Inflammation Causes Depression
Nearly everyone experiences occasional sadness that fades away after a couple hours or days. This is perfectly normal. But clinical depression is much more complicated and serious. You feel hopeless, helpless, exhausted. These feelings last for weeks, months, even years. You can’t “snap out of it.” And it affects not only you, but those who care about you.
For years, clever advertising campaigns convinced us that chemical imbalances are to blame. And what better way to correct the imbalance than by taking an antidepressant to help “rewire” your brain’s neurotransmitters?
But the more we learn, the clearer it becomes that depression is far deeper and more complex.
While stressful events, certain medications, and genetics are all well-known potential triggers for depression, you may not be aware that chronic, low-grade, systemic inflammation can also play a major role.
Research has shown that patients with depression have elevated inflammatory markers, even in the absence of illness. Also, pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines have been found to influence almost every pathway in the brain involved in the development of depression. In simple terms, once inside your brain, these inflammatory proteins can mess with your neurotransmitters, causing them to run amok.
This matters for two very important reasons.
First, inflammation impacts hundreds of millions of people. Recent statistics spell out just how widespread inflammatory diseases are—putting all of these individuals at greater risk of either having undiagnosed depression or developing it in the future.
- Cardiovascular disease affects 84 million Americans.
- 25 million Americans suffer from asthma—chronically inflamed airways. (A recent study has even found a direct connection between asthma and depression. Once again, cytokines are the culprit.)
- An estimated 52.5 million US adults have some form of arthritis. Experts expect that number to grow to 67 million in 2030. Nearly half of these people have at least one other inflammatory condition such as heart disease or diabetes.
- Speaking of diabetes, it has reached epidemic proportions. Nearly 30 million Americans live with it.
- Five million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. A new case is diagnosed every 67 seconds.
Second, antidepressants don’t work for everyone, and they don’t cure depression. They don’t address causes; they just treat symptoms. And the side effects can be downright awful. Some of the worst include weight gain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of sexual desire, erectile dysfunction, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts.
Here’s the exciting part. You can reduce or eliminate chronic inflammation. By getting rid of this very real cause, you’re much more likely to cure the disease. All this without drugs and side effects.
Here are some of the best, most effective anti-inflammatory nutrients:
- Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids. Omega-3s can reduce acute and chronic inflammation. More importantly, they have shown great promise as natural antidepressants with zero side effects.
- Curcumin. This compound, found in the Indian spice turmeric, offers powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Exciting research has even examined curcumin’s effect on depression. One researcher called curcumin a “promising novel, adjunctive or stand-alone natural antidepressant.”
- Quercetin. This well-known antioxidant also appears to decrease systemic inflammation. It does so by dampening several of the inflammatory chemicals that flare up during allergic reactions.
- Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA). Widely regarded as one of the most potent antioxidants, ALA resides in every cell of your body. One of its main jobs is to convert glucose into energy, but it also protects against inflammation, especially in the heart and brain.
Finally, if you’re dealing with depression, I strongly encourage adopting two lifestyle habits, if you haven’t already: exercise and professional counseling.
Talk therapy can help you learn to manage your symptoms and work through challenges. Skilled therapists can also provide you with the tools and skills you need to better handle your emotions.
And exercise is one of the best preventive health behaviors you can engage in. Physical activity helps alleviate general sadness as well as major clinical depression. These benefits come courtesy of endorphins that the body releases during exercise. These “feel-good” chemicals generate positive, optimistic feelings. Exercise also dulls inflammation. So get out there and get moving. It will help you and your entire body in countless ways.