These same cellular mechanisms are also believed to be involved with bipolarism, schizophrenia, some forms of anxiety and probably PTSD.
We now look at the “symptoms” of depression (low mood, fatigue, lack of interest in things pleasurable, altered sleep patterns, decreased appetite, etc.) as the result of actual cellular damage to a specific region of brain. This damage is caused, or at least perpetuated, by metabolic inflammation within the brain itself.
Metabolic inflammation is a chemical form of stress from the immune system. Metabolic inflammation is generally driven by a variety of influences including: nutritional deficiencies, intestinal bacterial overgrowth (evidenced by food or gluten intolerance, constipation, diarrhea), and damage to the Autonomic Nervous System from a physical trauma (sports injury/car wreck, concussion), intense emotional trauma, or childbirth.
If the level of inflammation is not too great the brain begins producing new cells and repairs the area of damage over a few to several months. When people recover from depression, it’s not that they have “gotten over it” but that the brain cell damage and dysfunction have been repaired.
As life events, chronic poor nutrition, subsequent pregnancies, and the triggers of inflammation accumulate and it gets harder for the brain to repair itself. Medications like serotonin-inhibitors do help some people recover. Those drugs boost mood through their serotonin actions but also suppress metabolic inflammation to a level which enables the brain to recover. Counseling and meditation can also reduce inflammation.
But at some point people have so much inflammation that the drugs and therapy don’t help recovery. The long-term solution is found in eliminating the daily things that fuel the inflammation.
You can take the first steps yourself by increasing your omega-3 DHA fatty acids, eliminating omega-6 fatty acids (vegetable oil, fast/processed foods), and consuming less than 100 grams of carbs each day (yes, all carbs count). Additional steps of rebalancing the intestinal tract bacteria and Autonomic Nervous System repair will require the help of a physician.
It works. In the last few years I have individuals with chronic depression of 10+ years in duration and I am seeing significant recovery by reducing their sources of metabolic inflammation. This is a fantastic development which can truly improve the lives of many people.
© 2014. Dr. Patrick M. Nemechek. All Rights Reserved.