6 Weeks Of Happiness
Heat Stimulates Serotonin Production
Over the past two decades, the use of antidepressants has skyrocketed, notes The New York Times, citing a study published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics.
While we do know that depression is far more prevalent than ever within society and we can look at the nation’s economic, personal and social struggles that have engulfed if not crushed so many good people, nearly 2/3 of the 5,000 patients studied given a diagnosis of depression did not meet standards for this disorder based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (or DSM), the diagnostic bible of conventional medicine.
These people may be depressed and need help but do they need to be prescribed anti-depressants? Indeed, researchers say 38% of antidepressant users do suffer side effects and that some drugs can trigger a lifetime of bipolar and other mental disorders.
The rate of antidepressant drug treatment increased more than 4x between the early 1990s and early 2000s, writes Dr Ramin Mojtabai, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and study author. “Younger adults, men and racial/ethnic minorities continued to receive antidepressant treatment at a lower rate compared to middle aged adults, women and non-Hispanic whites, respectively. The rate of antidepressant treatment increased more in the group of less severely ill individuals than in those with more severe psychopathology.”
“It’s not only that physicians are prescribing more, the population is demanding more,” says Dr Mojtabai. “Feelings of sadness, the stresses of daily life and relationship problems can all cause feelings of upset or sadness that may be passing and not last long. But Americans have become more and more willing to use medication to address them.”
Heat Stimulates Serotonin
However, a study just published in JAMA Psychiatry finds hope in heat. That’s right. Infrared saunas could be faster acting and longer lasting, in some cases, than medication, according to their findings. “Our hope is to find better and faster-acting treatments for depression than the antidepressants currently in use,” says Dr Charles Raison of the University of Wisconsin- Madison who conducted the trial to evaluate infrared sauna therapy on depressed volunteers. “We think that using heat to stimulate the skin activates serotonin-producing cells in the midbrain, which then produce a change in how the brain functions. In a way, one might think of this pathway from the skin to the brain as a deep-brain stimulator crafted by evolution. We tap into this pathway because heat makes the brain feel happy.”
One of these ways apparently is infrared saunas, which shouldn’t be surprising in the sense that they are used already for seasonal affective disorder and seem to have a whole body effect researchers have been piecing together for the last several decades. In this case, taking an infrared sauna and raising the body temperature of depressed volunteers to the equivalent of a mild fever improved symptoms for as long as 6 weeks after a single treatment. Dr Raison, using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS), found that 60% had a response and 40% met the criteria for remission of depression during at least one assessment after having received the treatment.
6 Weeks Effect
The researchers used a whole-body hyperthermia device to raise the body temperatures of 16 volunteers to 38.5 Celsius, the equivalent of a mildly hot bath or about 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit. Another 14 were randomized to a “sham” procedure that had them lie inside the hyperthermia device with fans and lights, but only a small amount of heat, not the intense infrared heat that produced the full treatment.
“Our sham intervention was so realistic that most of the participants (10 of 14) thought they were receiving the real treatment,’” says Raison. That is important, because it suggests the antidepressant response was not due primarily to placebo factors associated with the treatment.
“We were surprised to see that the effect (of reduced depression symptoms) was still present six weeks after the initial treatment,”’ Raison says.
Co-author Christopher Lowry, associate professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado-Boulder, showed in an earlier study that whole-body heating activates neurons in the brain that synthesize the neurochemical serotonin, an effect that is shared by antidepressant drugs. He adds, “We know that warming the skin activates areas of the brain where activity is low in depressed patients.”
Hyperthermia To Treat Cancer
This new study extends results from an earlier open treatment study Dr Raison’s group did in Switzerland in inpatient volunteers with major depression. Hyperthermia has been used for many years, primarily in Europe, as part of a cancer-fighting regimen, although whole-body hyperthermia to treat cancer typically raises the body temperature to temperatures much higher than used in the depression studies.
Happy Without Drugs
When working with patients, I often recommend using home infrared saunas. Solocarbon® technology, found in home infrared saunas, delivers radiant heat that permeates the body and raises core temperature for a full effect. It is clinically shown to raise core temperature nearly 3° for the most detoxifying sweat, lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure and aid in weight loss through waistline reduction. Home saunas ultimately are much more convenient and relaxing and, apparently, good medicine.
Dr Martin is host of the nationally syndicated health talk radio program, The Dr Bob Martin Show. Visit www.doctorbob. com. for more information.References
Elisa Cascade, Amir H. Kalali, MD, and Sidney H. Kennedy, MD, FRCPC Real-World Data on SSRI Antidepressant Side Effects Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2009 Feb; 6(2): 16–18. Published online 2009 Feb. PMCID: PMC2719451.
Janssen CW, Lowry CA, Mehl MR, Allen JJ, Kelly KL, Gartner DE, Medrano A, Begay TK, Rentscher K, White JJ, Fridman A, Roberts LJ, Robbins ML, Hanusch KU, Cole SP, Raison CL. Whole-Body Hyperthermia for the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry. 2016 May 12. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2016.1031. [Epub ahead of print]
Mojtabai R.Increase in antidepressant medication in the US adult population between 1990 and 2003. Psychother Psychosom. 2008;77(2):83-92. doi: 10.1159/000112885. Epub 2008 Jan 25. Mojtabai R. Increase in antidepressant medication in the US adult population between 1990 and 2003. Psychother Psychosom. 2008;77(2):83-92. doi: 10.1159/000112885. Epub 2008 Jan 25.