The Link Between Inflammation And Depression

Knowing the cause is often the first step to correcting any health problem.

For example treating a person with a serious headache as if they have a blocked sinus passage, when they actually are suffering from extremely high blood pressure is a real mistake.

Clearing an already clear sinus passage won’t help and leaving the high blood pressure to run rampant could endanger their health.

It’s possible that there is finally some hope of finding the cause of depression in some patients. There are more and more links between depression and inflammation. Here is a look at how inflammation may affect depression. 

Is Inflammation the Central Issue?

The concept of inflammation in the last few years has been stretched to cover more and more forms of illness and dysfunction. One reason is that inflammation is actually a set of responses that occur naturally all the time, yet each of which can itself escape proper regulation. You get a sense of this from the article on inflammation available online from Wikipedia: “Inflammation is a protective response that involves immune cells, blood vessels, and molecular mediators. The purpose of inflammation is to eliminate the initial cause of cell injury, clear out necrotic cells and tissues damaged from the original insult and the inflammatory process, and to initiate tissue repair.” Inflammation thus involves both destruction and repair.

A number of researchers are looking into the issue of neuroinflammation outside of the traditional medical areas of concern, such as stroke. For instance, psychological stress has been demonstrated to increase neuroinflammation in animal models. Similarly, there is evidence to support the position that links chronic depression to chronic brain inflammation and acute depression to stress-triggered neuronal microdamage. Another line of argument is that the “metabolic syndrome and its individual components induce a proinflammatory state that damages blood vessels. This condition of chronic inflammation may damage the vasculature of the brain or be directly neurotoxic.”

Countering Depression without Drugs

Inflammation and the metabolic syndrome are closely linked in physiology and biochemistry. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that studies on obesity, diet and exercise habits often turn up implications for preventing and treating depression. For example, a large study of 15,093 people published in 2015 indicated that depression could be linked with nutrient deficits. The best results were found with two essentially Mediterranean-style diets. These diets overlapped in terms of foods such as omega-3 fatty acids, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and moderate alcohol intake. Another finding was that there apparently is a threshold effect, meaning that a certain level of protective foods needed to be in the diet, but that benefits in terms of reduced risk of depression plateaued after this threshold was passed.
– via Total Health Magazine

Steps to Reversing Inflammation and Depression

If the root cause of depression can be traced to inflammation then there are things we can do to reverse it.

Inflammation is not as easy to reverse as just taking a pill, but there are things we can do in our diet and lifestyle that will have a real positive impact over time. And it isn’t always a long time.

The key is learning what steps to take. Making a plan. Getting started and sticking with it. Expect improvement in small steps and little by little you may find you feel better and then much better!

Take a look at these steps to improve inflammation and depression over time.

Where Do We Begin to Heal?

How is any of this good news? This approach to chronic illnesses like depression views it as a complex, non-specific symptom reflecting a state of bodily disharmony.  It isn’t that you were born with bad genes or low serotonin.  It is far more likely that you are experiencing an unhealthy inflammatory balance, driven by cortisol dysfunction, and stemming from a sick gut.  We can come at modifying your system from many angles, but here is a basic starter kit:

  • Exercise – Burst exercise is my primary recommendation.  It is the most bang for your buck in terms of cardiovascular benefit and specifically enhancing mitochondrial health because it puts a special kind of stress on the body when you move to your max for 30 seconds that then recover for 90.  I recommend 8 intervals 1-3x/week.
  • Meditation – The effects of stimulating the relaxation nervous system, even through listening to a 20 minute guided meditation, can be far-reaching.  Enhanced genomic expression of anti-inflammatory genes and suppression of inflammatory ones was demonstrated in this study.
  • Diet – I recommend a diet that controls for glycemic fluctuations through elimination of refined carbs and grains, and through high levels of natural fats to push the body to relearn how to use fats for fuel.  This is the brain’s preferred source.  I discuss some therapeutic foods here.
  • Strategic supplementation – Natural anti-inflammatories like polyunsaturated fats (evening primrose oil and fish oil), curcumin (the active component of turmeric), and probiotics to name a few, can help promote a synergy of beneficial effects from the above interventions.

– via Kelly Brogan MD

Do you ever struggle with depression? Do you think inflammation could be involved?