Interstitial Cystitis and Depression
Almost everyone has experienced some form of depression in their lives. The first time that I suffered from depression was the year that my youngest child started kindergarten. I recognized too late that I had been so busy with work and ministry, I had missed my opportunity to enjoy this time with her. For two weeks, I cried every day, and I was heartbroken. Recognizing that I needed to do something, I devoted the next eight months to rearranging my schedule so that I could stay at home with my children. My actions eased the feelings of depression, allowing me to focus on the importance of my kids. For me, chronic or bouts of depression have not been a normal struggle, however, anxiety had been my constant companion for over 20 years.
When I set out to treat the root causes of my IC I began to notice that my anxiety began to improve. This prompted me to ask the question “could I get my anxiety under control as well?” I knew that anxiety, depression, stress, panic attacks, and mood swings are often shared by many that experience interstitial cystitis. Even if you don’t personally struggle with these often debilitating problems, you probably know someone who does. The amazing thing is that as we understand many of the root causes, we can take control of our mental health.
Hope does exist!
There are natural remedies for depression that have been used throughout the years. I am going to take a look at some of these in this blog. Before you make any changes to your dietary regiment, including supplements, discuss them with your primary healthcare provider first to examine if there are any interactions that you need to be aware of.
Depression happens in various forms, however, when a person experiences persistent low-mood to the point that they lose interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life, it takes on the serious tone of a mental health problem.
Signs of Depression
- Little interest in doing things that once brought you pleasure
- Feeling down or hopeless
- Insomnia or sleeping too much
- Difficulty making quick decisions or difficulty concentrating, brain fog
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Suicidal thoughts
- Constant guilt
- Aches and pains
- Digestive issues
- Low sex drive
Causes of depression
- Substance abuse
- Unresolved issues
- Hormone imbalance
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Genetic variants
- Food intolerance
- Lack of sunlight or exercise
- Low thyroid function
- Leaky gut or gut infections
- Chronic inflammation
- Neurotransmitter imbalance
If you suffer from IC (interstitial cystitis) and experience symptoms of depression, you are not alone. According to the National Institute of Health, interstitial cystitis (IC) or bladder pain syndrome (BPS) is associated with a higher rate of mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. It is not uncommon for both pain and depression to go hand in hand. Those that experience IC may have pain as well as depression or anxiety that exceeds that of the general population. While it might sound bleak, I assure you that we have greater control over our health than we know.
Recognizing the signs of anxiety and depression, and identifying root causes empowers us to begin proactive steps to overcome mood issues. Understanding this doesn’t mean that it is “simple,” but there’s a lot that we can do to bring about real change in our lives.
Natural strategies to eliminate depression
1.Eat Clean. Our food has a significant impact on our mood, energy, weight, and cognitive function. How significant? A study of 3486 participants over 5 years revealed that those who ate a ‘whole food’ diet meaning primarily vegetables, fruit, and fish had lower chances of depression compared to those in the second group who had greater odds of developing depression when consuming a diet high in processed foods. Our Standard American Diet (SAD) is comprised of fried food, processed meat, refined grains, high-fat dairy products, and refined sugar. Inflammation is the precursor to most modern diseases and mood issues are now being attributed to inflammation in the brain, so incorporating an anti-inflammatory whole foods diet is step number one.
- Eat lots of organic vegetables and fruits
- Consume organic free range poultry
- Buy grass-fed beef
- Get your Omega 3’s from fresh caught Salmon
- Consume a diet high in healthy fats including coconut oil, avocado, extra virgin olive oil, raw butter, flaxseed, and walnuts
2. Cut out refined sugars. High carbohydrate foods may offer instant satisfaction, but in the long run, they are causing more damage than good. In fact, they are harming your health and your brain so toss them. Sugar is added to almost everything because it makes our food taste sweater, plus it covers up the taste of our chemical laden food. However, sugar undermines our health by increasing our risk of developing:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Leaky gut
- Certain cancers
- Fatty Liver
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Candida Overgrowth
- Brain Fog
- Chronic low-grade inflammation
- Chronic UTI’s
- Bladder pain and IC symptoms
3. Get the right amount of sleep. Turn off Netflix and put your phone away. Getting 8-9 hours of quality sleep each night is crucial when seeking to heal your body. Researches found that while we sleep the space between brain cells may increase, allowing the brain to flush out toxins. This means that sleep can actually change the cellular structure of the brain as well as clean the brain. Neurons are able to repair the nucleus of the cell (it encloses most of the cell’s genetic material). As if that weren’t enough, cells, tissue, and muscles repair and regenerate while we sleep. Another incredibly positive aspect of good sleep is that the hormone prolactin is released while you sleep and it’s responsible for regulating inflammation. Conversely, inadequate sleep can actually increase inflammation, making IC and depression worse. For men, sleep is the number one way to boost testosterone because it’s while sleeping that the majority of their daily testosterone is released. Finally, adequate also plays a role in managing cortisol (a stress hormone).
4. Work to heal your gut. The root of mood imbalance may be leaky gut. 95% of serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood, is produced in the gut. The main culprit is likely candida overgrowth. The job of candida is to aid in digestion and nutrient absorption, and overgrowth allows the candida (yeast) to coat the lining of the intestinal tract and that suppresses your ability to secrete serotonin. The fallout can include a whole host of issues including irritability, depression, anxiety, moodiness, brain fog, difficulty concentrating, skin and nail fungus, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, UTI’s, vaginal itching, eczema, rashes, hives and more. Healing your gut will help to restore the body’s balance, which is critical to physical and mental health. The best approach to healing your gut is to follow the 4R’s.
5. Make sure you are taking high quality supplements to address nutrient deficiencies. There are some foundational supplements that most everyone can benefit from. Make sure to talk with your doctor before beginning any new supplementation.
- Magnesium l-threonate. Most of us are deficient in magnesium and since it’s involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, a deficiency will be noticeable. I recommend Optimag Neuro from Xymogen (magnesium L-threonate), which is the only form proven in animal studies to cross the blood brain barrier. It supports cognitive function, stress management, sleep and mood.
- K2-D3 supports the immune system, healthy bones and tissue, blood sugar levels, and mood.
- Omega-3 fatty acids support brain function and mood, is anti-inflammatory, and regulates metabolism. Our brain is about 60 percent fat, so fatty acids are needed to support this organ. I recommend Orthomega 820 by Orthomolecular.
- Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that aid in digestion, brain health, reducing inflammation in the gut, and maintaining the diversity of the guts microbiome. I highly recommend MegaSporeBiotic by Micorbiome Labs.
6. Go for a walk and get some sunlight. A new study found that not exercising regularly was worse for your health than smoking, diabetes, and heart disease, yikes. On the up-side, studies have shown that people who exercise regularly are happier. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, releases neurotransmitters like serotonin and endorphins (can numb pain) the “feel good” chemicals, and increases brain and memory. All of these together serve as your body’s own antidepressant. Studies have also shown that exercise can be equal or just as effective in treating depression as medication. Seeking out sunlight first thing in the morning can help you feel better. I sleep with my window and shutters open so that when the sun rises it hits my face. I began doing this a couple of months ago because there is evidence that sunlight affects mood by increasing serotonin in the brain. Morning sunlight as well as during the day can have lots of mood-lifting benefits. If you can handle exercise like cardio, weight lifting, interval training, swimming, body pump, or anything else than I encourage you to do that. However, if your IC is severe, then light walking or stretching may be all that you can handle at this time; and that is perfectly fine. Try combining walking and sunlight for a double dose of serotonin to boost your mood which will also help you feel calm and focused.
7. Control your stress levels. Hundreds of studies have shown that chronic stress has the potential to damage the immune system. When stressed out the body is flooded with adrenaline and cortisol. It also increases insulin which in turn drives metabolic dysfunction, and that ultimately results in weight gain, insulin resistance, and finally diabetes. Step one in controlling stress, eat the right foods. Food is medicine which means that a clean diet rich in whole foods will provide information to your body that controls metabolism, hormones, and gene expression. Second, stressors can be real or perceived but either way they will raise stress levels in your body. There are plenty of tools and techniques that you can begin implementing to help you effectively manage stress including: sleep, breathing techniques, meditation, yoga, exercise, adaptogenic herbs (ashwaganda and reishi rushroom), essential oil (Bergamont, Lavendar, Ylang Ylang), supplements (Magnesium, Methylated B12, zinc), take time to relax, and Tapping. Addressing the root cause may require that you examine your attitude, beliefs, or response, and reconsider your point of view in order to begin reducing stress (we aren’t always right).
8. Check your hormones and thyroid. Estrogen can wreak havoc on your body when it is not imbalance. Estrogen dominance (having too much estrogen) which is at in all time high can cause a host of problems including irritability, fatigue, inflammation, thyroid dysfunction, autoimmune conditions, and even cancer. Symptoms can also include weight gain, heavy or light menstruation, depression, anxiety, PMS, low libido, uterine fibroids, fibrocystic breasts, and candida overgrowth.
According to Dr. Amy Myers:
“Excess estrogen increases levels of thyroid binding globulin (TBG) which is the protein that allows your thyroid hormones to travel through your bloodstream. When thyroid hormones are attached to TBG they remain inactive, so your thyroid hormones can’t be stored in your tissues or converted to their active form in order to fuel your body and metabolic processes.”
Diet, lifestyle, stress, environmental toxins, leaky gut, and poor liver functions all play a role in estrogen dominance. Gene mutations can also factor in to your ability to methylate and detoxify your hormones. It may be best to have your doctor order a full estrogen and thyroid panel. You may find great success using EstroProtect which will help support detoxification and optimal estrogen metabolism.
9. Get help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. There is nothing to be ashamed of by going to speak with a counselor or physiatrist. In fact, I think it is the mark of one that is strong, wise, and courageous. The negative stigma associated around getting help needs to be challenged. It’s not always easy to take the first step towards asking for help, but it’s important not to cope with depression alone.
10. Be a friend. I tried to ingrain this into my kids. To have a friend you have to be a friend. Relationships are hard and quite honestly they can be a lot of work. We have to be willing to invest into the lives of others and value people over other things, and sometimes even over our own emotions. We live in a day and age when we are commended for putting ourselves first, drawing harsh boundaries, holding others to a standard we ourselves can’t meet, following our heart, and doing whatever makes US happy. Though it sounds “wise”, and yes we do need healthy boundaries, we can destroy relationships by putting our wants and needs, and our interests first. This isn’t always “wisdom” and often encroaches on “selfishness;” which will be the very thing that drives others away. The truth is that we are social creatures and we need each other. Isolation can actually increase symptoms of depression and impede our ability to function by affecting our physical health, restorative sleep, and it can heighten stress. Community is an integral part of our wellbeing because it increases our sense of belonging, happiness, and purpose.
11. Neurotransmitter imbalance may need to be addressed. We have already discussed serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine)but let’s take a second to dive a little deeper. Serotonin (a chemical neurotransmitter) is primarily produced in the gut, in fact 95% is produced in the gut and 2% is produced in the brain. Serotonin is a byproduct of tryptophan responsible for regulating mood and assisting in hormone balance. In the brain it converts to serotonin, assisting in the availability of other essential amino acids that help control mood and reduce stress. Serotonin transmits signals between nerve cells which means that a deficiency in serotonin levels can alter brain function and negatively impact our mood and sleep. Of course just like everything else we have looked at, an anti-inflammatory whole- food diet, exercise, and sunlight are the main tools in combatting deficiencies. Supplementation may be needed and you may find great success in incorporating in L-tryptophan and/or 5-HTP, which is an amino acid used to produce serotonin which can improve mood and serve to reduce symptoms of depression. This should only be done under the direct supervision of your medical doctor.
12. Genetic component. Methylation is a biochemical process that occurs billions of times per second and plays a key role in repairing DNA, detoxification, homocysteine, and maintaining inflammation levels and mood. It is the process that essentially controls the replication of your DNA across every single cell in your body. At its core, methylation occurs whenever the body adds a methyl group (consisting of one carbon and three hydrogen atoms) to a molecule. This ultimately changes how that molecule interacts with other substances in the body. Enzymes, genes, and hormones – all proteins subject to methylation– become altered through this process.Without this intricate biochemical process, our well- being would be called into serious question.
Every time a cell divides to form a new cell it sends the same genetic makeup with it. However, when variations occur and the new cell does not replicate in the exact same way, it produces a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP). SNPs are common, and everybody has them to some degree. The way each person’s body reacts to its own SNPs will be unique. Most have little effect on a person’s health or development. Still, by affecting the gene’s function some SNPs play a significant role in disease, in circulatory and immune functioning, and in overall physical and emotional well-being.
Methylation keeps us healthy. It can help keep our immune systems strong, repair our cells and tissues, control gene expression, regulate our hormones, detoxify our bodies, and keep our energy levels high. However, genetic mutations often disrupt the methylation process, making it harder for the body to do its job.
The good news is that, thanks to evolving research, we now know that genetic factors account for fewer than ten percent of all illnesses. This means the environmental factors we are exposed to from the time we are born, and the way these factors interact with our genes, account for the remaining ninety percent. Why is that good news? Because it means we have more control over our health than we once realized.
Despite an inherited predisposition to certain conditions our health is primarily in our own hands. Through a healthy diet, limiting our exposure to environmental toxins, and taking the correct nutritional supplements, we can help suppress th expression of those genetic mutations and launch a strong counterattack on illnesses before they strike. The road to good health is in front of us. For more inforamtion about the role genetics play in our health, gentic testing, or to find a doctor that specializes in genetic nutrition go to www.gettoknowyourdna.com.
13. Practice forgiveness. This one can be tough, but like everything else we have been looking at, forgiveness is vital to your mental and physical health. Forgiveness is a choice whereby we make a conscious decision to let go of negative feeling regardless of whether or not the person deserves it. Studies show that forgiveness has numerous benefits to our health including: reducing pain and improving levels of anxiety and depression, decreasing stress, lowering blood pressure, improving sleep, and lowering cholesterol levels. According to research at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, “Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.” Remeber that forgiveness is an active process and it occurs when we make a deliberate choice not to dwell on past hurts.
The truth is that we have far more control over our health than we often realize. There are a number of proactive steps that you can begin taking right now to help counter your depression. The amazing fact is that the steps presented for treating depression naturally are the same exact steps I recommned to those seeking to treat interstitial cystitis head-on. By implementing diet and lifestyle changes, you can simultaneously work to improve both mood issues and IC as well as other chronic conditions and begin restoring balance to the body.
We simply are not the best version of ourselves when we are feeling down, and I hope that I have provided you with enough information to begin the necessary work that will bring about real and lasting change in your life. Start slow, but start today. One step at a time moving toward health and wellness.