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Inflammation – The Link Between Depression and Pain

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Depression and pain go hand in hand. Depression can cause pain and pain can cause depression. This can create a vicious cycle and frustration in knowing how to stop it. Pain and depression are exhausting.

Sometimes the cause of the depression and the cause of the pain are two separate things. In that case, they may need to be treated separately. But, sometimes depression and pain share a common cause and that is inflammation. Inflammation can cause both depression and pain.

Most Americans are experiencing a much higher degree of inflammation than our ancestors. Our diets include inflammation inducing foods like omega 6 fatty acids in vegetable oils. Omega 3 fatty acids act as anti-inflammatories. Our ancestor’s diets had a healthy balance of omega 3’s and omega 6’s. Unfortunately, our diets are typically much lower in omega 3’s and much higher in omega 6’s. This puts us at risk for inflammation and inflammation related diseases.

A few diet and lifestyle changes can have dramatic effects on reducing inflammation.

1. Avoid refined sugar. A diet high in refined sugars will feed inflammatory processes in our body, creating the foundation for chronic disease processes to proliferate.

2. Avoid trans-fats and increase healthy fats. Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated fats are trans-fats. Trans-fats cause inflammation and can lead to heart disease and many other health problems. Oils like canola oil and vegetable (corn, soy, etc.) oil contain high amounts of omega 6’s. The healthiest fats are those that are high in omega 3’s in foods like flax seed, chia seed, nuts, and salmon.

3. Create a healthy gut. Our ancestors did not eat factory processed food. They ate food that they hunted, gathered, and grew. That food, in its whole form was not only much more nutritious but also contained beneficial microbes that are absent in processed food. Those beneficial microbes create the gut microbiome. A healthy microbiome not only aids in digestion but also builds our immune system. Proper digestion helps our bodies absorb and better utilize the nutrients we get from food. These nutrients convert to chemicals that increase our feelings of well being. Eating whole, raw foods like dark leafy green vegetables, nuts, and fresh fruit add healthy microbes to the gut.  Fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, and even wine have beneficial microbes. A healthy gut with high amounts of beneficial gut flora can dramatically decrease inflammation.

4. Eat turmeric. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric is the most widely studied natural anti-inflammatory. The anti-inflammatory effect of curcumin is well established. You can buy curcumin as a supplement or you can get it by eating turmeric. I generally recommend eating the whole food when possible rather than supplements. Incorporating turmeric into the diet is easy. You can sprinkle it on eggs, add it to rice, stir-fries, soups, stews, and even smoothies. One of my favorite ways to use turmeric is in “golden milk”. Golden milk is a delicious and relaxing hot drink that also helps in falling asleep.

Decreasing inflammation can decrease both pain and depression. It can also decrease symptoms of arthritis and many other inflammation related conditions.

2 Responses to “Inflammation – The Link Between Depression and Pain”

  1. linda says:

    A – Yes to turmeric – I take capsule twice a day – has helped ENORMOUSLY with arthritis stiffness in my hands!!

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