Mind Body Connection: Depression
The mind body connection never ceases to amaze me. The ties that bind the two are incredibly strong, and everyday, emerging science shows how powerful an affect they can have on each other – altering our health, our general outlook, our attitudes, our happiness.
Physical and social pain share much the same neural circuitry a study in the journal Proceedings of The National Academy Of Sciences, has shown. Our brains make no distinction between a verbal or a physical insult. Nathan DeWall is a University of Kentucky psychologist and a researcher in this young field, has found that in the evolution of the brain, it has economically allocated resources to deal with this issue. Instead of creating an entirely new system to respond to social hurt, the brain has piggybacked the system for emotional pain onto that for physical pain.
This dual role of the brain’s pain network offers a powerful example of the connection between mind and body and helps explain how emotional distress can make us sick and human kindness sustains us in health. It also may shed light on why depression, a sort of emotional pain disorder, coexists so often in patients who also have chronic or neuropathic pain disorders. It also underscores the profound importance of social connection as an evolutionary imperative, key to our survival as individuals and a society. The piggybacking of the brain circuits for social pain onto ones for phsycial pain is not merely an accident of evolutionary thrift: it’s useful. It helps us to focus on the essential task of binding up torn social fabric, of nurturing our relationships with others after the immediate threat of explusion from the group has passed. It has helped make us the uniquely social creatures that we are.
At the same time we are learning about how the brain is wired to the body and the emotions, we can effect those connections, as far as depression is involved, with simple nutrition. The brain is mostly fat so omega 3s keep it finctioning properly. Nutirent defincencies are reasonsible for epidemics of depression in many millions of people at any given time. Without sufficient quantities of the amino acids tyrosine and d htp or tryptophan, the body can’t manufacture serotonin and dopamine, the mood boosting nerotransmitters that are the target of most anti depressents. A well balanced brain also requires zinc to enhance the receptors ability to interact with the neurotransmitters; B6 and B12 to maintain healthy nerve cells. Canadian researchers reprorted that depressed patients taking 1200 milligrams of fish oil a day had about the same level of relief as they’d likely get from pills. This is stunning proof of the power of nutrition, and the power it has to heal.