnesium, The Mineral Superstar!

Alexis Reid1 comment


When it comes to minerals, there is one clear cut superstar, magnesium! Magnesium is involved in over 300 reactions in the body.

Magnesium plays a major role in:

  • Bone Development and Maintenance
  • Blood Sugar Control
  • Heart Rhythms
  • Muscle Contractions
  • Blood Pressure Regulation
  • Regulating Stress Hormones

50-60% of the body’s stores of magnesium are present in the bones, with the remainder being found in the soft tissue. This makes levels difficult to assess via a blood test. How do you know if you are low in magnesium?

10 Signs You Could Have A Magnesium Deficiency

  • Under A Lot of Stress- This is a double edged sword, as stress causes magnesium deficiency and being deficient in magnesium amplifies the body’s stress response.
  • Anxiety and Insomnia-The nervous system needs adequate amounts of magnesium to function properly.
  • Muscle Cramps/Spasms/Pain and Eye Twitches- Magnesium is required for muscle relaxation.
  • More than 7 Alcoholic Beverages/Week- Alcohol increases magnesium excretion by the kidneys.
  • Taking Calcium Supplements Without Magnesium or Without Magnesium in a 1:1 Ratio- When magnesium levels are low calcium supplementation may further lower magnesium. Magnesium helps calcium to get absorbed into the bones and helps prevent excess calcium from forming plaques in the arteries.
  • Chocolate Cravings- It’s not just the sugar your body is craving, it’s the magnesium
  • Taking a Diuretic, Heart Medication, Asthma Medication, Birth Control Pills, or Estrogen Replacement Therapy- These types of drugs increase magnesium excretion by the kidneys.
  • Drinking Coffee or Tea Daily- The caffeine in coffee and tea causes the kidneys to excrete more magnesium.
  • Regularly Eating Desserts, Candies and Other Sweets- Refined sugar also increases the body’s excretion of magnesium.
  • Drinking Carbonated Beverages Regularly- Phosphates in carbonated beverages bind with magnesium in the digestive track making it not able to be absorbed by the body.

 Foods That Are High In Magnesium 

  • Pumpkin Seeds- 1/4 cup provides 48% of daily needs.
  • Spinach- 1 cup provides 39% of daily needs.
  • Swiss Chard- 1 cup provides 38% of daily needs.
  • Sesame Seeds- 1/4 cup provides 32% of daily needs.
  • Cashews- ¼ cup provides 29% of daily needs

 In my practice, I see many patients that benefit from magnesium supplementation. I routinely use magnesium to help treat

Magnesium has minimal side effects. The one major side effect to look out for is loose stools. If someone is getting lose stools, it means that they are taking too high of a magnesium dose. I generally recommend starting with 200 mg of magnesium bisglycinate before bed and increasing to 800 mg over a few days, as long as stools have not become too loose.

For people experiencing constipation, I recommend they take magnesium citrate as it is even more likely to cause loose stools.

Another way to get magnesium into the body, and to practice some vital self-care, is by taking Epsom Salt baths. Epsom Salts are magnesium sulphate and they are quite effective at reducing muscle and joint pain. To get the full effect from the bath, add 1-2 cups of Epsom Salts to the bath and soak for at least 20 min.

Magnesium is generally well tolerated, and has a low risk of interaction, but you should talk to your health care provider before taking it if you are taking and medications


Talk Soon,

Dr Alexis

Dr Alexis practices in Kanata and is accepting new patients. To book your appointment, click here.



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How To Feel Your Best Postpartum

How To Feel Your Best Postpartum

Alexis Reid

postpartum tired mom

It seems that today in our society all of the focus is on pregnancy, and the time immediately following the birth of the baby. It is part of our culture to plan baby showers weeks in advance and plan a visit to come see the baby as soon as he or she is born. But what happens after a few weeks? All too often now, after a few days to weeks the partner has to go back to work and mom is left on her own with the new addition. All those people who were at her baby shower are nowhere to be seen! Not so long ago, people tended to stay in the community they grew up in, and grandmas, aunts and sisters were available to drop by and help mom out.  This is an area where a postpartum doula can be very helpful. Postpartum doulas help to care for mom and baby, cooking, running errands, light housekeeping and much more. Here is a link to a good FAQ on what postpartum doulas do. There also seems to have been a shift in society to be able to be “super mom” and do it all. Not only is this not possible (I can hear you all breathing a sigh of relief… you are normal!), it’s not healthy for mom and baby.



While it is important to get mobile again after giving birth, it is also important to not try and overdo it. The first three months of the baby’s life can be thought of as the 4th trimester, a lot of growth and development happens in this time period. There are also a lot of changes for mom. This is the time to have a “baby moon”. A Baby moon is time for mom and baby to get plenty of rest, the partner to be very involved, and both parents to get in tune with their baby’s cues. This can reduce the risk of postpartum depression and help to reduce the feelings of being overwhelmed and exhausted which are super common in the first 12 weeks.



In the final stages of your pregnancy it is a good idea to get your house prepared for the new arrival. Healthy and easy to digest freezer meals are a great gift to give a new mom. Having the stress of meals and housekeeping duties reduced is essential in the first 12 weeks.



Top 10 Tips For Postpartum Recovery



1) Rest and sleep are very important. Make these your number 1 priority.



2) Drink plenty of water. It is necessary for your breast milk supply, to help keep urine flowing to reduce the risk of infection, and help to keep stools soft.



3) Eat whole foods that are nourishing and easily digestible such as fish, cooked vegetables, oatmeal, and chicken soup/broth



4) Avoiding constipation is important Include fiber in the diet. Eating 1-2 prunes a day can help to reduce the risk of constipation.



5) Make a nutritive tea. Combine equal parts nettle, red raspberry and oat straw.  Steep 1 tsp in 1 cup of water, have 3 times a day. This tea is safe and helpful for breastfeeding.



6) Use a Sitz Bath Soak to help aid in the healing of tears. This blend of herbs can also be used in a peri bottle. Keep the peri bottle on the back of the toilet for use after urination.



7) Get outside. While it is important to be resting, there are many benefits to mood from spending 20-30 minutes outside/day. Gentle walks should be ok for most women in the first 12 weeks.



8) Continue taking your prenatal supplement. Your body still needs increased nutrients in the postpartum period



9) Fish oil, with at least 750 mg EPA, can help reduce the risk of postpartum depression



10) Probiotics, Vitamin B12, Iron and Vitamin C may also be required. Speak to your naturopathic doctor to help determine your individual needs



Postpartum depression/anxiety are also quite common after birth and are nothing to be ashamed of. Common symptoms can be rapid mood changes, anxiety regarding how to care for baby, feeling very overwhelmed, and having “muddled” thinking. It is thought to be due to a dramatic drop in estrogen and progesterone and an increase in prolactin (the hormone that facilitates breast feeding). There are many ways to naturally manage postpartum anxiety with foods, vitamins and herbs. Mom should be seen by her family and/or naturopathic doctor if she is experiencing any of these symptoms.



The best medicine is always prevention. Be sure to work with your naturopathic doctor during your pregnancy to help set yourself up for an optimal delivery and speedy recovery in the postpartum period.


Talk Soon,

Dr Alexis

 Dr Alexis practices in Stittsville at Living Science Wellness Centre. Call 613.836.7901 to schedule your appointment.



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How to Help Manage Postpartum Anxiety Using Foods, Vitamins and Herbs

How to Help Manage Postpartum Anxiety Using Foods, Vitamins and Herbs

Alexis Reid2 comments

In my last post we went over what the symptoms of postpartum anxiety are and what factors make someone more likely to suffer from it. In today’s post I am going to discuss ways to help manage postpartum anxiety naturally. As you have seen, anxiety can have multiple different causes and present in many different ways, making the proper treatment of anxiety very individualized. You should always consult with a naturopathic doctor before starting any vitamin/mineral or herbal regime to insure that you are taking safe and therapeutic doses, there are no interactions with any other supplements or medications that you may be taking, and that what you are taking is safe while breast feeding. Just because something is natural, does not automatically mean that it is safe.

It was discussed that increased cortisol was one of the major physiological factors for postpartum anxiety. As you will see, many of the suggestions are aimed at normalizing cortisol levels

  • Diet

What you are eating on a daily basis is the single biggest factor in helping to manage your anxiety.

  1. Blood Sugar Regulation- when blood sugar is going up and down and not remaining stable it can cause symptoms of anxiety (racing heart, palpitations, dizziness, nausea). Eating too many carbs and sugar without enough protein and fat can put your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride. Remember to eat regularly and to have healthy proteins and fats at every meal. The body sees this up and down in blood sugar as a physiological stress and it causes cortisol to increase further
  2. Coffee- too much coffee, more than 2 cups a day, can have negative impact on both blood sugar regulation and cortisol, leaving you feeling jittery, increasing heart rate, and creating sleeping problems. Coffee should only be consumed before noon
  3. Green Tea- I get it, you need some caffeine!! Try substituting some of that coffee for green tea. Green tea also contains caffeine, but it also is high in theanine, which helps lower cortisol
  4. Fruits and Vegetables- eating a wide variety helps to correct nutrient deficiencies


  • Lifestyle/Self-Care
  1. Making time for me time- Even if is it only 10 min/day. Find small segments of time to do what you enjoy
  2. Get Outside- Many studies have shown that mood is lifted and anxiety is decreased with exposure to fresh air. Bonus, it can also make you and your baby sleep better
  3. Get Moving- Exercise releases endorphins which naturally make you feel better and less anxious…but don’t over do it. Too much exercise can increase cortisol. Aim for 30 min of moderate exercise (walking, yoga, strength training) 3-5 days a week.
  4. Breathe- Deep breathing physiologically lowers cortisol, and it’s easy to do! When you are feeling anxious try taking 10 deep breaths where your belly moves out and your chest stays in
  5. Get Help- If you do not have family or friends around who are helpful and supportive consider hiring a postpartum doula


  • Sleep
  1. No Coffee After Noon. Coffee has a half-life (how long it takes half of it to leave your system) of up to 12 hours so that coffee you drank at noon can be keeping you up at midnight
  2. Keep Your Room Cool and Dark- helps you get a deeper sleep
  3. Embrace Naps
  4. Keep Lights Dim When Up During the Night. Cortisol and the sleep hormone melatonin work opposite to each other. At night cortisol should be low and melatonin should be high. Exposure to light at night can throw off this balance


  • Hormonal Balance

Managing cortisol levels allow for more pregnenolone (the precursor hormone) to be available for the production of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA. Cortisol also has a love hate relationship with oxytocin. Oxytocin one of the hormones that controls lactation and is necessary for proper bonding. When cortisol is high, it causes oxytocin to be lower. So how can we manage cortisol levels?

  1. Magnesium and Vitamin B6- these two nutrients help take pregnenolone (precursor hormone) and get it to make progesterone instead of cortisol.
  2. Ashwaganda- increases dopamine (a feel good hormone that helps support lactation) receptors in the brain while reducing the anxiety producing effects of norepinephrine. It is also an Adaptogenic herb, which helps combat the effects of stress
  3. Nettle- high in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. Helps support thyroid function and the adrenal glands
  4. Passionflower- helps to lower cortisol, reduce anxiety and increase GABA
  5. GABA- is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. It helps to calm the excitement of the nervous system (the fight or flight response) and helps reduce cortisol
  6. Acupuncture- has a calming effect on the nervous system, has been shown to reduce cortisol and can help with hormonal balance


  • Nutrient Deficiencies

Your pregnancy has most likely left you with a few key nutrient deficiencies.

  1. Vitamin B6- The birth control pill is well known to deplete vitamin B6. If you were on the pill prior to conception you have a high risk of being deficient. Another symptom of deficiency is morning sickness. If you experienced this it is also quite probable that you are deficient
  2. Magnesium- Magnesium is involved in over 300 reactions in the body and gets used up more rapidly when you are under stress. Magnesium can help reduce anxiety symptoms and help you sleep better
  3. Vitamin D- If you live in a climate with 4 seasons, the sun is not at a proper angle for you to make vitamin D via the skin from Oct-May. Deficiency can have a negative impact on mood
  4. Omega 3 Fatty Acids- Help reduce cortisol levels, increase mood, and are great for babies brain development

There have been studies showing supplementation with a good quality multivitamin helps improve psychological wellbeing. In my practice, I generally recommend that moms either continue taking their prenatal vitamin or a good quality multivitamin for 3-4 months postpartum.

As I said previously, these are general suggestions for ways to help manage anxiety naturally. All supplementation should be monitored by your Naturopathic Doctor to make sure they are being used in a safe and effective manner.

I hope you found those suggestions helpful. Have you had something help your anxiety? Please post it in the comments below


Talk Soon, 

Dr Alexis


Dr Alexis practices in Kanata, and is accepting new patients. To book your appointment click here.


Naturopathic Medicine is covered by most extended healthcare benefits






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Postpartum Anxiety, More Common and Less Talked About Than Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Anxiety, More Common and Less Talked About Than Postpartum Depression

Alexis Reid

It can start innocently enough. You worry about the baby catching the virus your toddler brought home, that the visitors coming over may not wash their hands properly and transfer germs to your baby, people in the grocery store may touch without asking. Then it starts escalating, you find yourself constantly checking your baby to make sure they don’t have a fever, you google all the potential illnesses your baby may be susceptible to because they are so young, you start not wanting to leave the house to keep them safe from the germs of the outside world.

This is one example of how postpartum anxiety may progress. One of the problems with diagnosing postpartum anxiety is it presents so differently from person to person, leaving a lot of women alone to suffer in silence. Postpartum anxiety is more prevalent than postpartum depression yet there is much less education on the symptoms and what to do if you think you are experiencing it. A study of 1123 new moms from the Penn State College of Medicine revealed that out of 1123 new moms studied, 17% were experiencing postpartum anxiety and 6% postpartum depression. Another study in the Journal Archives of Women’s Mental Health concluded that amongst Canadian perinatal women referred for psychiatric care, the diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder was more prevalent than major depressive disorder (49.5% versus 38.5%).

Many mother’s feel that they can’t be anxious because they should be experiencing “the best time in their lives?” That is what society tells us isn’t it. Many mothers also feel a lot of pressure to “just know” how to do everything, which also serves to increase anxiety.

So what is anxiety? Anxiety comes from your sympathetic nervous system being in in overdrive.  Your sympathetic nervous system is responsible for your “fight or flight response”.  If the body is exposed to long bouts of stress, the stress hormone cortisol gets elevated along with epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine and reduces the body’s ability to calm itself, resulting in anxiety.

Some worry and hypervigilance is biological as an evolutionary mechanism to make sure your baby is safe and thrives. Anxiety BC has a great infographic that helps to explain what is normal and what is problematic when it comes to anxiety. It labels normal everyday worries in the green zone, yellow zone when it is starting to take over your everyday normal functioning and the red zone.

Anxiety rarely presents the same in two mothers. There are a wide host of symptoms that can be related to postpartum anxiety

-constant worrying about your baby and your abilities as a parent

-feeling like your heart is racing, that you are more aware of the beats, or that it occasionally skips a beat

-feeling hot and sweaty frequently

-irritability or restlessness

-inability to sleep, yet being exhausted





If you have previously suffered from anxiety, had difficulty pregnancies, a previous miscarriage, a traumatic birth experience you are more at risk for postpartum anxiety. Anxiety can also present for the first time postpartum as it is caused by a number of physiological factors

  • Hormones

Huge hormonal shifts happen during pregnancy and the postpartum period.  During pregnancy estrogen and progesterone are quite high and suddenly drop within 24 hours of delivery, leaving you susceptible to an emotional rollercoaster. Compounding this is the gravity of your life being turned upside down by this new baby. I remember a patient who had adopted her first as a newborn and then given birth to her second telling me she couldn’t believe the anxiety and how it hit the second time. She felt she would deal much the same as she did the first time, probably even better given her parenting experience, but the anxiety was crippling and definitely felt physiological. Progesterone is a natural anti-anxiety hormone and its plummeting amount postpartum can be a trigger to physiological anxiety. Cortisol, the stress hormone is closely related to estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA.

 Adrenal Fatigue and the Steroid Hormone Pathway


The main precursor hormone is pregnenolone. When stress is high, cortisol gets elevated via the fight or flight response. Most of the pregnenolone gets pushed towards cortisol, called the pregnenolone steal, leaving little left over to make estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA. This can cause a whole host of symptoms including anxiety.


  • Sleep Deprivation

I am sure many of you remember before you had children that if you went on a streak of not sleeping well, be it for exams, work or partying, that you were more irritable, anxious and had less energy to deal with life. Post-baby this is your new normal! It is physiologically normal for the body to not be able to regulate cortisol (stress hormone) as well when we are sleep deprived. For many people this results in anxiety. 


  • Nutrient Deficiencies

Postpartum nutrient deficiencies are VERY common. Why does this happen? Your baby is essentially a parasite….I know, not nice, but it is true. Your baby will take whatever nutrients they need from you in order to fuel their proper growth. If you were low in a certain vitamin or mineral before becoming pregnant, there is a good chance that you will be deficient in it postpartum.


  • Self Care (or lack there of)

New babies are all consuming and that doesn’t change a whole lot in their first year of life. You may no longer have time to do those things you used to do to recharge be it time with friends, yoga, date nights, or your coffee break at work. You are now “on the job” 24/7, which increases cortisol and can lead to anxiety


You may be thinking that all or most of the above applies to you. Finding out what is causing the problem is the best place to start. As a Naturopathic Doctor, my goal is to figure out why your symptoms, in this case anxiety, are happening and what we can do to fix of the CAUSE of those symptoms. In my next post I will be discussing natural ways to balance hormones, help mitigate sleep deprivation (because let’s face it some degree of sleep deprivation is unavoidable), figure out which nutrients may be deficient, and learn how to easily incorporate self care into your daily life.


If any of this sounds familiar for you please share your story in the comments below



Talk Soon,

Dr Alexis  

Practicing at Life Therapies in Westboro. To book your appointment please visit or call 613.422.8939


Naturopathic Medicine is covered by most extended healthcare benefits

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