Depression is the leading disability in the U.S. and around the world. According to data from 2016, over 16 million adult Americans had at least one depressive episode within the last year. It’s estimated that up to 322 million people suffer from this mental illness worldwide. Despite such widespread suffering, treatments for this disorder haven’t been able to reverse the damage it has caused across all regions, genders, and backgrounds.
What is clear is that depression does more than affect mood. There is more going on than just being sad. This illness touches multiple areas of life. Here we will examine how depression affects the body and specifically, body weight and offer some tips that may lead to depression recovery
Why do I struggle with Depression and how is this linked to my health?
While genetics can play a role in the onset of depression, developing depression is usually far more complicated than one factor. For many years the three-way link between depression, sleep disturbances, and obesity has been described.
In fact in some cases successfully reversing one of these three items can improve the other two. The Nedley multi-hit depression hypothesis has now identified ten cause categories and usually, a hit from multiple categories is required to produce the clinical diagnosis of depression. So, genetics alone usually will not result in depression. The ten cause categories identified include: 1) genetic, 2) developmental, 3) lifestyle, 4) circadian rhythm, 5) addiction, 6) nutrition, 7) toxic, 8) social/complicated grief, 9) medical conditions, and 10) frontal brain lobe damage.
Because multiple hits are required to cause depression, a broad whole person approach has also been shown to be an optimal treatment approach for truly recovering from this condition.
What Is The Link Between Depression And The Body?
Many people think of the crushing emotional and psychological effects of this mental illness. Although the mental anguish depression causes can be severe, even life-threatening, the illness is at its root is a brain chemistry disorder. It can invade all areas of brain function and can lead to a wide range of physical complications and illnesses.
Physical Symptoms of Depression
Roughly two-thirds of depression sufferers report feeling aches and pains throughout their bodies. Other symptoms include chronic fatigue, insomnia, and lack of sex drive. The neurotransmitter serotonin is the brain’s natural pain reliever and imbalances in serotonin may also lead to depression. If the brain is being affected by depression, it may be mismanaging serotonin balances, which in turn lowers the ability to withstand pain. Back pain and headaches are commonly reported in people with depression and serotonin plays pivotal roles in sleep wellness and libido.
One study showed that insomnia, chronic fatigue, and anxiety over health are key indicators of this illness in older adults.
Depression also increases the risk of diseases. It is linked to higher quantities of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. While there are clear uses for these substances, having them run at increased levels causes more harm than good. Depression lowers the body’s ability to fight off infections and there is a connection to heart disease and substance abuse.
How Does Depression Affect Weight?
While suffering from depression won’t in and of itself affect your weight, the disorder does have strong links to appetite. For some, the disorder drastically lowers their appetite and they might not eat for long periods, causing them to lose weight. For others, they might have an increased appetite as food could temporarily soothe their depression. In either case, uncontrolled weight fluctuations are serious health hazards when tied to depression.
A sudden increase or decrease in weight could be an early sign of this disorder, according to medical experts. When a depression sufferer turns to food, it is known as ‘emotional eating.’ The feelings of worthlessness, sadness, and despair cause people to overeat or indulge in sweets, fats, and junk food as a coping mechanism. When emotional eating occurs, it is not regulated by normal physiological hunger. Rather the malfunctioning brain is attempting to counterbalance feelings of despair by stimulating appetite pleasure centers in the brain. The apathy and lack of motivation that often comes with depression can make increased weight harder to lose.
Although many people associate this disorder with eating a lot, loss of appetite can be just as common. Changes in appetite are related to other depression symptoms like lack of sleep and the enjoyment of hobbies. Some people might stop preparing meals or eating out with friends simply because they lack the energy and interest in doing so. Some sufferers might feel nauseated by the sight or smell of food. Furthermore, increased levels of serotonin have been strongly linked to loss of appetite, causing sufferers to lose weight.
What Are Ways To Maintain A Healthy Weight With Depression?
Managing a healthy weight balance while combating the other effects of depression may sound like yet another burden to worry about but it can be invaluable to your overall health. Here are a few ways:
Strong evidence indicates that maintaining a regular diet not only prevents fluctuations in weight but may also help manage depression. A plant-based whole foods diet is a key component in overcoming the nutritional hit of depression–thereby reducing the risk of depression and even reversing active depression.
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as flax and chia seeds are linked to high overall brain function and mental health. Additionally, eating whole grains that are rich in a diversity of B vitamins such as B12 and B6 can positively affect mood. It’s also important to note that tryptophan is a precursor needed for serotonin production in your brain.
Plant sources rich in tryptophan such as squash seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds drive higher serotonin levels in the brain because carbohydrates preferentially drive tryptophan into the brain. Turkey, which is also rich in tryptophan, is deficient in carbohydrates leading to lower brain tryptophan levels.
Any physical activity, preferably outside, can have enormous benefits for your weight and managing depression. This can be difficult with Coronavirus still prevalent, but even going for a walk or hike outside can be effective.
Exercise not only burns fat, but it also increases the production of endorphins and brain growth factors. These neurotransmitters naturally inhibit pain receptors, enhance brain performance, and stabilize the mood. They’re a naturally occurring antidepressant, and getting half an hour of exercise, three to five days each week, can reduce stress, improve mood, boost self-esteem, and make for better sleep. Exercise is as effective as anti-depressant medications in some studies.
If your depression has caused you to gain weight due to an increased appetite, there could be a way to treat both weight gain and depression together. Bupropion is an antidepressant that is associated with moderate long-term weight loss among non-smokers, according to research.
All other antidepressants have been associated with weight gain in clinical studies, making them an option for those who have lost weight because of a decreased appetite.
No Matter How Your Depression Has Affected Your Weight, LiveNew Is Here For You
It’s an enormous point of pride for us to be a health and wellness resource for everyone who visits our site. We believe that prevention is the best cure and the best way to prevent is to educate. Because of this, we not only specialize in comprehensive obesity treatments, but we also host a Nedley community-based depression recovery seminar.
If you’re suffering from depression, we hope that this blog has been helpful to you and that it has provided value in how you can live a better life.
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