Today’s Wall Street Journal* reports on comments by Dr. Barbara Schildkrout, a psychiatrist at Harvard, stating that there are over “100 medical disorders [that] can masquerade as psychological conditions”. Some of these conditions are lupus, heart disease, thyroid, dementia, Parkinson’s, diabetes, and Lyme Disease. The article goes on to quote Gary Kennedy, Director of Geriatric Psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, NY : “[d]epression predicts heart disease and heart disease predictsdepression”.
We know that much of heart disease stems from excessive inflammatory responses by the body. The science also suggests that excessive inflammation, an immune disorder, leads to depression and vice versa. People who are depressed have higher levels of specific immune inflammatory molecules (cytokines), than individuals that are more emotionally stable. Cytokine production results in inflammation that affects and even damage brain cells (which adds to the emotional distress). That is why immune homeostasis is so essential.
Unfortunately, too many individuals are convinced that only prescription medications can make a difference in their depression and anxiety.**
There are however, some powerful life style changes that one can make which will affect emotional health. For example:
EXERCISE: Researchers at Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, report that a brisk 30-minute walk, or jog three times a week, may be just as effective in relieving major depression as antidepressant prescription medications. In the study, patients were assigned to
three groups: antidepressant medications only, exercise only, or a combination of both medication and exercise. The scientists found that the exercise by itself was just as effective as medication, and “was equally effective in reducing depression…”.
One reason exercise may be effective in reducing the inflammation-depression cycle is that every time a muscle contracts, it releases anti-inflammatory immune cytokines that reduce inflammation and at the same time help to decrease anxiety, and improve mood.
SUNSHINE AND FRESH AIR: Moderate exposure to sunshine and fresh air may contribute greatly to feeling less depressed. This may “simply” be due to the fact that one is exposed to sunlight which then triggers the production of the vitamin D by the body.
Although controversial, adding vitamin D to one’s diet may help with moodiness since Vitamin D is more like a “hormone” than a nutritional element. Vitamin D affects hundreds of genes, and is a powerful immune system regulator.
**Note: Do not reduce or stop ANY prescription medications without consulting with the health practitioner that prescribed them. You might however, after consultation with a qualified health practitioner, wish to discuss incorporating new lifestyle changes into your daily regimen.