What's All The Hype About DHA? 15 Things New Moms Need To Know

Becoming pregnant and knowing she is carrying life inside of her is one of the most amazing things ever. She wants to make sure she is doing everything right to ensure that baby will develop into a healthy and happy little person. DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and its less-talked about partner, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) is all over the news as being a necessary part of baby’s healthy development prenatally all the way through to birth and beyond. So, what’s the secret to this DHA that the body does not make naturally, but seems to be so good for Mom and baby? Well, apparently lots of things.

DHA is something that helps the body and brain. It is something that will help baby become strong and build resilience. It can also help Mom in all kinds of areas of her life, mainly physical and psychological. More and more studies are coming out on the importance of DHA in the diet, but a woman can be confused and wonder what is the truth and what is not? It can be tricky sorting out all the information and she could be wondering how she should proceed. She could be wondering what’s the hype about DHA? If so, here are 15 things new Moms need to know:

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15 It Feeds The Brain

What does this mean exactly? Well, it means that DHA helps in brain development. The brain grows very fast during pregnancy and during baby's first few years. DHA seems to rapidly grow in us unlike any other sources. This is good as a stronger brain makes for a healthier baby and later child and adult. DHA can be found in many food products like fish, eggs and milk sources. There are lots of sources of fish that are good, such as trout, salmon, mackerel and tuna. Why this is so important for the brain is that it helps build a stronger overall body, along with enough dairy, fruits and vegetables and calcium. As it is not made naturally but essential for healthy development, it is important that if foods containing DHA are not consumed regularly, that women and their children take it in pill form.

14 Long Term Benefits

It has also been shown in some studies to help lower the risk of heart disease later on down the road. This is important to know as people are living longer and want to do all in their power to eat well, exercise and enjoy a great quality of life. DHA has been shown to protect against obesity, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes throughout life. In one study it showed the link between high DHA supplementation and a declined risk of both stroke, cognitive decline and dementia, again later in life. This held for all the different stages of life a person lives through: babyhood, childhood, adolescence and adulthood. It makes sense as products that contain DHA help with a continued healthy diet to bring about a greater body change.

13 Keeps Things Stable

Cholesterol and triglycerides are types of fat (or lipid) that circulate within the bloodstream and generally get quite bad press. Whilst it is important to keep tabs on both types of fat, they actually have important structural and functional roles within the body, and we can’t do without them. Cholesterol is required for building and maintaining cell membranes, and is the precursor to several essential hormones. Triglycerides, which are actually chains of fatty acids, provide us with a direct source of energy. Having too many circulating triglycerides is often a sign of metabolic syndrome, which can lead to type II diabetes as well as raising the risk of heart disease. But if levels are normal, a person will be ok. EPA and DHA found in fish and fish oil helps control fat and cholesterol and can even be an alternative to pharmaceutical medication.

12 Cure For Pregnancy Brain

Memory is helped and enhanced by DHA. Studies have been shown that it boosts attention and they help different organs of the body stay and grow strong, like the eyes and heart. All DHA is not created equal so it is important to check out various supplements to make sure that one buys the supplement that is best able to work for them and their family. DHA is also found in breast milk, therefore we know it is an essential ingredient to help both the mother and child develop strong and healthy throughout life. She can use a DHA calculator to make sure she and/or her baby are getting enough DHA in the healthy format for a positive result. It is important that adults and children incorporate more DHA in our diets as it helps with overall brain and body health.

11 Give's Baby A Boost

Due to the healthy nature of what contains DHA either in whole foods or capsules, many studies have pointed to the fact that they help in boosting baby's brain development. DHA is to our brains what calcium is to our bones. It is so important for healthy brain and body development. There are many foods and beverages that are now fortified with DHA that it is great if we take advantage of it. It is in beverages, milks, breads, yogurts and even nutrition bars. When baby is in utero, what Mom eats is filtered down to them. Therefore, it is extra important that she eat a balanced and healthy diet rich in DHA foods. Children who have had DHA in their diets do seem to perform slightly better than peers though more research is needed to determine DHA's exact effect.

10 Now You See Me

Eye health is equally important and DHA has an important role in helping keep eyes strong. Numerous studies point to how much diet affects the whole body, including retina development in both babies and in helping children and adults' eyes stay strong. A supplement called life'sDHA(TM) is a sustainable and vegetarian source of algal DHA omega 3. It has been shown to truly helps brain, heart, and eye health. It is available in all kinds of foods, drinks, infant formula and different supplements. Most adults are realizing today that their diet needs to contain more DHA and they are supplementing for their children too. It is so important to have that balance for a healthy life.

9 Less Baby Blues

Due to all the health advantages already stated, in addition more evidence is coming to light that taking DHA may help in combating postpartum depression. A small study suggests that there is some evidence that Omega 3 fatty acids may help lower a woman's risk for developing postpartum depression. There was a study done where some woman took a placebo pill and others a fish oil supplement that contained 300 milligrams of DHA. The researchers found when using a postpartum depression screening scale at two weeks, six week, three months and six months after delivery that women show took the fish oil reported fewer postpartum depression feelings and anxiety. The study was small so more work needs to be done, but it is a start in determining DHA's effects.

8 Knocks Some Diseases Out Of The Park

Other studies are pointing to the positive effects of DHA against anti-inflammatory issues in the body, like heart disease, or stroke. The anti-inflammatory effect DHA has on the body is due to its properties that help in many cellular functions. These also help decrease heart disease and may even reduce mortality rates in patients. There have been studies too that show how Omega 3's also help stabilize people's moods. All in all, there are lots of positive benefits to DHA in the body's health management. Studies were done with various groups of people in the diseased group as well as the healthy population, and it always adds up to a positive correlation to healthy outcomes with higher DHA levels for most of the people surveyed. This is another benefit for a Mom increasing her DHA intake.

7 Pay Attention

Though further studies need to be done, there has been much work done stating how memory, attention span, and behavior can be positively influenced by taking DHA in their diet. Research is suggesting that it could help children pay more attention and there were benefits and positive outcomes in some areas of cognitive functions and behavior. Some studies are now showing that children with ADHD may have lower concentrations of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), particularly Omega-3 fatty acids in their red blood cells and plasmas, and that supplementing with Omega 3 may relieve some of the symptoms and behaviors that cause them the most trouble. There seemed to be a correlation but more studies need to be done comparing ADHD children's diet to that of their neuro typical peers and seeing if there is a link in behavior and learning.

6 Embrace The Fatty Fish

Obviously, as with anything, the best way to get DHA or any kind of nutrients and get them in the healthiest way possible is to go with eating them whole. So if the woman can, eating whole fish, eggs, milk, or any other kind of seafood for her or her baby is the best way to go. If she cannot stomach it this way, or baby cannot, fish oil supplements along with other DHA supplements can be the way to go. The important thing is that she gets whatever her daily intake for optimal health as is baby's. Infant formula also contains some DHA as does most women's breastmilk. She can rest assured that she will still be giving baby proper nutrients from the beginning of life and can continue these good health habits as they grow. Should they really not like whole DHA foods, good supplements for kids should she choose to go that way: Coromega, Nordic Naturals and Carlsons for Kids fish oil.

5 Would You Like Seafood With That?

A good rule of thumb to remember with DHA for a pregnant or breastfeeding Mom, is to have at least 2-3 portions of seafood a week. This will ensure that she is completing what her body needs for full health along with the Canadian food guide, and helping her baby's brain in utero and in those early months truly get the brain boost it needs from the variety of seafood that is considered to be extremely healthy to have: tuna, mackerel, salmon, just to name a few. This can be incorporated and cooked in so many delicious ways, and unless she has allergies to seafood, most women will enjoy eating these tasty dishes. If she absolutely cannot stomach fish, a supplement is fine too, though she needs to check with her medical care practitioner.

4 Starting Good Habits Young

Giving kids fish supplements (if they cannot tolerate fish or seafood), is also another great way to improve or continue to help them have optimal health in every way. As mentioned before, there are lots of supplements on the market so Mom should check which ones are considered to be of the highest caliber and safest and try to go with those. Haliborange as shown above is good one. If she is unsure, she needs to check with her obstetrician. However, she should try as much as possible to give whole foods that contain DHA. In a study where researchers replaced four core foods in children's diets with omega-3 fortified products, the kids still fell short of the DHA targets they were expected to meet. Fatty fish or fish oil will get children to meet their health levels of DHA that much quicker.

3 Baby's Growing Brain Needs It

DHA is so important for brain growth. It has been found how quickly the brain grows during pregnancy and in the first few years of life. In the second half of pregnancy, the baby's brain begins to rapidly accumulate DHA. No other fatty acid gets in the brain like DHA does or has such a benefit for the child. It helps kids like vitamins does and it is needed for brain growth like calcium is needed for bone growth. Therefore, this is why it is so important that Mom gets herself fortified with enough DHA while pregnant and continues afterwards while breastfeeding and later on in baby's diet to make sure they have the best possible health outcome. No other chemical accumulates as rapidly in the brain as DHA does. It goes up about 4 grams by the time the child is 4.

2 The Body Can't Make It

DHA is not naturally made by the body even though it is extremely necessary for optimal brain development, anti-inflammatory protection, and possible attention and mood improvement as has been previously shown. Given that fact, it is important to make sure one has lot of the foods that have DHA in them or at the very least, supplement with vitamins or other fortified foods. They may not have the same effect as the whole foods do, but will still go a long way to helping Mom and her baby get the healthy jump start they need to have full optimal brain and body development. A good way to make sure she is getting all her nutrients as is baby is to eat a mixture of seafood, eggs, milk, and if she and baby can, lots of nuts and plant sources which give some sources of the EPA and DHA as well.

1 Not All Created Equal

As mentioned previously, a woman has to be careful as not all DHA supplements are created equal. Some with plant extracts do not carry what the ones that have protein carry, and some are made with a little more of one ingredient over another. It's important that Mom and baby have a balance of plant and animal extracts in their DHA supplement or better yet with whole foods. This will assure them that they are getting their full nutritional supplementation and that baby and Mom will have the optimal health benefits from both. Ideally whole foods are the way to go, but to get the most from her supplement she needs to ask her medical care practitioner and her pharmacist what they could recommend as best for her and her baby.

Sources: Maryann Jacobsen, Kelly Mom,  Parents, Beautiful Minds,  NCBI, NCBI, WebMD, NCBI

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