Inflammation is now recognized as an underlying basis of a significant number of chronic diseases. Although there is still much more to understand, we have sufficient information presently to make the necessary changes in our lifestyles to significantly affect the inflammatory process and potentially live longer, healthier lives.
The relationship between inflammation, pain and depression has been explored in multiple studies. Studies have found a significant relationship between inflammation, pain and depression in patients with Rheumatoid arthritis. Recently, a Japanese study found that C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation, was associated with elevated depression and pain scores; inflammation and depression were found to have an independent effect on patient-reported pain.
The Arthritis Society estimates that about 300,000 Canadians have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Although it can affect people of all ages, it most commonly develops between the ages of 25 and 50. Twice as many women than men will develop the disease. Rheumatoid Arthritis is a chronic disease that is characterized by an inflammation in the lining of the joints, resulting in damage to cartilage, bones, tendons and ligaments. This in turn can lead to permanent joint deformity and significant disability.
By 2020, depressive disorders are projected to be the 2nd leading cause of worldwide disability. Currently there are studies indicating that inflammatory changes in the brain are pathological features of depression. Several cytokines (hormones of the immune system) and markers of inflammation (C-reactive protein, interleukin 1 and 6) were positively correlated with depression. Cytokines seem to trigger a quick onset of what is called 'sickness behavior'-meaning malaise and fatigue, as well as a delayed onset of depressed mood. Just as the body's repair mechanisms for physical injury can sometimes result in chronic pain and inflammation, so too can the response to psychological trauma, resulting in chronic depression.
Is inflammation playing a possible role in your depression?
Ask yourself these questions:
Do I have a physical sense of 'brain fog'?
Do I have a recent reduction in short term memory?
Do I have trouble finding words?
Do I sometimes feel confused?
Do I have learning disabilities, or neurodegenerative disorders?
Do I feel that if I had plenty of energy my depression would be gone?
Do I have a lot of pain?
Do I have gastrointestinal problems?
Inflammation can serve an important physiological purpose, i.e. healing cuts and wounds but when inflammation persists it damages the body and causes illness. Stress, lack of exercise, exposure to toxins and dietary choices can all contribute to chronic inflammation. Learning how specific triggers including food influence the inflammatory process is the best strategy for reducing long-term diseases such as arthritis and depression.
Tips for an anti-inflammatory diet:
Include as much fresh organic food as possible
Minimize your consumption of processed foods and fast food
Eat an abundance of fruits and vegetable
Eat more whole grains
Eat more beans, winter squashes, and sweet potatoes
Cook whole grain pasta al dente and eat it in moderation
Avoid products made with high fructose corn syrup.
Eat omega-3 fatty acids rich foods i.e. salmon, sardines, herring, omega-3 fortified eggs; hemp seeds and flaxseeds.
Decrease your consumption of animal protein except for fish and high quality natural cheese and yogurt.
Eat more vegetable protein, especially from beans in general and soybeans in particular
Eat cruciferous (cabbage-family) vegetables
Include soy foods in your diet
Drink tea instead of coffee, especially good quality white, green or oolong tea
If you drink alcohol, use red wine
Enjoy plain dark chocolate in moderation (with a minimum cocoa content of 70 percent)
Drink pure water, or drinks that are mostly water (tea, very diluted fruit juice, sparkling water with lemon) throughout the day