© Sherry Rothwell
I remember fondly the days before I had children, when I didn’t need a day timer!
I could scroll through the Rolodex of my mind and see an image of my whole week, plus the dates and times that I had plans, and with whom.
Yet, after gestating and birthing my two children, if I did happen to think to write my appointments down, it would be for nothing because I would forget to check my day timer too!
So what causes pregnancy brain?
Ironically after searching the internet in regards to pregnancy brain, I was not able to find any research linking deficiency of EFA’s (essential fatty acids) in co-relation to “Pregnancy Brain”!
If you do a little research of your own, you might find other possible contributing factors:
-like not getting adequate vitamins and minerals
-the amnesia effects of oxytocin or deficency of electrolytes due to dehydration
-decreased circulation (does the placenta gets priority over the brain)
-even elevated progesterone (contributing to fatigue)
While it is logical to attribute the aforementioned possible causes to “pregnancy brain”, among other reasons such as a mother has a lot to keep in mind (and that pregnancy is an altered state of conscious), we cannot ignore EFA’s as being a part of the bigger picture.
Given the widespread fatty acid deficiency in the Standard American Diet (SAD), along with the fact that the brain is built on fat, we must consider EFA’s in the prevention and treatment of “pregnancy brain”.
I propose that (other contributing factors aside): EFA deficient women experience pregnancy brain because of further declining levels of EFA’s (the result of giving up what little reserves they do have to baby) and finally declining into “eternally postpartum brain” due the decline of EFA levels during nursing!
According to Michael A. Schimdt, PhD (NASA researcher), “The fetal brain develops rapidly throughout pregnancy and its demand for long chain fatty acids like arachidonic acid (AA) and DHA can only be met by the mother. To achieve adequate levels for brain development, the baby essentially robs the mother of these fatty acids by taking them from the placental blood.”
Because the trend is to reduce or avoid fat altogether, and because the majority of the population consumes adulterated vegetable fats and homogenized animal fats, we are all most likely deficient in beneficial natural fats (as found in cold water fish, seeds, nuts and compassionately raised animals foods such as butter and full fat non homogenized milk etc).
Given that 60% of the brain is composed of fat, we cannot ignore the implications of declining EFA status in women of childbearing years.
Even those who are not deficient per say may very likely not have optimal EFA levels.
How does such increased demand during pregnancy and nursing impact the woman who is already deficient before becoming pregnant?
Increasing symptoms of EFA deficiency include dry hair, skin and nails, hormone imbalance, depression, mood swings, impatience, memory decline etc.
If a woman was already experiencing these symptoms preconception, can you imagine how her EFA levels would be impacted by gestating and nursing a baby or even many babies?
Baby gets those fats before you do!
Baby’s brain, vision and nerve integrity are built with EFA’s!
“Large scale hydrogenation of vegetable oils reduces omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and replaces them with trans fatty acids that interfere with omega-3 and omega-6 metabolism, inducing significant partial deficiencies of essential fatty acids.” Dr. Ralph Holman
What are you building your brain with?
Unnatural, processed and refined fats and oils (the ones that our bodies haven’t yet evolved to recognize and utilize)?
Essential and natural fats as nature intended (ones that we have evolved to be able to assimilate and utilize)?
Processed oils are typically stripped of essential nutrients, bleached and finally deodorized for the purpose of shelf stability, and to mask rancidity.
It sounds less like nutrition, and more like work for the liver, doesn’t it?
Could you be blocking your own brain fats?
Trans fatty acids impair our ability to synthesize the critical neural fatty acid, DHA.
If your kitchen contains vegetable shortening, margarine (whether it be non-hydrogenated or even Earth Balance), canola oil and other refined, bleached and deodorized oils or if you “eat out” a lot, then you may be primarily building your brain and your myelin sheaths (insulate nerve fibers) with artificial fats.
Don’t forget that the oils in all processed foods are in some way artificial or refined, so stick to food that is real if you want to think clearly! Hmm….sludgy, mushy myelin sheaths and cell membranes or integral, smooth optimally functioning ones?
What can a mother do to get her brain back?
Throw out all refined oils (even expeller or cold pressed canola oil which is genetically modified and not meant to be for human consumption) and replace it with cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. Get rid of the margarine and other refined “spreadable when cold” artificial butters and replace them with the real thing (yes quality butter is nutritious) plus unrefined coconut oil, ghee and avocado. Add flax and hemp to the fridge to make your own salad dressings and oh, I almost forgot, make your own mayo from the quality fats such as olive or coconut oil! Add nuts and seeds to the freezer, plus eat cold water fresh fish up to 3 times per week and voila and you will have a kitchen full of healthy fats to choose from.
Supplemental Sources of Good Fat
If you already have deficiency symptoms, or for whatever reason cannot get adequate fats from your diet, then use fish oil (preformed DHA and EPA) or flax oil for Omega-3 fatty acids, evening primrose or borage oil for Omega-6 fatty acids or hemp oil for Omega 3, 6 and 9.
Adequately determine which fatty acid profile best suits your individual needs before supplementing by doing your own thorough research or investing in the services of a holistic nutritionist or naturopathic doctor.
Brain Building Nutrition- Michael A. Schmidt
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