It’s very common for patients suffering from Depression to experience Chronic Fatigue as well as for Chronic Fatigue patients to develop Depression. It’s so common that this hand in hand occurrence of these illnesses often leads to confusion with the other up to the extent of possible misdiagnosis.
Medical literature defines Chronic Fatigue as a condition of feeling exhausted in prolonged periods of time even with enough rest and sleep while Clinical Depression is diagnosed from consistent feelings of hopelessness, extreme sadness, and helplessness which often results to a lack of motivation and, possibly, suicidal thoughts.
While these two are closely associated, their main difference is that Chronic Fatigue is a physical disorder and Depression is mental/psychological in nature. So what links these two? More so, how and why are they linked?
The medical industry is still under heated debate. Various hypotheses have come up but there’s not one that prevails worldwide. What is established however is the role of brain chemistry in psychological health. This is why one common medical recommendation for psychological problems is intake of chemicals such as pharmaceuticals.
So how are Chronic Fatigue and Depression linked?
One hypothesis recently highlighted in studies and researches is that both of these illnesses are directly affected by the Gut Microbiota.
Gut Microbiota is the community of microorganisms found in a person’s digestive tract. This ecological unit in the intestine has been garnering increasing attention from the medical research industry in the last few years. It’s been noted that a common finding is the link between gut health to the different functions of the body including emotional and psychological health. This breakthrough discovery elevated gut health to grave importance.
How does it affect emotional and psychological health?
Evidence points out that gut microorganisms can influence brain chemistry which includes the production of neurotransmitters and hormones. These compounds have a direct effect on behavior, anxiety levels, and stress management.
Vice versa, it has also been established that increased levels of anxiety and stress can cause Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Doctors found out that this bidirectional relationship between brain chemistry and gut health occurs through the Central Nervous System and called the “Gut-Brain Axis.”
Imbalance in the Gut Microbiota is also associated with failing immune systems, making the body more vulnerable to diseases and pain. Studies show that a gut of Chronic Fatigue patient is significantly depleted of good strains of gut bacteria as compared to a gut of a healthy person.
Both illnesses appear to be a manifestation of an unhealthy Microbiota. With this, medical doctors recommend intake of good bacteria or Probiotics to help ease Chronic Fatigue and Depression.
A study from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, showed that as early as six weeks, continuous intake of Probiotics has already resulted in a remarkable decrease in Depression scores for 64% of patients. This finding is validated by brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) results showing elevated mood and improved anxiety management of patients as well as decrease in pain levels.
While this connection between Chronic Fatigue and Depression still has a lot of unexplored areas, the progress of research seems to be promising. If you are or know someone suffering from Chronic Fatigue and/or Depression, the road to recovery may start with a cup of Greek yogurt.