How Depression Affects your Brain Structure
Doctors understand that depression can manifest itself in physical ill-health, but new research has found it can also physically change the structure of the brain.
Depression and the Hippocampus
Studies have shown that recurring periods of depression can reduce the size of the hippocampus which is located in the medial temporal lobe of the brain. This part of the brain controls emotion, memory and the autonomic nervous system, so it is vital to a person's personality and quality of life.
If the hippocampus shrinks in size, it can affect behavior, with a loss of natural emotion and sense of self. It is particularly important to address the causes of depression in teenagers to avoid long-term damage to their memory and emotions.
Researchers used the results of brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on 8,930 people to study the hippocampus. The results showed that those who regularly suffered bouts of depression had a smaller hippocampus in about 65% of cases.
Previously it was not known whether the shrinkage of the hippocampus was the cause or the result of depression.
However, new research shows that depression comes first, and then the shrinkage of the hippocampus, according to Professor Ian Hickie. It is also now clear that persistent bouts of depression cause even more reduction in the size of the hippocampus, so it is important to get help early to counter the effect and causes of depression.
Fortunately the shrinkage is reversible as the hippocampus is able to generate new connections between cells to restore brain health once the underlying depression has been treated.
Related: Meditation Rewires Your Brain
Causes of Depression Include Chronic Inflammation
There are many causes of depression, including personal circumstances, chemical or hormonal imbalance and other biological factors.
Chronic inflammation is one of the factors associated with depression. Common causes of inflammation are vitamin D deficiency, a sugar-loaded diet and unbalanced flora in the gut. These can all be remedied by a healthy diet.
If you are struggling with depression and mood swings then try switching to a healthier diet focused on organic, cultured and fermented food to boost gut bacteria. Avoid processed foods and increase fresh raw fruits and vegetables so you know exactly what you are eating.
Add regular exercise to your daily routine and as the inflammation reduces you will find you can combat feelings of depression, have a healthier body and a healthier brain, too.