A three-supplement “nutrition kit” has been found to virtually eliminate so-called “baby blues” in women who have just given birth, according to new research.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) found a stark contrast in the emotional stability of 21 new mothers who were given two amino acids to compensate for the loss of mood-regulating chemicals, plus a blueberry extract for anti-oxidant effects, compared to a control group of 20 who did not receive the supplements in the days after giving birth.

The women taking the dietary supplements did not experience any depressed mood, the researches found, while the women who were not taking the supplements had a significant increase in depression scores.

“We believe this is the first study to show such a strong, beneficial effect of an intervention in reducing the baby blues at a time when postpartum sadness peaks,” lead author Dr. Jeffrey Meyer said in a media release on Tuesday.

Dr. Meyer heads the Neuroimaging Program in Mood & Anxiety in CAMH’s Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute. Previous brain imaging studies conducted by his team revealed the same trio of substances successfully compensated for the surge of the brain protein MAO-A in the early postpartum phase.

MAO-A breaks down three brain chemicals that help maintain mood: serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. When these chemicals are depleted, it can lead to feelings of sadness. Levels of the protein peak five days after giving birth, the same time when postpartum blues are most pronounced.

The kit includes tryptophan and tyrosine, in addition to the blueberry extract. Dr. Meyer’s team was able to confirm that larger doses of all three substances did not affect overall concentrations in breast milk.

The proactive dietary supplement therapy could significantly reduce the risk of more serious clinically diagnosed postpartum depression, the most common complication of child bearing affecting some 13 per cent of new mothers.

The 21 women who received the nutrition kit were given the supplements over the course of three days, starting on the third day after giving birth.

Researchers gauged their moods by comparing statements before and after tests that included reading and reflecting on sad statements, and listening to a sad piece of classical music.

“Developing successful nutrition-based treatments, based on neurobiology, is rare in psychiatry,” said Dr. Meyer, who also holds a Canada Research Chair in the neurochemistry of major depression.

The researchers say the kit could one day be integrated into a widely recommended dietary supplement regiment to prevent postpartum depression, and lead to an array of new treatment options beyond childbirth.

“We believe our approach also represents a promising new avenue for creating other new dietary supplements for medicinal use,” said Dr. Meyer.