A poor diet, concurrent with stress (stress can include depression) combine to create even worse conditions than either one would create on its own. A poor diet plus stress is not merely additive in its negative impact on depression. A part of the reason for that is that stress creates an even poorer metabolic response to unhealthy meals than you would normally have if you weren’t depressed.
Your food choices are important
Your food choices are important! They affect your moods in addition to affecting inflammation and the activity of the vagus nerve, the long nerve that extends from the brain throughout some of the body. And vagus nerve activity also turns around to affect inflammation. Here the effect is good: stimulating the vagus nerve can decrease inflammation. Stimulating the vagus nerve also helps relieve depression. The vagus nerve is also involved in the healthy digestion, absorption and metabolism of nutrients1…which in turn further influence inflammation, and depression. If you aren’t already dizzy from reading this paragraph, you are seeing that the connections here are incredibly multilayered.
Gut health is central to your overall level of inflammation
Here are yet more layers: your gut health is absolutely central to your overall level of inflammation. Not only is there a correlation between depression and gastrointestinal inflammation, but an increasing number of clinical studies point to the usefulness of probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and the B vitamins in the treatment of inflammation for the body, for the brain, and for depression.2
Inflammation and depression are linked
To sum up, inflammation and depression are inextricably related. Inflammation also appears to underlie a whole host of other disorders. As far as your health goes, it may be that inflammation is not just one of many risk factors—it may be that it is the one risk factor that underlies all the others.
Don’t leave the body out of your depression treatment plan
At this point it should be clear to you that treating depression is best done by using the body in addition to the mind. Leaving the body out of any depression treatment plan simply goes against the empirical evidence. Understanding the pervasive impact of the body on depression can be incredibly hopeful to folks who struggle. Rather than relying on medication that may not be helpful, and comes with a number of unwanted side effects, you can have a great deal more power over your mental health by Fixing your physiological health.
1. Kiecolt-Glaser JK.Stress, food, and inflammation: psychoneuroimmunology and nutrition at the cutting edge.Psychosom Med. 2010 May;72(4):365-9. Epub 2010 Apr 21.
2. Feher J, Jovacs I, Balacco G. Role of gastrointestinal inflammations in the development and treatment of depression. Orv Hetil. 2011 Sep 11;152(37):1477-85.