Your gut health may hold the answer to treating depression and its symptoms

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Our diet patterns have a profound effect on the brain and psychological health

New Delhi, 16 June 2018: Nutrition is an important factor in managing depression and its symptoms, according to recent research. The brain is composed of 60% fat and, the kind of fat that a person includes in the diet affects brain health. Research proves that brain health improves with a higher intake of Omega 3 fatty acids. There is a need to create awareness on the importance of healthy eating.

Depression affects about 300 million people around the world. It is not just a state of sadness, and in a sense, it isn’t even a mental illness since it affects both mind and body. Depression is also one of the most common causes of suicides and therefore, something that can be prevented.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr K K Aggarwal, President, Heart Care Foundation of India, said, “The beneficial effects of fruits and vegetables on physical health are well-recognized. And, several studies have established the advantages of consuming such a diet. However, what is not so widely known is that such a diet pattern also benefits a person’s psychological health. The gastrointestinal tract is now considered our ‘second brain’. It has over 500 million neurons, more than those in the spinal cord. The intestine is an intelligent sensing organ that transmits a lot of information back to the brain. About 300 to 600 species of different bacteria performing a host of beneficial functions, including boosting the immune system, aiding in metabolism and digestion, and helping in neurotransmission and signaling in the brain reside in the intestine. An alteration in the type or number of these bacterial colonies can cause ‘inflammation’ of the body and thus, many diseases.

In depression, a person experiences fatigue and low energy, body aches, headaches and cramps, irritability, insomnia/excessive sleep, feeling of guilt, worthlessness, losing interest in activities, difficulty in concentration/making decisions, change in appetite and weight, morbid thoughts, lack of confidence, social withdrawal and thoughts about suicide and death.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor of IJCP, said, “A right and healthy diet is the best gift you can give to the body and the brain. Eating well can become a positive step in the right direction, if followed diligently.

Some tips from HCFI.

• Eat less and enjoy your food by eating slowly

• Fill half your plate with fruit and vegetables.

• Avoid oversized portions which can cause weight gain.

• At least half of your grains should be whole grains.

• Limit consumption of food high in trans fats and sugar.

• Choose healthy fats. Use fat-free or low-fat milk and/or dairy products.

• Drink plenty of water. Avoid sugary drinks.

• Avoid foods that have high sodium levels such as snacks, processed foods.

• Above all, balance your food choices with your activity level.

Postpartum depression must be recognized and addressed

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Although most mothers experience something called ‘baby blues’, it is different from depression

New Delhi, 22nd February 2018: According to statistics by the WHO, postpartum depression affects about 20% of mothers in developing countries. Given that India sees about 130 million births every year, if this situation persists, more women are likely to suffer the same. Recent research has indicated that this condition not only has an adverse effect on mothers’ relationships with their children, but also impacts the emotional, cognitive, and physical development of kids.

Postpartum depression is a mood disorder that can affect women after childbirth. Mothers with postpartum depression experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that may make it difficult for them to complete daily care activities for themselves or for others.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Immediate Past National President Indian Medical Association (IMA), said, “The levels of hormones estrogen and progesterone drop drastically post childbirth leading to chemical changes in the brain. This is the trigger for mood swings in women after delivery. In India, particularly, this is not taken seriously. Apart from this, many women are unable to get the amount of rest needed to recover from childbirth. All this can cause a lot of physical discomfort and exhaustion, which further contribute to the symptoms of postpartum depression. Such extreme feelings can even interfere with a woman’s ability to care for herself or her family. If not recognized on time, postpartum depression can exacerbate and require treatment.”

Some women are more prone to postpartum depression. These include those with a history of depression, a stressful life event during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth, those with medical complications during childbirth, etc.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor of IJCP, said, “It is a good idea to have birth companions during deliveries. A trained birth companion contributes to reduced tension and shortened labor, increased mother’s feelings of control, decreased interventions and cesareans. They also help in enhancing the partner’s participation, improve outcome for the newborn, facilitate parent/infant bonding, and decrease postpartum depression while increasing positive feelings about the birth experience.”

Tips to cope with depression after childbirth.

  • Tiredness can make anxiety worse and give you a constant gloomy feeling. Try catching small naps when the baby is asleep.
  • Low energy levels can impact mental health and thus, it is important to eat a balanced and healthy meal.
  • Understand that this is a temporary phase and it is not wrong to ask for help.
  • Indulge in activities that can help you in getting distracted from any negative thoughts, such as reading a book and listening to music. Take a short walk if it helps you feel better
  • Lastly, understand that each pregnancy is different, and you do not have to feel guilty in case of misses.

Some facts

  1. Primary care clinicians (including obstetricians, gynecologists, or pediatricians) screen all postpartum women for depression
  2. Screening should be implemented with services in place to ensure follow-up for diagnosis and treatment.
  3. The rationale for screening is that postnatal depression is serious, prevalent, under-recognized, and treatable, and that standardized, valid screening tools are available.
  4. The simple screening tool is to ask questions such as, “During the last month, have you often been bothered by feeling down, depressed, or hopeless?” and “During the last month, have you often been bothered by having little interest or pleasure in doing things?”. Patients who screen positive require a clinical interview to make the diagnosis.
  5. Depressive symptoms can appear in both postpartum major depression and postpartum blues. However, postpartum blues does not require a minimum number of symptoms and the symptoms of postpartum blues are mild and self-limited; symptoms typically develop within two to three days of delivery, peak over the next few days, and resolve within two weeks of onset. By contrast, the diagnosis of major depression requires a minimum of five symptoms that must be present for at least two weeks. Symptoms of postpartum blues that persist beyond two weeks are best viewed as postpartum depression rather than postpartum blues.

Smartphones can cause depression and other health hazards

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The blue light emitted from screens can affect a person’s sleep cycle

New Delhi, 05 December 2017: Prolonged use of smartphones may significantly increase the risk of depression, anxiety and insomnia among teenagers, as per recent findings. The findings indicate that there may be an imbalance in the brain chemistry of young people addicted to devices and the internet.[1] The motivation for going online is an important factor in relating technology usage to depression and anxiety.

While people are concerned about cancer, which remains a controversial issue, there are other future health problems caused by use of smart phones. Prolonged use of mobile phone can also cause neck pain, dry eyes, computer vision syndrome, and insomnia. About 60% of youth between 20 and 30 years of age fear losing their mobile phone, a condition called nomophobia.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, National President Indian Medical Association (IMA) and President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Dr RN Tandon – Honorary Secretary General IMA in a joint statement, said, “Prolonged use of smartphones can cause multiple health issues, not just depression and anxiety. Smartphones and tablets give off a blue light, which can affect a person’s sleep-wake cycle. This blue light reduces the amount of melatonin secreted in our brains, which is a hormone required for good sleep. People who use smartphones in bed have a delayed REM sleep and wake up less alert in the morning. Cell phone elbow happens when one talks on the phone a lot. Holding the phone up to the ear causes the ulnar nerve to get compressed over time, which can lead to problems with motility and sensation. These are just some of the issues. Behaviors can be as addictive as substances, and many of us have the tendency to pull out and check our phones much more often than is necessary.”

Having access to so many different streams of information through gadgets has been found to decrease the brain’s grey matter density, which is responsible for cognition and emotional control.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, said, “In this digital era, the key to good health should be moderation – moderate use of technology. A lot of us have become slaves to devices that were really meant to free us and give us more time to experience life and be with people. Unless precautionary measures are taken at the earliest, this addiction can prove detrimental to one’s health in the longer term.”

Some tips for preventing problems caused due to overuse of mobile phones are as follows.

  • Electronic curfew means not using any electronic gadgets 30 minutes before sleep.
  • Facebook holiday: Take a Facebook holiday for 7 days every three months.
  • Social media fast: Avoid use of social media once in a week for the entire day.
  • Use your mobile phone only when mobile.
  • Do not use computer for more than three hours in a day.
  • Limit your mobile talk time to more than two hours in a day.
  • Do not recharge your mobile battery more than once in a day.
  • Mobile can also be a source of infection in the hospital setup; therefore, it is disinfected every day.

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