Category Archives: Depression

Running Is Not Therapy

You’ve heard it a million times. If you’d only exercise, you could fight depression the natural way. Running is my therapy! If I couldn’t run, I’d go nuts. While this sounds appealing, it’s not true. In fact, it’s dangerously misleading.

Yes, any kind of regular exercise gives you a boost in your happy chemicals, but as far as making the difference between you being nuts or not, that’s a far cry from the truth. Running is certainly cheaper than therapy, and it comes with more benefits, but life isn’t that simple. The idea of the old trope I’ve heard of You’ll never need a psychiatrist if you have a good running buddy is not only false, it’s dangerous.

Referring to running as some kind of therapy is one thing. It can still be misleading, but I can see it being a release. Actually saying that you should choose running over professional help if you need it is something else, and it could lead to not getting help when you need it and letting it get worse. It’s much like the Scientologists’ ideas that have led a number of people to go off medications they need. This could lead to suicide, threatening behavior towards others, and various other issues. It’s completely unaware of the facts.

I understand that these people aren’t literally saying choose your running buddy over a psychiatrist if you’re feeling suicidal. But it can easily be taken that way, and it’s another way of saying you’re weak if you can’t take it on your own. And don’t get me wrong, I love running, but it can only do so much. I’ve been there, dependent on the runner’s high until it just wasn’t enough.

For some of us, there is damage running just can’t heal, even if you have the best running buddy in the world. Suggesting that it’s more than that is a disservice to runners and the mentally ill. It trivializes serious problems. When dealing with the truly dark stuff, you shouldn’t be trying to get by with the bare minimum. You should be getting down to the root now before you’re in the hospital after your latest suicide attempt, or worse, you’re dead.

Could We Cure Seasonal Affective Disorder?

There are jokes in many movies about the teacher who has a special lamp and will give you a pass if you tell him you have SAD or other people who try to make up something when it’s convenient and call it SAD. The name is even conducive for jokes. This said, the truth is that it’s hard to get people to accept depression of any kind. Its seasonal nature just makes SAD more complicated, especially when people can say that many of us feel happier in the summer than in the winter.

That’s where we find researchers from the University of Copenhagen. They conducted a recent study on brain scans to look at the science behind SAD, finding that people with SAD cannot control the happy hormone serotonin during winter. Didn’t we already know that?

As lead researcher Dr. Brenda McMahon explains it, The serotonin transporter (SERT) carries serotonin back into the nerve cells where it is not active – so the higher the SERT activity, the lower the activity of serotonin. Sunlight keeps this setting naturally low, but when the nights grow longer during the autumn, the SERT levels increase, resulting in diminishing active serotonin levels.

Researchers were able to look at 11 people with SAD compared to 23 people without SAD. They hope that with more understanding, we will also be able to achieve more hope for better cures. McMahon has found that We know that eating a balanced diet, cutting down on caffeine and getting some exercise can help as can spending as much time as possible outdoors because – even when it’s overcast, light will be higher than indoors.

The study is small, and there are no definitive results or cures. But it is a step in the right direction.

The Best Workout To Boost Your Mood

Okay, so I’m the last person you’ll hear calling running a natural antidepressant. It minimizes the serious problems that possibly millions continue to go through every single day. However, when it comes to exercise and all of the extra endorphins running through your body, the mood boost can be quite noticeable. In fact, according to Swedish researchers, muscle may have inherent properties to protect you from feelings of depression and anxiety.

The researchers gathered rats, finding that the more muscle a rat had, the more of an enzyme called KAT that they also carried. According to Jorge Ruas, PhD, the study’s lead author, it converts kynurenine, which is produced by your body when stressed, into an acid that is unable to pass through the blood-brain barrier. This effectively reduces the toxic effects you might see with KAT, short circuiting the signs of depression and anxiety. The more muscle, the more KAT to fight depression and anxiety. They were able to confirm this with human subjects as well.

Of course, don’t go run out and grab a bunch of steroids. We all know that kind of muscle comes at a cost. With more research, some researchers believe that they may be able to use this knowledge to actually create effective antidepressants and drugs that can better cope with anxiety.

The rats were mainly involved in cardio, but Ruas believes any exercise that increases muscle mass would be just as effective. In short, if you’re feeling a little bit blue, hit the gym or go out to the park. When you’re using other treatments for depression and anxiety, it never hurts to give yourself an extra hand. And of course, for more long term differences, work to address the things that are causing you the stress that would produce harmful chemicals in the first place.

Is Gluten Causing Your Depression?

Gluten, the bane of all of our existences and the cause of all of the health problems we face, or at least that’s what the popular media has told us lately. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley, and it is commonly found in many different foods. The only people who have been confirmed to be harmed by gluten are those who have Celiac disease for example, but yet every celebrity is out there parading around on gluten free diets to lose weight. When people who actually have bad reactions to gluten stop eating it, many end up gaining weight, because their bodies can finally absorb the nutrients.

In those few people (1% of the population) gluten could actually be considered to be downright poisonous. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the gut is destroyed by gluten and its reactions to gluten. Over time, it can lead to weight loss, diarrhea, malnutrition, and it can even lead to death if not treated by cutting out gluten. It can also manifest in neurological issues, skin issues, and arthritis. There are even some who have stopped eating gluten and seemingly stopped suffering from issues like depression, but it depends on the person, and the problem is that 18% (not 1%) of people are buying gluten free food with no diagnosis and no real problems.

In some studies of these types of people who claim they have gluten sensitivities, they didn’t react to foods when they didn’t think they had gluten. They are just spending more money for different packaging with no measurable health benefits, but plenty of extra calories in many of the foods.

There is still of course new research always coming out. Some studies have suggested that patients with IBS do better without gluten. Others have suggested that it’s not the wheat so much as the FODMAPs that were causing the reactions. A commentary in Gastroenterology said: Non-celiac wheat sensitivity is a more appropriate label than non-celiac gluten senstivity. Gluten-free processed foods sometimes contain plenty of FODMAPs, by the way, and FODMAPs are tolerated well by a lot of people, just not by all. IN fact, many FODMAPs are a great source of prebiotics that help keep the gut healthy by providing food for the microbiome in the colon.

In 2014, Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics published a review called, Randomised clinical trial: gluten may cause depression in subjects with non-celiac gluten sensitivity – an exploratory study. In celiac patients, there are sometimes signs of depression and anxiety, but it may apply to non-celiac sufferers as well? One study took non-celiac sufferers who supposedly had a non-celiac gluten sensitivity and gave them gluten bread for 3 days. There was no change in their experience with depression and anxiety. 22 participants were then brought together from another study of self-reported people with non-celiac gluten sensitive patients with irritable bowel. Celiac disease had been ruled out, and they were put on a gluten free diet for 6 weeks with low FODMAP.

They were asked to add certain challenge foods for 3 days, and then they had a washout period between these challenges. They tracked their mental state, gastrointestinal symptoms, and cortisol was independently measured.

In all 3 challenges used, there were no differences in cortisol measurements. There was no difference in gastrointestinal symptoms regardless of which challenge they took first (whey, gluten, or placebo). All participants reported the most gastrointestinal issues in the first challenge, less in the second, and less in the third. In other words, there was no negative effect.

So what happened when it came to the depression? 90% of the final participants reported being more depressed while eating gluten as compared to a placebo, but the differences were not statistically significant. In other words, it is possible that gluten might have an effect on our depression. It doesn’t directly affect the stress hormone cortisol, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have an effect. However, the effect, if it were there, would be seemingly small.

Regardless, one can say that more research is needed. Maybe we shouldn’t write gluten off as a contributing factor (not a giant cause), but there is no conclusive evidence that it really has any effect right now.

What The FDA Isn’t Telling You

Traci Johnson was discovered hung on February 7, 2004 in an Indianapolis laboratory run by Eli Lilly. She had been involved in a clinical drug trial on the antidepressant duloxetine, and investigators from the Food and Drug Administration were there to investigate, coming up with inconclusive results. This left plenty of people wondering, was the drug safe or not?

Was Johnson’s death that one off situation? Now, more recently, researchers have been able to nail down differences between different types of depression from blood and urine test. They have determined that some types actually respond badly to traditional antidepressants, as Johnson did, whereas some others respond well. So what stopped them from looking for the differences before running this test?

Eli Lilly focused on the idea that this was nothing more than an isolated incident, and when any drug company chooses not to publish or reveal these types of results, it leaves the public at large partially uninformed, and in a way, if it is an isolated incident, it protects us from throwing away possibly great drugs because of those one offs.

If you read off the side effects on virtually any common antidepressant, suicide is one of the possible side effects, but only in extreme situations of course. Maybe that’s their way of revealing these types of results in an obscure way. However, the FDA claims their silence is due to the idea that some data in clinical trials is considered trade secrets or commercially protected information. In other words, if somebody dies, they hide behind trade secrets.

To be fair, the same thing can be said about measured effectiveness, and yet it’s different. Because our body chemistry is so different and we respond so differently, it’s difficult, if not impossible to find any antidepressant that is going to be effective for everybody. We’ve all been through our share of failures and side effects in trying to find the right drug.

The market is littered with stories similar to that of Johnson’s. Marketers are afraid, whether or not their product is riskier, and they don’t want you to know about these incidents, and apparently, neither does the FDA.

Eli Lilly officially lists no suicides and 2 deaths among patients who were enrolled in clinical trials for Cymbalta, which actually had suicides documented. The website now lists 10 clinical trials of Cymbalta and 5 for a drug called Yentreve, where they disclose 1 suicide and 5 deaths combined. There are 5 suicides allegedly left out of the FDA results.

Does this mean that you should swear off your antidepressants and never trust another thing your doctor says about FDA approved drugs? Not at all. Frankly, there have been many helped by antidepressants that may not work or even cause problems for others. But it does mean that you should take the FDA’s word with a grain of salt, and if you find yourself having negative side effects or things like suicidal thoughts, take them seriously and listen to yourself.

The Benefits Of Laughter

They always say that laughter is the best medicine, and maybe it is. Experts have continued to prove various benefits of laughter ranging from raising your mood to sharpening your memory in some cases. Sometimes you fake it, and yet it can have all sorts of benefits nobody who hasn’t thought about laughter would imagine.

It Comes Down to the Muscles

Your facial muscles are connected and hardwired to your brain’s emotional centers. When you laugh, it tells your brain to lighten up and create endorphins, which can improve mood and lessen pain according to an Oxford University study. Those who had laughed were able to endure 10% more pain on average in a study when put in an ice-cold arm sleeve than those who had not previously laughed.

Endorphins are responsible for this pain reducing effect. Endorphins have another effect, increasing your levels of dopamine. This increases your pleasure. A Loma Linda University study in California shows that the dopamine produced by laughter can instantly lower your stress and improve your mood.

It has other benefits though that you might not expect. For example, laughter can actually improve your immune function. According to the Loma Linda research, doapmine increases your body’s natural killer cells. New killer cells may sound scary, but they actually help you to fight germs and disease. When the body has low levels of new killer cells, studies have shown that they experience a lower rate of illness and worse outcomes in cancer and HIV.

Laughter Can Fix Your Mind

Loma Linda studies have also shown that laughter could sharpen your memory and improve your higher level cognitive abilities such as planning and lucid thinking for example. Those who watched 20 minutes of entertaining and laughter inducing TV were able to score twice as high on memory tests. They showed similar results when sitting quietly.

What About Fake Laughter?

What happens when you grin and bear it? Fake the laughter? Unless you’re trying to purposefully hide something, your face will betray your feelings. A study from the University of Kansas shows that changing your face and faking it til you make it can actually change your mood. They asked people to hold chopsticks in their mouth, forcing them to smile. When they compared them to people without the chopsticks in their mouths, those who smiled artificially actually had lower stress and better moods.

So yes, next time you’re feeling bad, faking a smile may actually make you feel better, especially if you laugh.

Skinny People Make Fat People Sad

You don’t have to be sad if you’re overweight. I feel like it should be motivating. You should be able to use it to lose weight, or at least diet to get healthier and avoid things like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, but not everyone does. In fact, a lot of people end up eating more, exercising less, and gaining weight, drowning their sorrows in more food. Interestingly though, a recent study has shown that it’s actually being around skinny people that makes fat people more sad. Fat individuals are not necessarily more likely to lose weight or gain weight when they live in more overweight or obese communities, but there is less depression.

Published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, a new study from the University of Colorado-Boulder tracked the three way connection between obesity, life satisfaction, and your location.Obese men and women in the US who live in areas with more obese and overweight people are significantly happier than those in thinner areas. That said, those who are not categorically overweight or obese do not actually see any significant difference in different areas of the country as far as how they feel.

As co-author Philip Pendergast puts it, This illustrates the importance of looking like the people around you when it comes to satisfaction with life. You may have noticed this when it comes to race as well. The first ideas of this came from Leon Festinger, who first brought up the idea of social comparison theory in 1954.

Researchers did this by gathering 1.3 million adults across the country. They rated their happiness levels, and then they were put over an obeso-meter by county. Researchers write, Where obesity is more common, there is less difference among obese, severely obese, and non-obese individuals’ life satisfaction, but where obesity is less common, the difference in life satisfaction between the obese (including the severely obese) and non-obese is greater. In that light, obesity in and of itself does not appear to be the main reason obese individuals tend to be less satisfied with their lives than their non-obese peers. Instead, it appears to be society’s response to or stigmatization of those that are different from what is seen as normal that drives this relationship.

In short, the fat cells are not releasing depression chemicals into your bloodstream. If you are sad and overweight or obese, it has more to do with your neighbors, where you live. It has more to do with keeping up with the Joneses. It’s due to feelings of inadequacy brought on by constantly comparing yourself to others. According to the studies, women seem to suffer more of this problem than men as well, which really isn’t all that surprising.