8 Ways to Eliminate Postpartum Depression & “Mommy Brain”

Dr. Jolene BrightenPublished: Last Reviewed: Postpartum Leave a Comment

Are you experiencing brain fog (or “mommy brain”), fatigue, depression, or you’ve been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease? Then I have some actionable tips to reduce inflammation and get your brain back! With this blog, I will give you the tools to know how to get rid of postpartum depression and more!

If you know my work, then you know that I am a huge advocate for postpartum mothers. Many women will experience inflammation postpartum and, in some cases, struggle with the onset of autoimmunity.

Chronic, systemic inflammation is at the root of many chronic conditions, including depression and autoimmune disease. It is the catalyst for physical pain, fatigue, and a laundry list of symptoms, but inflammation also has the capacity to alter your neurotransmitters, which determine mood, energy levels, and impact memory.

It explains much of the “brain fog” experienced by Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune patients. This inflammation can also impact baby’s brain development and cause postpartum depression.

Inflammation & Serotonin

One of the most groundbreaking scientific discoveries in 2015 was the discovery of lymphatic vessels connecting the immune system directly to the brain. It was a fascinating and also a telling discovery, especially for those who are dealing with autoimmune disease.

Serotonin is the neurotransmitter most associated with feeling happy.

When all is well in the body, the amino acid tryptophan is turned into serotonin. But when the body is inflamed, tryptophan takes a trip down a different pathway to create kynurenic acid and quinolinic acid at the expense of serotonin.

This creates multiple problems.

First, you are no longer producing the happy neurotransmitter, serotonin.

Second, you are producing a neurotoxin (quinolinic acid) that has been associated with depression. Quinolinic acid elevation stimulates glutamate receptors, which causes excitation and eventually death of brain cells. Yikes!

Despite these new findings, not much changes in the naturopathic approach to depression.


Naturopathic Physicians have long held the belief that the gut and immune system play a pivotal role in brain health. Restoring balance to the entire system and reducing inflammation is one of the first line therapies!

8 Steps to Help How to Get Rid of Postpartum Depression (And Battle “Mom Brain!”)

  1. Treat the Source of Inflammation.

    I recommend working with a qualified healthcare practitioner to determine the source of your inflammation, which may be due to digestive disorders, autoimmunity, food sensitivities, stress, chronic infections, and other conditions.

  2. Adopt an Anti-Inflammatory Diet.

    Eliminating grains, beans, dairy, eggs, sugar, processed or refined foods, and nightshades for 4 weeks followed by a reintroduction can help you identify foods which may be causing your inflammation. Working with a skilled Naturopathic or Functional Medicine Doctor, as well as a qualified nutritionist can help you identify which foods are most problematic for you.

  3. Eat Omega-3 Fatty Acids

    . Found in cold water fish like mackerel, salmon, and anchovies, omega-3 fatty acids balance immune inflammation while also feeding your brain. Or consider taking fish oil with a mix of EPA (anti-inflammatory) and DHA (healthy brain fat).

  4. Eat Turmeric.

    Turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory. Aim for about 1,000 mg once to twice daily in a supplement or make the fresh root into a tea.

  5. Consider Herbs.

    Botanicals such as passionflower and skullcap have long been used to treat depression. Only now we’ve come to understand that these herbs work. They support healthy serotonin production by reducing quinolinic acid production. In conjunction with diet and lifestyle interventions, these botanicals may improve mood overall.

    Adaptogenic herbs, like licorice, Rhodiola, Holy Basil and Aswhagandha can improve cortisol production. Cortisol, most known as a stress hormone, helps dampen inflammation. By supporting your adrenal glands you can lower inflammation and improve your energy.

    To learn more about using adaptogenic herbs to support your hormones, download my free eBook all about getting your hormones back into balance quick! 

  6. Exercise.

    Moderate exercise not only lowers inflammation, but it also increases brain function and is protective against the development of neurological conditions, such as depression and dementia. Inflammation impairs growth factor, an important anti-aging hormone.

  7. Find Support.

    Working with a Holistic Psychiatrist or integrative mental health specialist will provide you with the needed support during your healing phase and aid you in identifying other key areas that need to be addressed. Primal Docs is one resource you can use to find a doctor who uses a whole food and whole system approach.

  8. Probiotics.

    These little gut bugs regulate stress response through the HPA axis and can improve digestive health, immune function, and levels of inflammation. The bacteria in your gut found there is there by way of your mother and has been helping you regulate your inflammation and brain health long before you ever became a mother yourself.

I'm a mom and a doctor.  I've not only experienced what having a baby can do to us ladies, but I also know how to prevent inflammation and treat depression. And I am using that to help other moms completely rock motherhood.

You deserve to thrive and to feel absolutely amazing! I sincerely hope this information helps you create the absolute best experience as a mother.

If you love these kinds of actionable tips, you will love what I share in my Best Selling book, Healing Your Body Naturally After Childbirth— The New Mom’s Guide to Navigating the Fourth Trimester. In it, I discuss many other options to addressing mood, brain fog, fatigue, and other symptoms of inflammation.


FB Passionflower helps activate GABA receptors in the brain, which can help you feel relaxed, calm, and less anxious

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten, NMD, is a women’s hormone expert and prominent leader in women’s medicine. As a licensed naturopathic physician who is board certified in naturopathic endocrinology, she takes an integrative approach in her clinical practice. A fierce patient advocate and completely dedicated to uncovering the root cause of hormonal imbalances, Dr. Brighten empowers women worldwide to take control of their health and their hormones. She is the best selling author of Beyond the Pill and Healing Your Body Naturally After Childbirth. Dr. Brighten is an international speaker, clinical educator, medical advisor within the tech community, and considered a leading authority on women’s health. She is a member of the MindBodyGreen Collective and a faculty member for the American Academy of Anti Aging Medicine. Her work has been featured in the New York Post, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, Bustle, The Guardian, Sports Illustrated, Elle, and ABC News. Read more about me here.