tryptophan tyrosine blueberry prevent postpartum blues depression

An unfortunate 13% of women suffer through postpartum depression at the time of their lives when they hoped to feel the happiest. A common precursor to postpartum depression is short period of sadness called the postpartum blues. There’s no pharmaceutical treatment, but that doesn’t mean there’s no hope.

Postpartum blues is a period of sadness that follows giving birth. It usually fully hits on the fifth day after giving birth. It can be a precursor to full out postpartum depression, and if the postpartum blues is severe, it is strongly associated with postpartum depression.

But now there’s a clue to what’s going on. During the postpartum blues, monoamine oxidase A soars by 40%. Monoamine oxidase is an enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine: the very neurotransmitters that are required to stay happy and prevent depression. That’s why a class of drugs known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors are conventionally used to treat depression.

So, researchers tried giving new mothers a natural supplement made up of 2g of tryptophan, 10g of tyrosine and blueberry juice with blueberry extract. Since tryptophan is needed to manufacture serotonin and tyrosine is needed to make dopamine, the hope was that these amino acids might counteract the rise in monoamine oxidase. The women took the supplement on the third, fourth and fifth days after giving birth. There were 41 women in the study: 21 took the supplement while 20 acted as a control group by taking nothing.

Though the study was not blinded, the results were exciting. While there was a “robust” increase in depression in the control group, there was no depression in the supplement group. The difference was significant. The researchers conclude that the amino acid/antioxidant combination “eliminates vulnerability to depressed mood during the peak” of postpartum blues.

The amino acids had no effect on concentrations in the mother’s breast milk.

This study suggests that there may be a safe, natural way to prevent postpartum blues and make the early days of motherhood way happier when pharmaceuticals offer no help.

Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2017;114(13):3509-3514

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