Before I begin detailing this modest proposal in detail, I would like to give some context. A few days ago, an associate of mine in one of my many areas of interest requested of me that I write a research quality paper on an anecdotal observation that a few of us have observed about the end of a period of gloominess and depression coinciding with the apparent release of toxins in the body. As these are anecdotal cases, though, they lack the sort of rigorous study that would be of particular interest from a scientific perspective. Given the fact that although as a result of my life I have a strong interest in mental health, and in medical science on a larger sense, I do not consider myself competent to conduct an experiment or to write about with the level of skill that such a matter deserves, certainly not for medical science on the level of the Lancet or some similar scholarly journal where the research could be brought to the attention of those best equipped to tackle follow-up research and consider its implications. However, since I happen to know at least a few people who are avid readers of my blog with an educational or professional interest in psychology, counseling, and therapy, I thought that by sharing the context of these anecdotal finds as well as a preliminary experimental design, that someone better equipped than I am would be able to follow the train of logic and conduct an experiment with the potential of great benefit with regards to understanding certain aspects of depression, including its successful treatment. Having suffered under the burden of serious mental illness for nearly my entire life, and not being selfish for who receives the credit for such research and discovery, I would prefer that such research be conducted in as rigorous and qualified a manner as possible, whether or not I am to receive any particular credit for such insights of intuition as I possess.
That said, it has been anecdotally noted that the end of an episode of major depression has coincided with the excretion of large amounts of particularly foul-smelling urine, and that the improvement of mood appears to be related to the cleansing of the body by the kidneys. What is proposed, therefore, a controlled experiment, preferably at an in-patient mental hospital where there are sufficient experimental controls, by which those being treated for major depression can have their urine tested for chemical analysis along with qualitative analysis while they are going through treatment, with the intent of showing a correlation between the successful treatment of depression and the function of the kidneys in ridding the body of excess chemicals. The self-scoring of patients according to the latest DSM-IV standards for major depression as well as the observations of the presiding psychiatrists and psychologists could then be correlated with the qualitative and chemical analysis of the patient’s urine to demonstrate a relationship between successful treatment of depression in the mind and its effects on the processes of the kidneys in cleansing the patient of various chemical waste. Given that the burden of depression is widely distributed, it would seem likely that any factors that connect the mental distress of this disease with bodily process would need to be somewhat nonspecific in nature, and a potential relationship between the filtering process of the kidneys and the resulting functioning of the brain is worthy of investigation, especially in light of the attempts of people to self-medicate depression through food and alcohol as well as the frequent and hitherto mysterious use of medicines in attempting to treat depression.
A possible connection between the two systems is as follows. Depression is a sign of the failure of the brain to exhibit sufficient resilience in nature of the various stresses and difficulties of life. Some levels of distress are too great for anyone to cope with, and overwhelm the ability of people to effectively deal with life, while other people lack resilience and may suffer extreme distress at low levels of threat from the outside world. One of the jobs of our brains is to filter out among the various sense data we receive that information which can give warning about threats and areas of concern so that we can appropriately respond to a hostile environment. Similarly, one of the main tasks of the kidneys is to filter out chemicals that are present in the body so as to keep these chemicals from threatening health and well-being. A well-functioning set of kidneys is able to deal with a substantial chemical burden, but some burdens are so great as to overwhelm our ability to cleanse ourselves. Given the likelihood that the brain signals threat and concern through directing other organs, like the adrenals, to secrete chemicals to muster the body to deal with threats, that which overwhelms the ability of the brain to cope with life could easily wreck havoc on related systems as well, and therefore the increased health of these secondary systems could be useful as a measurement of the improved health of the brain.
Should such a relationship be found, even without initial knowledge of the causal relationship between depression and kidney function, many profitable areas of future research exist. For one, the efficacy of different means of or different combinations of therapeutic options could be empirically tested through their effect on kidney function. Additionally, it could be tested as to whether there was a causal relationship between internal brain chemistry and kidney function, between the overwhelming of the body’s ability to filter out waste with subsequent mental distress, or some complicated combination where both paths were possible vectors for the onset and length and level of the burden of depression. Such knowledge would be useful in seeking to untangle the mystery of how it is that various treatment options succeed in easing depression, and point the way to an understanding of the systems of the body that are affected by depression and that may influence its onset and severity. One of the goals of this larger body of research would be to understand depression and its affect on the body well enough to encourage behaviors that reduce the burden of depression, and that understand the role of depression in the overall workings of the body. It is hoped that such knowledge will ease the burdens on those who suffer from this disease, both from the burden of disease itself as well as the secondary burdens of shame and embarrassment over being perceived as weak and overly delicate in a world that celebrates robust strength of body and mind. While it would be unprofitable to speculate too greatly, I wish to give any such encouragement to those who would be able and willing to undertake such research, in the hope that it might further our knowledge of the terrible burden of depression and how the body and brain are deeply interconnected in the coping mechanisms to the stresses of contemporary life.