Depression: The Misunderstood Phenomenon Sweeping the World￼
For people battling depression, or those who have been diagnosed with elevated inflammation markers, this article may provide insight you won’t find elsewhere to embark on a journey to long-term remission.
Depression is a common mental disorder: it’s a leading cause of emotional and physical disability and affects an estimated 280 million people globally from all walks of life, at all ages, in all countries.
Depending on where you are in the world, treatment can consist of therapies and suggestions to change your lifestyle often including better diet and more exercise. Antidepressants however remain the major treatment route.
Yet despite medical experts’ best efforts, depression continues to affect an increasing number of people. In many cases therapies are not accessible or affordable and lifestyle changes can prove difficult to implement without a tailored program and support. And half of people who take antidepressants state that they stop being effective after 18 months.
Long-term treatment for the majority is tricky and success is varied in traditional medicine, though studies show the biological pathways to depression. Effective, natural and long-lasting treatment is available and accessible. It simply just isn’t talked about enough.
It’s vital to remember that depression, while it is a mental disorder, is primarily a physiological condition.
How is Depression Characterised?
We all have times when we feel low and don’t want to get out of bed. Or times of intense sadness due to stress or life events, but full-blown depression is long-lasting and/or recurrent. It is something else!
Perhaps your life has been hijacked by debilitating sadness, pessimism and despondency. You may lack interest in things that you previously found rewarding and enjoyable (anhedonia). Poor concentration, irritability and negative thinking dominate the mind at the least and suicidal ideations set in at its worst. Sleeplessness and tiredness become part of the perpetual cycle of symptoms and cause.
More often than not there are digestive issues going on in a depressed individual who may also be suffering from other diseases.
Detection of Depression
While you don’t need a blood test to determine if you have depression, we can look at the results of blood tests conducted on people with depression and major mental disorders. This helps our analysis with a view to treat it at the source.
What we can see from blood results in afflicted individuals is an increase in immune molecules that mediate a chronic inflammation response, including inflammatory cytokines: interleukin 1 and interleukin 6 as well as acute phase proteins such as C-reactive protein.
To break this down, the C-reactive protein is made by your liver and sent into the bloodstream as a response to inflammation in the body. Normally, you have low levels of C-reactive protein but it runs high when there is a serious infection, disorder or chronic inflammation.
Depression is also measured in the brain by the cerebral spinal fluid (which covers and cushions the brain). Depressed individuals have inflammation in their brain cells, a phenomenon called neuroinflammation.
Studies also show inflammation is elevated in the post-mortem brain samples of depressed people.
There is a Link Between Depression and Chronic Inflammation
This link we call a bidirectional relationship, helping to shine a light on the fact that treatment targeted at reducing inflammation will have an effect on depression.
Complex interactions between social, biological, environment and psychological factors make up the cases of depression. Often we can observe side effects from medication and other conditions. But, vital information must be garnered before attempting long-term treatment.
Whether a case of depression is momentary and mild, or full-blown, it’s important to know if there is depression in your genetics.
The presence of depression in family members combines with a range of factors contributing to chronic inflammation and neuroinflammation to activate your depression, because you have the gene.
Chronic Inflammation Triggers Epigenetics.
Chronic inflammation is like a fire when it comes to depression: once it’s set alight, it stays and even grows unless you make the right choices to consciously deactivate it.
Chronic Inflammation Explained in Brief
Chronic inflammation is a sorely neglected, but a mightily important concept to master when it comes to health.
Inflammation is a natural, healthy bodily response to a foreign pathogen, when for example, we cut ourselves or get a virus. But chronic inflammation arises when there are high levels of inflammation in the body for a significant period of time. This is caused by lifestyle, stress, diet, inflammatory movement and our surroundings.
We can understand chronic inflammation as a dysregulation (impairment) of the immune system and it’s one of the most important markers in disease contribution.
Consider that the immune system has the ability to produce millions of antibodies within a minute. These are designed to fight an innumerable number of different, invading pathogens called antigens and protect our bodies. When our immune system is dysregulated, it makes the body vulnerable to diseases and viruses.
Despite being rarely considered as a contributing factor, people with depression can find a lot of joy by lowering their inflammation which is a huge driver in their symptoms.
Many conditions such as gastrointestinal disorders, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases as well as cancers run alongside depression and can be made worse when it is present. Depression can compound and get even worse as a result of the condition itself.
For example, not eating properly, inactivity or self-medicating with alcohol and drugs can all make depression worse.
An inflammatory lifestyle will ultimately keep inflammation rising in the body. It becomes a perpetual cycle which is difficult to escape.
Chronic inflammation can be seen to trigger depression and depression likewise triggers chronic inflammation.
Antidepressants and Inflammation
It’s common for those battling depression to be given medication which may work at the outset before tapering off after around 18 months.
This can be explained through the lens of chronic inflammation (neuroinflammation in the case of depression) which can cause the medication you are taking to stop working. And when our immunity is impaired through chronic inflammation, this can result in medication resistance for many illnesses.
Treatment for Depression
You can’t change your genes, but you can ‘switch off’ and fight against your genes through diet and lifestyle. It has to be maintained, though.
The single best course of treatment for depression, and at the same reducing inflammation in the blood and the brain, is through the improvement of the gut flora. This is because of the bidirectional link between the gut, your microbiome and brain.
In a nutshell, the gut influences your brain and the brain influences your gut.
It’s the Brain-Gut Connection!
You may be surprised to learn that 60% of neurotransmitters are located in the gastrointestinal tract, at least for adults. They are: serotonin, the happy hormone; melatonin, the sleep hormone; GABA, the reward hormone and dopamine for pleasure and motivation.
All are produced in the gut so long as the digestive system is not impaired. If our digestion is compromised and we are not eating the right food, we are not producing neurotransmitters at the same rate. This affects our mental health result. The link between the brain and gut goes both ways.
There are studies proving gratitude and prayer improves our gut bacteria.
Have you ever wondered why you need the bathroom before an exam? It’s the gut and brain connection. This is the reason why we get butterflies in our stomach when we fall in love!
Strong Immunity Starts in the Gut
Around 70% of your immune cells sit in your digestive system. So, for strong immunity and low inflammation, it’s crucial to have good gut health.
You can improve your gut flora and boost your immunity by:
• eating the right nutrient-dense foods, at the right time
• anti-inflammatory movement (exercise) and maintaining a strong core (the vegas nerve links your spine to the gastrointestinal tract)
• practising neuroplasticity to reset brain connections in order to rewire circuits and reduce cortisol
• Inducing regular and enhanced ‘healing sleep’ through anti-inflammatory eating, moving and neuroplasticity
This is laid out in a very simple way to follow on the Eat Burn Sleep anti-inflammatory platform and helps you treat inflammation in a holistic way. Diet alone cannot fix inflammation.
Chronic Inflammation is Also Linked to Mindset
Studies show those who practise gratitude and positive, optimistic thinking tend to keep their cortisol levels low and are less likely to develop depression.
A wide variety of factors around us which we cannot control can contribute to inflammation. This might be the air we breathe or the quality of water we drink and bathe in. It’s even possible that we are receiving a transdermal absorption of chemicals from the furniture we sit on. All of these can trigger an immune response that increases inflammation.
The best way to combat inflammation is to focus on what we can control: what we eat, how we move and what we think. It’s proven that a holistic, anti-inflammatory lifestyle is a successful long-term treatment for lowering elevated blood inflammation markers. And it’s an effective way to treat depression, anxiety, MMDs and other similar conditions.
It is why Eat Burn Sleep exists.
We can’t change our DNA with our lifestyle, but we can activate or deactivate whatever weak genes we may have inherited. When we lower inflammation, there is less gene expression of the weaker genes.
The good news is that depression, which is an inflammatory condition, where sufferers show elevated inflammation blood markers, can be mitigated by following a holistic anti-inflammatory lifestyle. However, diet alone cannot reduce inflammation. The right movement and the right thoughts are imperative, too, so if you suffer from depression, take steps to strengthen your immunity and lowe the inflammation in your body to treat it, this will also help to reduce or even eliminate a dependence on medication which only increases your risk of developing more chronic inflammation conditions as side effects.