Allergic Reaction - Depression

We all have an occasional blue mood. A day when we don't feel like doing much or seeing anyone. But when problems usually overcome with relative ease assume a gloomy, out of proportion importance; when you can’t shake off the feeling that nothing to do ever goes right; when it's gets to the point where you never feel like doing anything – you may be genuinely depressed.

No small matter, considering that severe depression is responsible for many suicides. But even mild depression is nothing to ignore, such as an illness or death in the family, loss of your job or a divorce. Depression can lead to marital discord. To say nothing of the fact that depression takes all the enjoyment out of life.

Few medical problems are as difficult to diagnose or treat as depression. But if you’re depressed and have other allergic problems – such as asthma, hay fever, hives or eczema – there’s a reasonably good chance your depression is at least partially related to allergy, especially if other causes have been ruled out.

The role of adverse reactions to foods and environmental chemicals in depression was first noted in 1950, says Theron Randolph, M.D., a Chicago physician who has been the forerunner of the environmental approach to illness.

And the late Albert H Rowe, M.D., and his son Albert Rowe, Jr., M.D. (also pioneers in food allergy research), said in 1972 that symptoms of food allergy may include depression, lack of energy and ambition, loginess and an inability to think or concentrate (Food Allergy, Charles C Thomas, 1972).

Dr. Randolph tells of two typical cases in which treatment of allergies put an end to lifelong depression. One college age woman, named Meryl, had suffered depression and various health problems all her life. One summer she visited relatives in the country and during that time contacted a nutritionist who was familiar with clinical ecology.

”The combination of relatively pure air and a partial diagnosis of her food problem worked wonders,” says Dr. Randolph. ”I discovered what it was like to feel good,” she later said. For the next six months she remained on a Rotary Diet and avoided some incriminated foods. But on Christmas day, at a family party, she began cheating on her diet and continued to slip downhill all week.

She was very distraught and severely depressed.” After going back for treatment, she felt well again. Tests revealed she was highly allergic to corn, red snapper, eggs, avocado, cauliflower – all of which produced varying degrees of depression, crying, panic, anger and a ”spacy” feeling.

”In Meryl’s case,” says Dr. Randolph, ”there was a clear link between her reactions and her eating habits.” Connie, an attractive woman in her early thirties, seemed to be someone who has everything a person needs to be happy; a loving spouse, a beautiful home, a good education and a rewarding job.

Yet she was so depressed she felt like killing herself. Connie had been sick all her life with severe asthma and stomachaches. In college, she began to slip into a chronic malaise. On some days, she couldn’t get out of bed, couldn’t concentrate and could barely stay awake.

”The combat these problems,” says Dr. Randolph, ”she relied on junk food. She would drink cola beverages or eat chocolate and candy whenever she had to cram for a test.” A psychiatrist blame Connie’s depression on pressure to achieve during her childhood. In fact, however, her parents hadn’t pressured her at all.

”As bad as all her symptoms were,” says Dr. Randolph, ”Connie’s condition took a sharp turn for the worse her new home was sprayed with powerful pesticides, inside and out. Winter came, and the gas fired heater was turned on. Soon afterward she started to feel so weak that she could not get out of bed.

She was depressed to the paint of dwelling on suicide. Her husband would come home each day to find her crying uncontrollably.” But after being hospitalized, diagnose and treated for food allergies and chemical sensitivity, Connie become completely well.

”The food Connie was most allergic to was beef,” says Dr. Randolph. ”After eating a portion of beef during allergy testing, she wandered the halls of the hospital, crying aimlessly. The next day she said that she felt as though she had been run over by a bulldozer.”

”All of her many symptoms were reproduced in several weeks of food testing,” says Dr. Randolph. What’s more tests showed she was highly sensitive to various chemicals – explaining why she got so much worse after her house was sprayed with pesticides and the gas heater was started up.

Dr. Randolph ends the story by saying that Connie has made excellent progress by controlling her food and chemical difficulties (even though it's not always easy to avoid exposure to natural gas). Despite occasional setbacks, Connie mental state has been for the most part cheerful (Allergies: Your Hidden Enemy, Turnstone Press Limited, 1982).

How does an individual distinguish between depression that calls for psychological counseling and depression caused by allergy? Keeping a journal can help – writing down what you do, were you go, chemicals you think you are exposed to, what you eat and, of course, how you feel.

Compare your good days to your bad days (or your good weeks to your bad weeks, as the case may be) to help identify possible allergic causes (Women who are still menstruating should factor their monthly periods, since hormonal cycles can have a direct bearing on one’s mood). Then use the techniques described before to clear of the depression triggers.

”Treatment of the allergy will, in most cases, ’cure’ the depression,” says Abraham Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D., a psychiatrist in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. ”I have seen this in several hundred patients over the past six years” (Journal of Orthomolecular Psychiatry, vol. 9, no. 3, 1980).

Because dealing with any kind of allergies (asthma, hay fever, skin problems or whatever) can get you down if your depression is not directly triggered by foods or inhalants, we suggest you also read Mind Over Allergy. And because depression often coexist with Anxiety, Fatigue, overweight or alcohol abuse, many readers may find entries on these topics helpful.