Have you ever noticed that when you are stressed or depressed that you hurt more? Maybe you have noticed that you are more sore in your muscles or joints on down days and it is harder to get going when compared with days where you are happy and full of life? Similarly, on the other side of that coin, when inflammation has gotten so bad that you are living a life full of pain you may notice right away that depression and other mental health issues are starting to sink in.
So not only are you in pain and struggling to function but you are also struggling on a mental and emotional level as well. Scientists from Rice University, and Ohio State University, recently found that chronic inflammation which is carried in your bloodstream can ‘fan the flames’ of your depression making it much harder to function.
The article ‘Inflammation: Depression Fans the Flames and Feasts on the Heat’ was published by the group in the American Journal of Psychiatry. This article combined research from 200 different published studies on both inflammation and depression.
“In the health area of psychology at Rice, we’re very focused on the intersection of health behavior, psychology and medicine,” said assistant professor of psychology Christopher Fagundes. “One thing that we’re particularly interested in is how stress affects the immune system, which in turn affects diseases and mental health outcomes, the focus of this paper.”
So not only does inflammation exacerbate many common physical health issues such as diabetes and cancer but now we have found that is has major links in depression and mental health as well. The researchers found that patients who struggled with depression would often find 50% higher levels of CRP and IL-6 which are two main markers of inflammation in the blood stream.
Fagundes reported that chronic inflammation was most common in people who have high-stress lives such as those who live in lower socio-economic states, or who have endured abuse or neglect as children. So in other words, a person’s physical pain can come from years of struggling to survive and thrive in this world.
“Previous research shows that individuals who have socio-economic issues or had problems in their early lives are already at higher risk for mental issues because of these stresses in their lives,” Fagundes said. “As a result, they often experience a higher occurrence of chronic inflammation, which we have linked to depression.”
When an area of your body turns red after an injury or when you are sick, this is a normal inflammatory response.
“This is your immune system working to kill that pathogen, which is a good thing,” Fagundes said. “However, many individuals exhibit persistent systemic inflammation, which we’re finding is really the root of all physical and mental diseases. Stress, as well as poor diet and bad health behaviors, enhances inflammation.”
While society works to fix the issues with poverty, abuse and neglect there is one area that we can work on which is our body mass index. Inflammation is also linked to consuming fatty foods.
In addition, to society offering children an empowering and strong support system early in life we need to help people deal with their stress in order to reduce and avoid the inflammation that is so key in physical and mental disease.
The researchers also found that this particular depression which is caused by chronic inflammation is resistant to traditional therapy. In other words, the depression pills and therapy of the western world is extremely ineffective at helping someone heal from this particular type of depression and inflammation.
Alternative Treatments can help
Researchers found that alternative treatments such as meditation, exercise, yoga, and NSAIDS can help relieve patients. NSAIDS shouldn’t be taken over long periods of time since they cause harm your stomach and liver. In the beginning, try supplementing your pain reliever with natural anti-inflammatory spices such as turmeric, ginger, clove, and rosemary.
Fagundes hopes that the research being done now will prevent many health issues both mentally and physically moving forward.
“We still have a lot to learn about how inflammation impacts depression, but we are making progress,” he said “We hope one day this work will lead to new treatments that are part of standard psychiatric care.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT
Almudena Sanchez-Villegas from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria did another study which found that eating a healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet which is full of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and low in processed meats can help prevent depression.
His large study of 15,093 people found that depression could be strongly linked with our choices in food.
“We wanted to understand what role nutrition plays in mental health, as we believe certain dietary patterns could protect our minds. These diets are all associated with physical health benefits and now we find that they could have a positive effect on our mental health.”
According to the Harvard Health Educational program here are some of the best foods to eat in order to reduce your depression and inflammation as well as which foods you should avoid.