Could this simple thing help you avoid the 'baby blues'?

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It's common to be struck by the "baby blues" after giving birth.

In fact, according to Beyond Blue, this condition affects up to 80 per cent of mums, and can leave you feeling weepy, sensitive and moody.

Perhaps most worryingly, severe baby blues has been associated with an increased risk of postnatal depression.

Researchers are now looking at whether the nutrients you ingest after giving birth can help reduce your likelihood of developing this condition.

A new study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this year, shows promising results.

The study involved giving 21 women a special nutritional kit (while 20 women just ate their usual diet). Each kit contained three supplements: tyrosine, tryptophan and blueberry extract.

Those particular supplements were chosen for good reasons. Blueberry extract was picked for its antioxidant effect, while tyrosine and tryptophan were selected because they negate the effect of a protein that rises after giving birth. That protein then causes the levels of 'happy hormones' (such as serotonin and dopamine) to drop.

The results were impressive.

The women who didn't take the supplements had a significant increase in depression scores, while those who took them didn't report any depressed mood.


"We believe this is the first study to show such a strong, beneficial effect of an intervention in reducing the baby blues at a time when postpartum sadness peaks," said Dr. Jeffrey Meyer, who led the study.

So how can you use this information to help reduce your own chances of developing the baby blues?

Accredited practicing dietitian and nutritionist Lyndi Cohen, who specialises in mental wellbeing, says it can be as simple as tweaking your own diet.

She says it's possible to eat the amounts of tyrosine (10 grams) and tyrosine (2 grams) used in the study, while increasing your intake of antioxidants.

While it may seem easier to just eat whatever you can get your hands on – or to turn to sugary or fatty comfort foods after giving birth – Lyndi says eating a nutritious diet can not only boost your physical health, but mental health, too.

And, even though you're likely to be both busy and exhausted after giving birth, Lyndi says it's still important to look after your own health.

"It's easy to invest all your energy into ensuring your baby is well fed, but don't forget about your nutrition too."

These are the foods Lyndi recommends eating after giving birth to increase your levels of tryptophan, tyrosine and antioxidants:

• Eggs: Lyndi says just one egg gives you almost 2 grams of tyrosine. "So your morning omelette may provide 4-6g depending on the number of yolks you include."

• Turkey: Turkey is high in both tyrosine and tryptophan (plus, Lyndi says, it's also a great source of protein, which helps keep your blood sugar levels - and therefore, mood – stay more stable).

• Chicken: A 150g serve of chicken breast will give you an "impressive" 7.5 grams of tyrosine, notes Lyndi.

• Cheese, salmon, lamb, beef and tofu (and other soy products, like edamame): These all contain both tyrosine and tryptophan in varying amounts. Consequently, Lyndi recommends eating a variety of these lean proteins throughout the day.

For example, she suggests tucking into eggs for breakfast, a cheese wrap or salmon sashimi with edamame for lunch, and enjoying a stir-fry for dinner with added chicken, beef or tofu.

• Fresh fruit: For an antioxidant boost, Lyndi recommends buying fruits that "excite you" to encourage you to eat them. Blueberries are a great option, as are strawberries, kiwi fruit and watermelon.

For support, advice and more information, contact Lifeline (13 11 14), Post and Antenatal Depression Association (1300 726 306) or Beyond Blue (1300 22 4636).