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People commonly associate inflammation with arthritis, back pain, or acute injuries but rarely with depression. However, you will find that it plays a crucial role in our success as depression fighters.
Mental illness warriors know that depression is rarely just brain chemistry. It’s often a systemic situation, that affects the entire body. And many practitioners now agree. They use diet and lifestyle to successfully treat anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues in their patients.
You may not know that the goal at the core of these dietary changes is to reduce inflammation and any recommended diet for better mental health comes from this core principle.
Dictionary.com defines inflammation as, ‘redness, swelling, pain, tenderness, heat, and disturbed function of an area of the body, especially as a reaction of tissues to injurious agents.’
Your body reacts to something that’s caused it harm by creating inflammation, which acts as a protective mechanism by both calling attention to the injury and blocking it off with swelling.
But what happens when the injury becomes chronic and systemic? The body can no longer ‘block it off.’ With something like depression, it’s usually a situation where minor inflammation has built up over time, thus manifesting a significant impact on the body overall (including the brain).
This study from the National Institute of Health is just one of many that prove the connection between inflammation and depression. It demonstrates that people with depression had 46% higher blood levels of C-reactive protein. CRP is a marker used to measure inflammation in the body. This revelation also supports the fact that people with a chronic illness, which has an inflammatory component, experience higher levels of depression than otherwise healthy people.
The most forward-thinking practitioners and researchers are bridging depression and psychoneuroimmunology. Meaning that depression is a systemic issue, resulting from (and affecting), the psychological, neurological, and immunological systems of the body. Put another way; everything is involved.
Any of the following can contribute to low-grade inflammation in the brain and body:
● poor immune function
● leaky gut
● nutritional deficiency
● unprocessed emotions
● poor diet
● blood sugar problems
● food sensitivities and intolerances
● chronic infection
● chronic illness
● thyroid imbalance
● adrenal issues
● environmental factors and toxins
● hormonal imbalances
There’s plenty of evidence supporting the crucial link between gut inflammation/imbalance and mental health. Experts estimate that the gut makes about 90% of the body’s serotonin, created by the microbes that live there. Over the last few years, gut health has emerged as the cornerstone of a healthy body and mind.
There are many things in our world today that make it challenging to have healthy gut flora. Unhealthy foods, antibiotic overuse, and environmental toxins are all significant challenges. Thankfully we also have many tools and resources to help us heal our compromised guts.
Limit (or eliminate) Inflammatory Foods – We know the foods that aren’t the best choice. Still, sometimes we’re on autopilot and don’t pay much attention to how they make us feel, or we just crave them and give in to temptation. If this is a struggle, try working with an Eating Psychology Practitioner. These specialists are uniquely trained to help heal challenging relationships with food.
Some of the foods to avoid include gluten, dairy, alcohol, refined vegetable oils, white flour, sugar, and foods that trigger sensitivities or allergies.
Supplements – There are some excellent supplements out on the market that can help reduce inflammation. Some all-stars include turmeric, fish oil, and CBD oil.
Exercise – We all know we need to do it, but feeling depressed makes working out so much harder. Any small amount of exercise matters and it all adds up. Even a 10-minute walk is a significant gift to the body and mind.
Breathe – Don’t forget to breathe. When we’re anxious, we inhale from the top of our chest. Try doing it another way. A few deep breaths into the belly makes a very noticeable difference.
Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong – These are some of the best stress relief and happy-feeling producers out there. The best part, they’re gentle; so, when you’re already feeling taxed, these should invigorate, not further deplete.
Community – Community is so crucial to our survival and thriving as humans that it’s a must in any healing program. We are not meant to be alone on an island. That’s why we created Sad Runner, to connect people with others experiencing the same challenges. We’re all here to support and encourage each other toward better, healthier lives.
There are many ways to combat and reduce inflammation in the body. Improvement can happen even by making small dietary and lifestyle changes. Some other resources to learn more about healing the gut are chriskresser.com and kellybroganmd.com. Both practitioners use diet and lifestyle changes to alleviate mental health and chronic health issues.
Finally, remove the guilt and shame. You can’t undo whatever poor lifestyle choices you made in the past. Tomorrow is a new day. None of us are flawless; we’re all imperfect. But getting back up and trying again is half the battle.