For those looking for a way out of depression, recent research offers a totally different approach than is what is being offered by most doctors and psychiatrists. It centers around the findings in a host of new research which suggests that many cases of depression may be physical in nature, rather than rooted in a chemical imbalance or psychological disturbance.
Some 13 million Americans suffer from some form of depression, and some 350 million people worldwide are thought to have it. Typically, medical treatment centers around the restoration of certain chemicals in the brain which are believed to be required for happiness, even though it has already been acknowledged that this link has not been clearly identified.
To understand what imbalance is, we must know what balance looks like, and neuroscience, to date, has not characterized the optimal brain state, nor how to even assess for it.
A New England Journal of Medicine review on Major Depression, stated:
” … numerous studies of norepinephrine and serotonin metabolites in plasma, urine, and cerebrospinal fluid as well as postmortem studies of the brains of patients with depression, have yet to identify the purported deficiency reliably.” [Source]
At issue in the latest research is the body’s immune system, and some now believe the major cause of depression is over-active immunoresponse which causes chronic inflammation in the body. With this understanding, treatment may be much more effective if it revolves around the treatment of chronic inflammation, which may include changes to diet and anti-inflammatory medications.
“The immune system triggers an inflammatory response when it feels it is under threat, sparking wide-ranging changes in the body such as increasing red blood cells, in anticipation that it may need to heal a wound soon.
Research has also shown that people who have suffered severe emotional trauma in their past have inflammatory markers in their body, suggesting their immune system is constantly firing, as if always on guard against abuse.” [Source]
In speaking about the wide-ranging potential causes for depression, Dr Alan Carson, Reader in Neuropsychiatry, at the University of Edinburgh, remarks:
“All psychiatric and neurological disorders are based in brain and brain is not static but structurally and functionally responsive to a range of biological, psychological and social issues.
Yet institutionally we use an outmoded code which separates brain disorders into psychiatric ‘f’ codes and neurological ‘g’ codes which holds back both scientific and clinical progress.” [Source]
This take on depression is not new, however, but is just coming into focus as a number of research papers and new evidence point to the same conclusion. Add to this recent research indicates that consumption of sugar may play a major role in developing depression, and research into the idea that an unhealthy gut microbiota also plays a heavy role, and we have a much more modern and comprehensive understanding of depression.
Dr. Kelly Brogan offers this three-fold advice on recovering from depression:
- Exercise — Depression can result from chronic ongoing stress and exercise acts like a biological insurance plan against the bodily effects of stress. 20 minutes, three times a week or more of anything that gets you sweaty is all that’s needed.
- Diet — Eliminate processed foods, especially sugar and refined carbohydrates which may increase inflammation in the body. Eat plenty of natural foods including fruits and vegetables, pastured animal products and eggs and wild fish.
- Meditate — Meditation stimulates the expression of genes that are powerfully anti-inflammatory. Just ten minutes a day of mindfulness, deep breathing or gratitude journaling can help mood.
Prescriptions for antidepressants continue to rise sharply, especially among women and children, however many of these may be completely unnecessary, while also actually failing to address the real causes of depression. Add to this the side-effects and potential for long-term addiction to antidepressants, and we have a genuine travesty.
If you look at the body, mind and spirit holistically, it’s easy to see that dis-ease in one area negatively affects the other two. We simply cannot have a healthy mind if our body is not functioning properly. With this new look at depression, we may be closer to understanding the link between mind and body.