You’ve heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” Did you know that the foods you consume affect inflammation in your gut? A study was released recently that correlates gut inflammation with major depressive disorder. Most people believe that depression and depressive behaviors are linked solely to neurological issues. While a deficiency in monoamine neurotransmitters may play a role, it cannot be the sole factor that plays into our mental health. Monoamines are a group of neurotransmitters including serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline that affect our ability to process things cognitively, concentrate, and remember past events or conversations. For many years depression has been best understood as a deficiency in serotonin levels because serotonin affects mood, hormone secretion, perception, appetite, and sleep—all of which are disrupted by major depressive behavior. But our minds and body are not separate entities. They are closely linked, so the things we put into our bodies will absolutely impact our minds.
What Does the Research Say?
The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry published a study that was ongoing from 2007-2012 assessing 14,275 men and women. Each participant took the Patient Health Questionnaire that screens for depression and had their blood drawn by researchers. The participants of the study who had depression were found to have 46% higher levels of C-reactive protein (a marker for inflammatory disease) in their blood samples. Researchers drew the conclusion that people with major depressive disorder also have low-grade gut inflammation. Earlier research of this theory gave study participants proinflammatory cytokines and then noted they experienced more symptoms of depression and anxiety. You can probably think back on a time when you had the common cold or flu. Do you remember feeling tired, unable to concentrate, or just generally more depressed? That’s because your body was in a naturally inflamed state trying to fight off the germs. This new study only confirms the link between gut inflammation and depression.
What Does Depression Look Like?
Depression and depressive behaviors look different on each person—in consistency and severity of symptoms. Some people are extremely sad, tearful, or express an emptiness or numbness. Others feel irrationally angry or bothered by small things. Many people with depression express a lack of interest in tasks or activities they once enjoyed, feel a lack of energy, and are crippled by their inability to concentrate. In severe cases, a state of depression clouds their judgment and they seem to only focus on personal mistakes, failures, guilt, often thinking about death—even suicidal thoughts. If you or someone you know has expressed a suicidal thought or attempt, get help immediately.
What Does Food Have to Do With It?
If you are feeling unusually anxious, or are experiencing symptoms of depressive behavior, you may need to make some adjustments to your diet. At the moment, fried chicken with extra fries and a large soda may sound like it will make you feel better, but it may be making things worse. Fried foods, sodas, white flour, pastries, and red meat are all known causes of gut inflammation. If your diet consists largely of these items, it’s time to make a change. Limit your consumption of common “comfort foods” and eat leafy green vegetables, fish, nuts, berries, and tomatoes—foods that are anti-inflammatory. Food does not make you depressed, but it does impact your overall gut health. By adjusting your diet and reducing the inflammation in your gut, you may also prevent depression from taking over.
Don’t wait any longer to take care of your gut. If you want to meet with a GI doctor in Lubbock, TX, who can help you assess your gut health, make an appointment with Sameer Islam today. Let Dr. Islam help you reduce—or avoid—gut inflammation and simultaneously reduce your risk for major depressive disorder.