(Enjoying my first panel discussion)
I had the most amazing opportunity to be a part of my first ever panel discussion this weekend and it was a huge success! Along with 4 other women, I was invited to speak about postpartum depression amongst Women of Color. We engaged in an open conversation about mental health both during pregnancy and postpartum and I was blessed to be the panelist speaking on how diet and lifestyle can affect mental health.
I have not personally dealt with postpartum depression so I cannot fathom what it must feel like to have a brand new baby to care for while struggling with symptoms like anxiety, fear, or loss of interest. I remember when my Daughter was first born it was hard for me to do basic things like walk or go to the bathroom, but I had a super supportive Husband and my Mom who was also here to help me navigate my new role as Mother. Even though I may have felt confused and tired, it stopped there and never had a chance to escalate because I have a strong support system and I do my absolute best to always take care of my health.
Some of the guests who came to the discussion said they felt alone in their postpartum journey and this resulted in a harmful postpartum experience. They said health care workers can't relate, or that it's our job to be a "Strong Black Woman", or that they simply didn't know the symptoms of postpartum depression and didn't realize they were depressed at the time.
It can be difficult to be a Woman of Color seeking help, especially in a predominantly White field. How can we trust someone who doesn't look like us, or wasn't raised like us, or doesn't think like us? These were all thoughts that were discussed. Add to that the fear of getting Child Services involved because you admit you're feeling overwhelmed after having your baby and you can understand why so many of our Sisters are silently suffering.
(The other panelists and me on the day of the event)
I should take this moment to say that one of the panelists was a pediatric nurse and she confirmed the process by which Child Services is called and symptoms of postpartum depression are not a reason at all. So though you may be afraid, speak up and receive the help you so desperately need.
Lets back up though.
If we admit that we do not feel inclined to share what we are going through with our health care providers because the majority of them are not of the same ethnicity as we are, why then are we abiding by their standards for food? Why do we so blindly allow these same healthcare workers to enforce the protocol for food before, during, and after pregnancy if we know that we are raised differently and, furthermore, we are biochemically different?
I am not speaking from a place of personal experience, but rather I am taking a stand to say that health is body, mind, and spirit. In order to be the best Mom that we can be, we absolutely must prioritize ourselves and this process should begin before we give birth. Before we are pregnant. Before we conceive.
Symptoms of postpartum depression include lack of energy, loss of interest, trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, inability to bond with Baby, and lots more. These symptoms are exactly the same as those of multiple food related illnesses and could very well be a myriad of other diagnoses besides postpartum depression. In order to eliminate all other causes of concern, including postpartum depression, we must change the way we eat.
Many of us have grown up eating the Standard American Diet, which is rich in processed and refined wheat, meat, sugar, and dairy products. We have no idea that the foods we are choosing to eat daily are both stabilizers and stimulants, which have adverse effects on our bodies.
Foods such as processed meat (a known carcinogen!), coffee, cheese, and refined sugar can all cause hormonal imbalances that can lead to the break down of neurotransmitters in our brain. For a new mom with an abundance of hormones already, these foods can be even more detrimental. What's more, the foods I just listed sound like a typical American breakfast! I can assure you, this is no way to start your day.
Our brains have 100 billion neurons, all of which communicate via neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the electrical impulses that allow our neurons to communicate and to properly do their jobs. When there are too little neurotransmitters in the brain it can cause depression and anxiety.
By over consuming highly stimulating foods we cause our bodies to go on defense. Our neurotransmitters will down regulate themselves to prevent themselves from dying due to hyperactivity.
What does this mean? It means the necessary electrical impulse that must happen in order to do almost anything is now out of order until further notice.
And if your neurotransmitters aren’t able to connect your neurons...if one neuron can’t communicate with the next neuron, which can't communicate with the next neuron to perform a specific task...well, you can see why you might not be fully functional.
We subconsciously reach for stimulating foods because we are not eating and living in a way that causes us to vibrate at our highest frequencies. We are always lethargic, depressed, constipated, or anxious because we have an overproduction of dopamine, which provides us with short term pleasure. So again, the coffee, the white sugar, the meat, and the dairy are all culprits.
An array of fresh organic fruits and vegetables are what the body is crying for. These are the foods that help to produce serotonin, which is the hormone that creates long lasting happiness.
90% of our serotonin is produced in our stomach, while comparatively 50% of our dopamine is produced in our stomach.
In order to combat existing postpartum depression or better yet, to prevent it completely, it is absolutely imperative that we adequately fuel our bodies. In addition to eating high vibrational fruits and vegetables, we must remove other stressors from our lives. We must exercise, stretch, breathe fresh air, sit in direct sunlight, and recite positive affirmations daily.
It is possible to have the best postpartum experience and it is up to you to ensure that you do by transitioning into a healthier whole foods diet full of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds prior to pregnancy and most definitely postpartum.
You and your Baby deserve physical, mental, and spiritual health and food is the most crucial step in the right direction.
(All the panelists from the event)