Now, for the actual blog entry. The reason I've decided to leave my earlier ramble up is so that I can refer back to it; also so that others who deal with reactions can possibly relate. Any kind of GI trouble is so socially taboo that it feels isolating, it's not something we talk about. And when we feel better; we try not to think about it. Don't know about you, but I try really hard not to relive moments of physical pain.
Through the e-mails and message boards I frequent, I've been given a lot to consider regarding the relationship between depression and reactions; though I'm not a doctor and I haven't put it all together yet I'd like to start listing it here. I'm not writing at my best, so you'll have to bear with me.
First, and foremost, it's depressing not to feel well. It's even more frustrating when you feel as if you go above and beyond to isolate yourself, to be "different" and still you end up getting sick. Why not give in, live cheap and easy? You're just going to get sick anyways.
This is an "in-your-head" type reaction, but it's human and a valid response. I'm past the isolation, mostly. While I miss the idea of restaurants, I don't miss eating out because I did make the connection that they "hurt" me. And I think that a daily grind would drain me, even if it didn't make me collapse. But it is depressing to spend twice as much on food than a "normal" variation and then have trouble keeping it down.
On the physical level, it's worth noting that the gut is responsible for the production of seratonin. Seratonin is a hormone that affects mood. Most antidepressants work by increasing seratonin levels in the body.
GI reactions cause inflammation in the lining of the gut. In the case of celiac disease, actual physical damage is caused when the immune system kicks in and attacks the lining of the small intestine. Theoretically, this damage could (and would) affect the production of seratonin. Lowered levels of seratonin=depression.
Also of note, researchers recently found that people who are under a lot of stress at the onslaught of a reaction typically have longer or re-curring symptoms which do not respond effectively to medication (antihistamines). These reactions may be caused by increased levels of cytokines like IL-6 or stress hormones called catecholamines. This study was limited to participants experiencing typical environmental allergies---runny nose, watery eyes etc. However, since mild food allergies are treated with anti-histamines as well, one would think the theory should cross into the realm of food allergies.
This supports the frustrating fact that I, at least, find myself reacting worst when it's least convenient. (Like I volunteered to do yard duty or drive the carpool.) The incidents when I end up berating myself because it must be in my head may actually be in my cytokines. :P
I found more discussion on the connection between allergies and depression in an article from Ron Hoggan, MA and James Braly MD here:
...celiac disease would probably be found in a relatively small, but significant percentage, of those afflicted. The prior two conditions of enzyme deficiency and intestinal permeability are abundantly found when sought, and it is these features which, we suspect, dominate the segment of the population which is chronically depressed.Enzyme deficiency would cause insufficient digestion of cereal grains, which then convert to morphine-like substances that can then pass through the permeable intestinal wall. Causing depression and other side effects.
Then there is the theory put forth by Dr. Theron Randolph; that some food induced reactions can cause "brain allergy". Dr. Abram Hoffer reports that depression and allergy often co-exist in his patients.
Lastly, but not least, a GI reaction causes inflammation. This inflammation affects the functioning of the GI tract, possibly for a long time after the original antibodies have subsided. As I was one told...If you scrape your knee, it doesn't matter what kind of knee-socks you wear. The fabric rubbing over it is going to keep the scrape raw. And it's difficult to rest your digestive tract. And if you do choose to fast, there's a recovery period. And when you're already at least 10 pounds underweight, then your recovery period is going to be longer. The prospect is daunting and a long recovery period can be likened to chronic illness, the stress of long periods of not feeling well coupled with a sense of "when is this going to hit again" would take a toll on anyone.
So, there it is. I'm not lying in bed letting the depression overtake me, I'm reading and learning more. Now, if only the medical personnel weren't trained to look at all the symptoms, shrug and say with a confident, sympathetic smile..."Hon, I think you're just under too much stress."
Sure, stress is a piece of the puzzle. But it isn't the only one.