The longer I practice medicine, the more I appreciate first-hand how mental, emotional and physical health overlap, much more than we commonly recognize in our society.
There is a connection between physical pain and deep sadness that can result in depression, many people ignore their physical pains such as toothaches, headache or stomach pain but for every pain a solution Mexico Dental, neurologist or gastroenterologist, cure those little things that lower your spirits makes your sadness diminish.
Unfortunately, our mental and emotional health is not in a good place now. My impression is that in this era of increasing digital “connection”, compulsively watching television, and the use of smartphones 24 hours a day, loneliness and depression are little discussed but dominant epidemics.
My impression reflects what the main polls have been telling us for years:
11% of all Americans over the age of 12 are taking antidepressants.
23% of all women between 40 and 69 years of age take antidepressants.
Antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed medication for Americans 18 to 44 years old.
I return to my general observation: this is not just feelings. This is physical.
Those who are depressed are more likely to be obese and, as the depression becomes more severe, the prevalence of obesity increases.
And how does this work? We can all intuitively understand that if you feel depressed, you may not make the best decisions. You can “eat your feelings,” as they say, essentially trying to medicate your anger, loneliness, stress and depression. It is an effort to buffer these feelings with the main addictive drugs of our society: hyperpalatable foods. We know that these foods, mainly sugar and fat, trigger the metabolic pathways involved in feelings of happiness, including our metabolic pathways of dopamine and serotonin. So if you’re low on serotonin (as we know it can happen during depressive episodes), why not try to fill the serotonin deficit with a tasty jam donut, or maybe three or four?
But think of causality in the other direction. What I want to say is this: What if it’s not just that depression causes bad choices about food and lifestyle? What happens if bad choices about food and lifestyle are actually a cause of depression?
We know, for example, that obese people have suppressed the metabolic pathways of dopamine. The more obese they are, the more limited their dopamine receptors. This means that they need more encouragement (food, etc.) to get the wave of dopamine that plays a role in what we might call satisfaction. And now we know, through animal experiments.
In a study of older adults without depression followed for more than seven years in Chicago, those who adhered to a more plant-based Mediterranean diet (more fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, legumes, fish and olive oil and fewer meats) and high-fat dairy products) had lower rates of new depressive symptoms, which was a finding similar to that of a study in Spain.
We know that the metabolic syndrome and various psychological disorders often occur together, and that they share common characteristics such as increased levels of chronic inflammation and dysregulated hormonal systems. Food and lifestyle affect intermediate mechanisms such as inflammation and our hormonal balance.