Depression is epidemic in our society, and the mainstream solution is a trip to the psychiatrist and an indefinite prescription for pharmaceuticals. Dependent on psychotropic drugs to get by is no way to live, and in the search for happiness, both individuals, doctors and scientists alike are beginning to crack the code of depression, and to question if the pharmacutical solution even works.
George Slavich, a clinical psychologist at the University of California in Los Angeles, has for decades been working to learn more about how our bodies and our minds work, or don’t work, together to regulate the emotional system and mood. His findings have led him to the conclusion that depression is not a condition that is isolated in the mind, and that the body may play a primary role in causing or preventing depression.
“I don’t even talk about it as a psychiatric condition any more. It does involve psychology, but it also involves equal parts of biology and physical health.” –George Slavich
Is Depression All in the Mind?
A simple observation about life has formed the foundation of his conclusions, and that is, ‘everyone feels miserable when they are ill.‘ Labeled ‘sickness behavior,’ the common symptoms of feeling tired, irritable, bored, fed up, and not wanting to move, these symptoms looked a lot like depression to Slavich, who wondered if there might be a common cause for these symptoms for both people who are ill, and for people who are suffering from depression.
“The answer to that seems to be yes, and the best candidate so far is inflammation – a part of the immune system that acts as a burglar alarm to close wounds and call other parts of the immune system into action. A family of proteins called cytokines sets off inflammation in the body, and switches the brain into sickness mode.” [Source]
If this is true, and there is mounting evidence to support his theory, then, treating depression with foods that fight inflammation may very well be far more effective in treating anxiety and depression than expensive addictions to dangerous pharmaceuticals, many of which have been linked to terrible side-effects such as suicide and even psychotic rages that spur violent episodes such as school and public mass shootings.
“Both cytokines and inflammation have been shown to rocket during depressive episodes, and – in people with bipolar – to drop off in periods of remission. Healthy people can also be temporarily put into a depressed, anxious state when given a vaccine that causes a spike in inflammation. Brain imaging studies of people injected with a typhoid vaccine found that this might be down to changes in the parts of the brain that process reward and punishment.
If cytokines and inflammation are seen to rise dramatically during depressive episodes, then it may very well be that this is a crucial piece in understanding these emotional conditions and why the mind simply cannot seize control over thought processes and force itself to feel happy. The next question then becomes, ‘what is causing such serious inflammation in the first place?’
Interestingly, researcher Turhan Canli of Stony Brook University in New York believes that the source of inflammation is related to infections, and he thinks we should consider re-labeling depression as an infectious, although not contagious, disease, instead of a mental disorder.
He may be onto something, but other researchers have pointed out that infection is not the only way for inflammation to set in, and that foods and foods ant toxic environmental agents may play a role.
“A diet rich in trans fats and sugar has been shown to promote inflammation, while a healthy one full of fruit, veg and oily fish helps keep it at bay. Obesity is another risk factor, probably because body fat, particularly around the belly, stores large quantities of cytokines.” [Soure]
To support this theory, several clinical trials have so far found that antidepressants when supplemented with anti-inflammatory medicines both improve symptoms and increases the likelihood that a patient will respond to treatment. Two supplements that show tremendous promise for naturally fighting inflammation are curcurmin, an extract of the potent rhizome turmeric, and omega3 fatty acids, both of which are commonly available over-the-counter.
If this really is the key to unlocking depression, then the best solution, both to prevent it and to fight it if it becomes a health problem, might very well be food instead of antidepressants. This gives individuals much more control over their health, but will the corrupt pharmaceutical industry allow food to be presented as an alternative to their medications?