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Dehydration, Inflammation, Depression

Saturday, 12 September 2015 00:00  by Yolanda F.

Here’s a question you can ask yourself every day as a reminder of these three important things to avoid. DID I drink water today? Dehydration-Inflammation-Depression (DID). No one wants anything to do with any of them. Staying hydrated is key.

I remember having bad headaches when I was about 10 and older, the kind that sent me to my dark bedroom to lie down and recover. Sometimes the pounding in my head lasted the entire day. It made it hard to laugh, smile and be myself. The only remedy I recall was Bayer’s Baby Aspirin, which I often took too late and it took too long to work.

As I got older and headaches and nausea became my personal plague, I came to realize I was dehydrated, which hadn’t been suspected because I drank “plenty of liquids,” but not enough water. The mantra of the time was Got milk? So I drank lots of whole milk because I was convinced it was good source of calcium for my bones. Who knew it wasn’t just as good as water for hydration? Isn’t all liquid good for that? Apparently not. Whole milk doesn’t replace liquid as well as water does because of the fat content.

It wasn’t until I started learning about the body’s functions much later in life that I found out how important it was to drink water. Then I realized my mother, who hated water and refused to drink it, was also plagued by many symptoms of dehydration like hot flashes, urinary tract infections, dry mouth, nausea and migraine headaches. She could have made the perfect poster child for a better ad: Got water?

It turns out we were two of the many poor unfortunate souls dragging around dehydrated bodies. The Mayo Clinic calls dehydration a secondary headache, defined as “a symptom of a disease that can activate the pain-sensitive nerves of the head.”

When your body loses part of the water and electrolytes necessary for normal function, you become dehydrated and all sorts of things can go wrong. I now consider them painful reminders to drink water. The Mayo Clinic recommends about 13 cups of total beverages a day for men and nine for women. It’s so frustrating know I suffered for so long and so needlessly. No one told me to drink water!

But it’s amazing how far we’ve come in our awareness of how the body operates, or fails to operate.

“Could Depression Actually Be Nothing More Than an Allergic Reaction?” is the title of a story that appeared on VICE on Jan. 5 of this year. Author Eleanor Morgan wrote, “We know that people may be genetically predisposed to depression and anxiety disorders. We also know that specific life events may trigger depressive episodes in those who have previously been the picture of mental health. But so far we've been unable to identify one single, definitive catalyst. However, new research suggests that, for some people, depression may be caused by something as simple as an allergic reaction. A reaction to inflammation—a product of the body, not the mind.”

Dehydration leads to inflammation, and depression can be caused by an allergic reaction to inflammation, according to Tim de Chant of NOVA, who writes, “Inflammation is our immune system’s natural response to injuries, infections, or foreign compounds. When triggered, the body pumps various cells and proteins to the site through the blood stream, including cytokines, a class of proteins that facilitate intercellular communication. It also happens that people suffering from depression are loaded with cytokines.”

Inflammation can be caused by obesity, high sugar intake, high trans-fat intake, among other things. Perhaps if depression is treated and inflammatory symptoms are ignored, good health will still be something in the distance---known as possible reality, but out of reach.

Morgan also wrote, “Cytokines skyrocket during depressive episodes and, in those with bipolar disorder, halt in remission. The fact that ‘normal,’ healthy people can become temporarily anxious or depressed after receiving an inflammatory vaccine — like typhoid — lends further credence to the theory. There are even those who think we should re-brand depression altogether as an infectious disease … Carmine Pariante, a Kings College psychiatrist who is quoted in The Guardian report, says that we’re between five and ten years away from a blood test that can measure levels of inflammation in depressed people. If both Pariante’s estimate and the inflammation-depression theory are correct, we could potentially be just five years from an adequate ‘cure’ for depression.”

As I’ve learned to drink water every day---including about five cups of hot water to decrease bloating---a headache is as uncommon as a UFO siting for me. And if I do happen to feel one coming on, I know how to fix it immediately. The same is true for nausea. No more days lost to a debilitating headache.

Now, whenever anyone, especially one of my children, tells me they have a headache, my knee-jerk response is: Drink a glass of water! It’s almost always ends with that!

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