Thanks to my friend Andy for sharing this link to an article from the Guardian, “Is depression a kind of allergic reaction?”, which explores recent research and the views of many scientists who believe that depression is increasingly a result inflammation caused by the body’s immune system.
The labels ‘depression‘ or ‘mental health‘ are still not widely understood or appreciated by many unless they have experienced it themselves or know someone who has had to work through it.
As a nation we don’t view mental health issues very kindly. We are encouraged to ‘pull our socks up’ and ‘just get on with it’. Many think it’s all in the mind – which is exactly where it is, but we’re not making it up. When your mind takes over you know you need to somehow get out of the thinking, the rut, the endless pain of it, but sometimes you can’t, because it just never goes away. There doesn’t seem to be a reason for it often, you look at your life and see all the many things you should be thankful for and achievements you have made and still feel like crap. So what is causing it?
We know that it has something to do with chemicals in the body which affect how our brains and minds function, but what is that reaction was triggered by eating certain foods? What if these reactions were different for everyone and not random at all but caused by food allergies?
I’ve written about this exact subject before because I KNOW that when I have an allergic reaction or an immune response to something my mood just nose-dives. When I have had anaphylaxis there are feelings of impending doom, feelings of guilt; was it my fault? how could I have avoided the reaction? Might I have died if I hadn’t used adrenaline? or would I have been OK anyway even without adrenaline? How serious are these reactions? The not knowing how your body with react on any given day is terrifying and when you are having an anaphylactic reactions things can move incredibly fast, from feeling a little nauseous and wheezy to full blown throat swelling.
Less severe reactions leave my skin swollen, itching and painful it does make sense that I’m going to feel pretty rubbish but it’s more than that. It’s like my whole brain can’t cope, cannot see that this will pass, that I will get better. Instead I go into a complete hole of pain: I don’t eat – not a thing, I’m not even hungry. It’s as if I’m scared of eating anything at all. It’s weird because I usually have a good appetite, though not huge, and eat breakfast, lunch and tea. When I’m reacting to something I don’t want to eat anything. I don’t want to see anyone or do anything. I just want to hide and not take part any more. It’s horrible. Though thankfully infrequent these days now I’ve worked out what foods are causing me problems, when I have a reaction, even though I know how long it usually takes to heal I cannot lift my mood.
I am convinced there is a food connection, for me at least. When I’m eating my processed food free diet (I’m back on it again now) my health just gets better and better. I am happy, productive and want to see my friends, enjoy my work and love getting outside to nature and exercising. When certain food gives me a problem, which can be anything from a swollen burnt allergy face to anaphylaxis, I am the opposite; a miserable, mean minded, slob who is not much fun to be around. A full on anaphylactic attack knocks me out for days, it exhausts me and I don’t feel right for some time. The less severe eczema and stomach problems some of my other allergies give me are delayed reactions which trigger more depressive and lower mood symptoms.
How many doctors seeing a patient presenting with depression discuss their diet and exercise with them? This should be the FIRST thing they talk about and more if not just as important as any medication.
In the article George Slavich, a clinical psychologist at the University of California in Los Angeles, says ““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.”
It discusses how our body’s reactions when we are ill do make us feel awful to force us to stay in bed and recover. If we didn’t have those feeling of lethargy, sickness and boredom, unable to move, get up and get working again we might not heal very well at all. It’s normal, so what if depression, long term and constant for some people, was caused by an allergic reaction – until you address what might be causing it you’ll never start to really feel better. No amount of anti-depressants will ever get to the bottom of the problem, merely mask the symptoms, and have side effects which may also be hard to live with.
So is there any truth in this? Could it help the way we view depression and mental health issues? Are certain foods causing the depression symptoms and how are people supposed to find out about this? Will it help lift the stigma of depression if we admit that it’s a physical reaction to something rather than just a weakness or chemical malfunction in the brain, which we can’t really understand or prove or solve.
The more stressed a person feels, losing sleep, eating badly and sinking into lower moods of anxiety and depression, this affects the immune system.
I am having weekly oxygen therapy at the moment which is proven to help with inflammation and healing so perhaps this is also keeping my body in check; it has certainly had many benefits, not least a reduction in IBS symptoms, nodular prurigo, itching and insomnia. Right after a session I always feel amazing in myself, I have far more energy and feel so much more positive since having oxygen treatment. Could there be a link? Could the reduction in inflammation that the oxygen provides be boosting my immune system and so improving my mood and lessening the chances of depression?
What do you think? Is there a link between depression and allergies and is depression a kind of allergic reaction?