By Dr. Seth LaFlamme
As a man, I can only pretend to fully understand what it’s like: to go to the store, only to leave without the one thing you went there for; or to have to have everything written down or else it’s gone forever. To lose the sharpness of the mind you have come to count on your whole life. Sounds like a real bear.
If you think about it, though, this would be a real hamper to survival for both mom and baby. If mom couldn’t think quickly when a sabre toothed tiger was coming in fast, both would be dinner instead of flourishing happy alive humans. So perhaps ‘mommy brain” is not what nature intended, but something else.
Being the science geek I am, as I was reading “Grain Brain” by Dr. David Perlmutter (mind blowing), something he wrote really stuck with me. I’m paraphrasing, but the brain is mostly fat (~60 by weight) and 25% of that weight is cholesterol. The references in his book are a mile thick, and I’m not going to turn this into a research paper.
The Brain is mostly fat….hmmm.
Cholesterol aside (you’ve got to read his book), it got me thinking about Omega 3’s, which are an essential fat (meaning your body has a hard time making it) and another large percentage of the brain. Particularly, DHA which is the stuff myelin is made of (the stuff that coats your nerves so they can work correctly and quickly), which comprises about 15% of the brain’s total fat content. DHA is vital for speedy and proper brain and nerve function.
This got me wondering: if mom’s diet is deficient in DHA, where does the baby get it?
From healingourchildren.net I found this elegant summary:
You may have heard the folk wisdom that during pregnancy the baby will take what the baby needs from the mother's body. While it's easy to brush off this statement as untrue, it is actually partially true. If the mother is not getting proper nutrients during pregnancy, the baby will actually "steal" the nutrients she has stored in her glands, bones, and muscles, depleting the mother's limited supply of such nutrients.
For instance, a mother who is not getting enough calcium during pregnancy is probably not going to have a brittle-boned baby. Instead, the baby is going to leach its necessary calcium supply directly from its mother's body, which will leave the mother with weaker bones and a much higher risk of developing conditions like osteoporosis in the future.
So Baby is the new generation. Mom’s biological priority is to ensure Baby GETS what Baby NEEDS at ANY COST. If a baby can leach calcium or iron from the mother’s body, what about DHA?
From a study published in Reviews in Obstetrics & Gynecology indexed in PubMed called Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Pregnancy by Coletta et al: “Omega- 3 fatty acids are transferred from the mother to the fetus during pregnancy, thereby depleting maternal stores.” And according to Dr. Serallach, another expert in prenatal and postnatal nutrition, “On average, a mom’s brain shrinks 5 percent in the prenatal period, as it supports the growth of the baby.”
Holy Cow! And what is the effect of all this?
From good ol’ Wikipedia (The Docosohexaenoic Acid page): “DHA deficiency is associated with cognitive decline.” Furthermore, “DHA levels are reduced in the brain tissue of severely depressed patients.”
WHOA! Mommy brain and postpartum depression? Talk about killing two birds with one stone!
So, there are all the links: Baby takes what baby needs. Baby needs LOTS of DHA to build a healthy brain. There is LOTS of DHA in mommy’s brain. If mommy isn’t eating DHA, baby will get what baby needs…seemingly, in this case, from MOMMY”S BRAIN. Mommy is left with Mommy Brain. Sound like a zombie movie at this point? I know many moms who would certainly say it feels like one.
Listen, this is not a peer-reviewed research paper. This blog post is merely a thought experiment that turned into something more. It really looks like there’s something to this.
How much DHA per day? Experts differ in their recommendations, but anywhere from 300-890 mg seem to be the range. Since there’s no drawback to higher levels, I would stick with a higher number.
Which one? There are scads of brands to choose from. I wouldn’t go with the off brand from the local discount store. After a lot of research, we have determined the very best in the business to be Nordic Naturals, which is what we carry in our office (and we carry their top pharmaceutical grade product). It’s what we recommend and what we take ourselves. Now we have another reason why! So you can get it right here.
Is this a cure to mommy brain? No. Are there compelling links suggesting getting your DHA would be a REALLY good idea? Emphatically yes.
If you’re pregnant, thinking of becoming pregnant, or are still struggling to get your mental chops back, getting enough DHA is a really good idea. And who knows? Maybe you’ll start remembering what you went into the kitchen for, or that Tommy’s baseball game got rescheduled for Sunday. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll remember that mommy can’t take care of anybody if she doesn’t take care of herself first and get your butt back to your favorite chiropractor for nervous system reboot STAT J
Either way, I hope you enjoyed the ride and got a little food for thought.
Happy clearer thinking!
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