Nutrition, Zinc and Post Natal Depression

Rather than looking to the momentous reasons behind the maternal dislocation and mothering anxiety that may be visiting your household, or that has in the past, here is an article that aims to encourage you to get pregnant again, if you would if you had the courage.

It is also written for those who are coming to terms with the birth they had, the loss they feel, and the intangible hole they may still be trying to climb out of.

As an acupuncturist, I look at the symptoms that are written up as ‘post natal depression’, and realize that was I teaching students, it would make a great textbook scenario.

Post natal depression and allied states present as clearly as a range on a continuum within a couple of related categories. There is a clear symptom picture, a clear set of reasons for it, and a very clear resolution. This is often best treated with Chinese herbs as backup, but often acupuncture alone can remedy the drama.

As a naturopath, I look at the manifestations written up in scholarly articles, and wonder for whose benefit these academic thoughts are collated. Why is it that we are not going back to basics? Why are we not realizing that the concepts of good nutrition are beyond a lot of people – they think they ‘eat well’, but have no markers to gauge this by.

Often lactation consultants are unable to professionally weigh into the issue, as they are deemed to be ‘unqualified’. Why are we not being sensible? There is only so much money to be thrown by a distraught mother. There is only so much running around, and only so much nattering about self a person can put up with – especially as a new mum, often with other small children.

As a mother, I wonder why no one has thought of the obvious – whether breast feeding is happening, or has been abandoned, or was not possible for whatever reason, Mum needs to be rebuilt, as she is in a state of depletion, having given greatly to growing and birthing baby. She has also discovered sleeping in small spurts, and being TOTALLY at the apparent whim of another. On top of this, there are complications and new life experiences coming out of the wood work. How does she even get to get out of her sleepwear, let alone the house?

In clinic, very rarely does a woman seeking help, not receive it in a multi modality fashion – all without counseling, without massive history rehashing, and without fuss. Rather than seeking solutions in behaviour and thinking, often the answer is as simple of taking the nutritional supplement those deficiency is causing all the grief.
Why is this not on the list of first priorities in studies post natally?

Naturopaths have always prescribing Zinc (usually in a liquid form, in preference to tablet, as with any supplementation, it requires digestive strength to release the ingredient). Zinc is considered a ‘micronutrient’, but is one of the very active digestive enzyme components – and is thus required to release nutrients from all of our food. Zinc is usually the missing ingredient in any person’s make up – if it were present, why would they ask for help?

Immune system down?

Getting ill all the time, not resilient and nothing is ‘fixing’ it.

Skin problems?

All digestion related (Zinc major factor here) Dermatitis, especially in the perineal area) mouth. Tongue infections, Candida, poor wound healing, and scarring problems.


Emotional- especially depression, mood swings and inability to organize/cope?
Eating issues – especially very choosy and fickle eaters, those who seem to have no taste for food.


It would seem that we have become reliant on ‘studies’ to lead us to single pieces of information – forgetting that we are all individuals, and that our lives are totally anecdotal. There is only ever this minute. People and especially the littlies – are all anecdotal – here; now is all there is – what worked five minutes ago with this one, may never again – either with this one, or any other. We change. We grow, we feel different – and so does everyone else.

You no doubt get the drift . . .


Seen through an acupuncturist’s eyes, we become anxious, can’t sleep well, don’t feel at peace in ourselves, and can’t be who we are (may have a film of fuzziness, lack of clarity and inability to process information between us and the world) if we have a state of ‘blood deficiency’.

Rather than trying to talk through issues, help cope when personalizing and feeling too precious, an acupuncturist will go straight to the underlying imbalance. In correcting this, the person will apparently, magically become themselves again.

Chinese herbs help the digestive system absorb Iron and other nutrients better, they directly tonify blood energy, and they calm the aspects of self that are ruffled and hurting.

The issue of blood deficiency is not one of anemia. This, and post natal depression, is covered fully in my book “What Dads Can Do”, written specifically to empower those who want answers and who do not want to ‘hope for the best’.

As an acupuncturist and a naturopath, in clinic I found a multi disciplinary approach, rather than trying to see ‘what did it’ was superior to trialing one method/modality at a time. People just want to get better – they are not interested in what ‘did’ it, so much as getting back to their lives intact. This does not make for good research projects, thus doesn’t come with its own ‘statistics.

Post Birth Eating Plan

All women after birth were placed on a strong Vitamin B snapped in half and taken SIX times daily, along with a Vitamin C (same treatment). Both these are water soluble, and are not able to be stored within our bodies.

All were given a Magnesium drink to be taken at least FOUR times daily, until baby slept through the night (allowed Mum to cope, as Magnesium is required when under stress, and is part of the ‘tense/stressed/can’t cope’ list of problems).

All were cautioned to eat protein every three hours, to snack rather than wait for meals, to avoid gluten, as it may fill mum up and be quick and easy, but does not contain as much protein and fat as baby’s body demands, and to drink copious room temperature water.

Zinc had been supplemented from the minute they walked into the clinic – often as they were apparently unable to conceive, so they had been diligently allowing their body – and baby – maximum exposure to this vital life affirming ingredient.

Zinc’s Role in Health

Zinc is often seen as a micronutrient, of little consequence by those who market and sell to the public. Even less it seems to the established medical fraternity – although the medical model does make reference to the increased quantity needed (4mg in pregnancy, 6mg in lactation, in addition to the usual 12mg daily for adults). Women are cautioned often to take Iron and Folate. Why leave Zinc out of the picture?

Within our diets, Zinc is found in shellfish, whole grains and nuts. As we rarely see whole grains, and as pregnant women are often cautioned off oysters, as we don’t eat sardines very regularly as a culture, and as we steer away form handfuls of mixed nuts (expense? – pecans are highest source) it is very possible that here is a Zinc deficiency in most diets.

This is compounded by the absence of Zinc available to plants in some Australian soils, the presence of amalgams in our teeth, (which inhibit absorption of important nutrients), and the leaching effect being on the pill may have had on mum before she conceived.

Zinc is highest in colostrum and must be present in human milk, as baby requires it to mature and to grow, to develop neurologically, to have a strong immune response, (both for fighting infections, and coping with vaccination insults), to develop taste buds appropriately, to have a good appetite, to develop testes and for very good digestive strength (it is needed in cellular responses, enzyme and co enzyme work at all levels of being). Without sufficient Zinc, nutrients are not absorbed as well as expected.

Brain function, energy levels and mood fluctuations start interfering with life. Zinc is used in extra amounts during lactation. Without it, skin, wound healing, hair growth, mucous membranes, gut absorption and good digestion all falter.

This may start to sound like the litany of woes a new born has to contend with, particularly as teething strikes. It is also all that is needed to lift a very depressed new mum out of the nutritional hole that no one notices, whilst they are so busy counseling her and providing her with ‘happy’ pills.

For mothers, who possibly have taken the pill, often for years before conceiving, and who have taken Iron supplements, there may be a definite sub clinical (no symptoms present YET) deficiency in pregnancy.

They may feel slightly tired, various aches and pains, memory and clarity of thinking waning This gets talked away as being consequences of late pregnancy – not realizing that there SHOULD be no consequences.

A well nourished woman should carry on, just as we should in menstruation – as though it were not happening. We are designed to be women, and well with it.

If a woman has had a tendency to an eating disorder, to emotional instability, mental and physical exhaustion, or has had chronic ill health prior to pregnancy, it is really likely she started baby making with a large Zinc deficit.

This may in fact have created fertility issues initially, as Zinc is part of the good egg/sperm cocktail required to start baby going – again not mentioned in the haste to advertise Folate and Iron.

If the body shows symptoms, and a slowing up of general function, it is trying to get a message across.

As we have a dominant medical reality that is crisis, rather than wellness orientated, slight personal variations are not noted or regarded as important.

Quality of life issues are not seen as life threatening – although women DO kill themselves in post natal depression when it verges upon severe. This all leads on to where we as women try, (quite often at great personal cost) to ‘soldier on’ regardless of the effort needed.

When visiting my dentist, he told me of his daughter who ‘is in a terrible mess’ after the birth of her baby. He knew of my professional interests, and asked for advice. I told him Vitamin B and Zinc, lots of both, and we got on with my dental work.

Next visit, he thanked me profusely for saving his daughter – I had forgotten, as I tend to dispense lots of one liners – she had recovered instantly, and life reverted to wonderful for everyone.

What a difference we could make to the statistics we are told to expect between one in eight to one in ten women supposedly go down with this affliction.

Why is this not Common Knowledge?

Searching the web last night I found a paper presented 3-5 February 1995, in Victoria, Australia. Entitled “Improved Breast Feeding Retention Rates Associated with Postnatal Maternal Oral Zinc Supplementation”, it makes heartening reading. Someone was thinking.

Looking at “The Farm’s” (Ina May Gaskin) statistics we see less than one in one hundred. Why such a difference? Social support? Good basic eating? Fantastic birth outcomes?

Looking at medically orientated websites they say that they do not know what causes post natal depression. One wonders thus why they next state that they promise that they are working on finding ‘a cure’ – they have no idea what ‘causes’ it, and ‘the cure’ exists already. Why do we not study OUTSIDE the drug and therapy options? That’s where life is.

Women suffer, their babies miss out on loving bonding and dads feel helpless as their loved ones go under. Why not go out and get some Zinc – preferably liquid today, and see what the eating plan also does for the general state of your life?