Liver disease is not actually one disease but a collection of diseases, infections and conditions that affect the function and cells of the liver. There are a number of essential functions the liver is responsible for, including the breakdown and rejuvenation of red blood cells, the manufacture of proteins responsible for blood clotting and the storage of minerals like copper, iron and vitamins A, D and B. Because the liver serves so many vital functions, liver disease is a very serious disorder. But what effect does it have on our moods and, more specifically, depression?
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The Case of Wilson's Disease
Wilson's disease is a type of liver disease caused by the excess storage of copper in the liver. Besides a myriad of physical symptoms, Wilson's disease also affects the central nervous system which can result in certain neurological symptoms. One of these is mood. According to Dr. Kevin Pho, nearly 10 percent of those afflicted with Wilson's disease show symptoms of depression. At the time of the study it was unknown whether Wilson's disease was actually the cause of the depression or just another condition the patients were predisposed to.
S-adenosylmethionine is found in nearly every tissue of the body. Its primary responsibilities include working with the immune system, producing and breaking down serotonin, melatonin and dopamine. In recent studies, S-adenosylmethionine has been found to have a positive effect on those suffering from depression. How it applies to depression and liver disease has to do with vitamin B. Because liver disease impedes the liver's ability to process vitamin B compounds, people with the disease often have low vitamin B. Vitamin B has a direct effect on the body's production of SAMe. Thus, those with liver disease are not only not getting the body-maintaining benefits of SAMe, they're also missing a key ingredient in fighting depression.
Hepatitis and Depression
Hepatitis is an infection that targets liver function. In a study to determine the effects of therapy on depression in those infected with hepatitis, the National Institute for Infectious Diseases found little or no correlation with the presence of liver disease and depression.
Chinese Liver Depression
There's an old saying in China: "If you're depressed, blame the liver." Chinese medicine believes there is a direct correlation between liver function and depression. Their findings are based, at least in part, in fact. The Chinese have found that drugs such as tranquilizers, sleeping pills and antihistamines weaken the liver. This weakening of the liver results in what they call liver depression.
Flushing the Liver
One of the chief purposes of cleansing diets is to clean the liver and kidneys. Significant drops in depression have been correlated to detoxification diets that target the liver. Proponents of this would say that this shows the liver's importance as a force in maintaining a positive neurological balance.