Postpartum Excess Substance P Release
Substance P is the main way your body processes pain and intense stress. Under routine stress, your body simply turns up the volume knob on nerve activity and energy production and when the stress is over everything is supposed to recover. Substance P is not used as a basic coping mechanism for low-grade stress. However, extra substance P kicks in when stress or pain is more intense -- such as during the birth of your child.
If you have a good history with mood and stress management, a lack of previous traumas and pain, if you are fit entering
The simultaneous release of endorphins and oxytocin during the birth process are the natural counter-balancing agents for substance P. These natural pain killers are difficult to release in adequate amounts if you are worn down and nerves are depleted of energy. This can leave substance P levels too high in the days following birth, especially if your health history has earlier problems relating to substance P.
Because substance P is also processed in your brain stem, it cross talks to the glial cells of your brain in turn interfering with thyroid function, stress hormones (the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis), as well as directly mucking up the flow of neurotransmitters -- all three factors can be significant mood challenges.
You can tell when a substance P problem is ramping up because anxiety levels increase, sleep is disturbed even though you are really tired, and you generally start feeling like a cat on a hot tin roof.
The extremely vulnerable time for initial substance P problems is within the first two weeks of delivery -- the critical recovery time from the pain and wear of giving birth. During this time nerves are often the most "raw feeling." Nature's remedy for this is breastfeeding, which sustains the release in the mother of both endorphins and oxytocin.
Nutrients can be quite helpful. The natural brakes on substance P release in the brain stem are regulated by magnesium and glycine. I use a combination of both in a product called RelaxaMag™ to help sleep (2-3 can be taken before bed). When this natural braking system is taxed then histamine is released in the brain stem, setting into motion the excessive substance P flare up. The release of histamine further stimulates the release of substance P -- causing the problem to lock in place. Natural antihistamines taken during the day, such as Quercetin, are quite helpful.*
It is important to discharge substance P during the day so that so much of it isn't there at night. Nerves will not sleep properly when excess substance P is irritating them, setting progressive fatigue into motion.
The best combination of nutrients I have found to help discharge substance P is Quercetin, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, and Calcium AEP. Up to two of each can be taken three or four times during the day, generally at meals. This can work quite rapidly to help nerves settle down and mood stabilize.*