Inflammation and depression


I’ve had a frustrating week this week, with unexplained bloating and water retention: with no change in my diet, I’ve managed to put on 3 llbs, which is usually a sign of something going awry. I often wonder about the bloating reaction, and its relationship to inflammation in the body. There seems to be some kind of a web of relationships between the over-stimulation of the immune system, fluid retention, aches and pains in the muscles, and maybe even low mood and depression. I recently heard piece on BBC4 radio, on a programme called All In The Mind, which discussed a possible link between auto-immune disorders and depression (broadcast on 29 May 2012 and still available on the BBC iPlayer). The research suggested that people with auto-immune diseases suffered disproportionately from depression, and that this could be linked to the amount of inflammation in their bodies.

I found this fascinating, because my reaction to my trigger foods includes low mood, as well as the physical symptoms. And the change in mood can happen suddenly, within 15 minutes or so of eating something I shouldn’t. I can’t help wondering whether my body’s inflammatory reaction to certain foods also has an effect on how I’m feeling emotionally. For example, a couple of weeks ago I decided to treat the children to some microwave popcorn. They had never seen popcorn popping before, and we gathered around the microwave together like we were getting ready to watch a TV show! They loved hearing the mini-explosions, and when I opened the bag, the smell was so enticing – hot and salty and sweet all at once. So I decided to take a risk and eat a few handfuls.

They were delicious, but within minutes I started to tremble slightly, and my heart-rate increased. I had also forgotten about the instant effect on my energy levels. It’s like I’m having an internal “brown-out”, and everything suddenly feels like it’s a huge effort. But I also became aware of a creeping feeling of unease, like there was something I should be worrying about. Minutes earlier my mood had been “normal”, but now the world was slightly “off”, and I felt like sitting down and feeling sorry for myself. I’ve always assumed that the low moods I experienced when my symptoms were at their worst were related to the frustration of my situation, and the constant stress of poor health. It’s so hard to separate that kind of (completely understandable) depression from something which may be caused, or encouraged, by a physical reaction to a substance. However, if I needed any more incentive to stay away from my trigger foods, this theory has certainly provided it!

About Sam Gulbis Bishop

Twenty years ago, I left for a year's travelling in Europe, carrying a single backpack. Now I'm back in Melbourne with a husband, two kids, and a shipping container full of furniture. This blog is about finding a job, finding a home, and finding myself a foreigner in my own country.

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