Exposure to chronic constant emotional or physical stress triggers a vicious cycle of inflammation. The stress increases the amount of inflammation that the body generates, and the additional inflammation “feeds” more stress.
Depressed individuals report that they experience high levels of tension and anxiety, fatigue, muscle discomfort, and/or gastrointestinal problems. Often they have a feeling that “something is very wrong”, but they cannot pinpoint what is bothering them.
Individuals suffering from depression often start by visiting physicians that specialize in specific organ systems of the body. For example a neurologist (specialty in the nerves), a gastroenterologist (digestive system), or a psychiatrist (medical doctor) or a psychologist, practitioners specializing in mental disorders. Unfortunately, most of these experts tend to focus on a single part of the body.
Since the human body is a single organism, and all the organ systems are integrated, it might be useful to realize that there is substantial and constant cross talk between all the organ systems of the body. Affect one part of the body and it has a ripple effect on all the other parts of the body.
As an example, when individuals are depressed, their immune cells produce large amounts of inflammatory molecules, pro-inflammatory cytokines, which circulate throughout the body. Since cytokines act in a hormone-like fashion, they affect all parts of the body and the brain.
Treatment Resistant Depression
Over seven million individuals with depression find little or no relief that prescribed antidepressant medications. A significant number of these patients have high levels of inflammatory cytokines, immune messages that result in inflammation. These inflammatory cytokines can interfere with the actions of medications.
Too many individuals are convinced that only prescription medications can make a difference in their depression and anxiety. However, there are certain life style changes that may help them, with their clinician’s approval, decrease their medication.*
(*Note: The following lifestyle changes should only be incorporated after consultation with a qualified health practitioner. If you are on prescription medications, especially for depression or anxiety, DO NOT REDUCE OR STOP ANY MEDICATIONS without consulting with the prescribing health practitioner.)
Some naturally oriented steps that one can take are:
Researchers at Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, found that a brisk 30-minute walk or jog three times a week may be just as effective in relieving major depression as are antidepressant prescription medications. 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…” as were antidepressants.
One reason exercise may be so effective in reducing the inflammatory-depression cycle is that every time a muscle contracts, it releases anti-inflammatory immune cytokines that reduce inflammation and a help to decrease anxiety, and improve mood.
SUNSHINE AND FRESH AIR:
The amount of time subjects are exposed to sunlight is directly related to the amount of a specific inflammatory cytokine they produce, and depressed individuals show differing levels of the cytokine when exposed to light for varying amounts of time.
Moderate exposure to sunshine and fresh air may contribute greatly to feeling less depressed. This may “simply” be because when one is exposed to sunlight, vitamin D is produced by the body.
Vitamin D is more like a “hormone” than a purely nutritional element, since it affects hundreds of genes and is a powerful immune system regulator. Although still not definitively proven, individuals living in temperate areas may find that taking vitamin D3 supplements may prove helpful.
Increase the amount of fresh and colorful fruits and vegetables, beans, fish, and chicken. Limit non-nutritious “foods”, especially fried foods, sweets, sodas (diet or regular!), white rice, and pasta. Eating in a nutritional manner may help the body regulate its daily inflammatory responses.
CONTROL YOUR WEIGHT:
Fat cells, adipose cells, especially those around abdomen produce a wide range of inflammatory cytokines. As the size of the cells decrease, the amount of inflammation that the body produces decreases. Lowering inflammation helps an individual to return to their natural immune homeostasis, their natural immune balance.
OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS FROM FISH OILS:
Studies suggest that daily consumption of omega-3 fatty acids from fish makes a difference in depression. In a recent randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study of shift workers, supplementation with omega-3 was associated with a reduction in high sensitivity C-reactive protein (an inflammatory marker) and depression. In another study of women, the highest intake of omega-3 was associated with a 49% decrease in symptoms of depression. In the latter study, investigators suggested that omega-3 was triggering the production of anti-inflammatory compounds.
RETURN THE BODY TO IMMUNE BALANCE, IMMUNE HOMEOSTASIS:
Inflammation in the body is a normal and desired process that is part of the healing cycle and it is the primary method by which the body defends itself from pathogens. The key to good health is to help the body achieve the right level of inflammation, immune homeostasis. We want the body to produce enough of an inflammatory response to defend itself from pathogens and cancerous cells, but not so much inflammation that healthy tissues are damaged.
Hyperimmune egg has been shown to help the body return to immune homeostasis, immune balance. In a university, double-blind placebo-controlled trial (the gold standard of human trials), subjects consuming hyperimmune egg reported lower levels of moodiness, anger, and hostility. [Med Sci Sports Exer 2009 5:228].
Chronic inflammation, brought about by an over-expression or lack of control of the normal protective mechanisms of the body, has been linked to range of conditions including depression.
Individuals who control inflammatory responses will have a much higher emotional and physical quality of life.