Change #1 – Hippocampal ShrinkageAn international study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry reports that 65% of all depressed patients have a smaller hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region in the brain that controls emotions, learning and memory. According to PsychEducation.org, this shrinkage occurs because of the way depression kills existing hippocampal cells and prevents new ones from growing efficiently. Interestingly, the report in Molecular Psychiatry notes that this change only occurs in people with extended or recurring bouts of depression. This hits home the importance of addressing your depression promptly to minimize damage.
Solution – Exercise & Omega-3 Fatty AcidsAccording to Dr. Majid Fotuhi, the best way to restore your hippocampus is to exercise. Research has shown that walking one mile a day lowers the risk of Alzheimer's (another hippocampal shrinkage-related disease) by 48%. Another way to support your hippocampus is by getting lots of omega-3 fatty acids. Dr. Fotuhi reports that higher levels of omega-3s are associated with increased hippocampus size. I personally have seen great results in combating depression with the help of omega-3 fatty acids in supplement form.
Change #2 – Prefrontal Cortex ShrinkageThe prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that handles dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin – hormones that control mood. As reported by Live Science, individuals with depression tend to experience shrinkage in this area due to the high amount of cortisol associated with depression. Depression also causes cells in the prefrontal cortex to become less dense.
Solution – Start A Gratitude JournalGratitude activates your prefrontal cortex and gets its cells firing. This is super helpful when you're suffering from a depressive disorder. It doesn't have to be anything complex – just spend a few minutes at the end of each day writing down things you're grateful for.
Change #3 – Amygdala GrowthYet another study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry reports that major depressive disorder causes the amygdala to swell. This often results in sleep disturbances and makes the body's hormone release process go haywire. At the root of this is the high levels of cortisol associated with depressive symptoms.
Solution – AdaptogensAdaptogens are a super cool class of herbs that raise hormone levels when they're too low and reduce them when they're too high. This can work wonders for someone with a cortisol-loaded brain. Dr. Axe recommends these adaptogens for lowering cortisol levels:
- Holy basil