The Link between Inflammation and Depression
Depression is one of the most common mental disorders, and can significantly affect one’s ability to carry out daily tasks and find enjoyment in life. One in ten adults in the United States face depression in a given year. There are many options for treating depression, including psychotherapy, antidepressant medications, and acupuncture, but few people are aware of another treatment entry-point: addressing inflammation.
Research shows that inflammation can worsen depressive symptoms or even lead to depression in some individuals. When our bodies are confronted with viruses, toxins, and bacteria, our immune system responds by sending cells, tissues, and proteins into attack mode. The result of this attack on the foreign entity in the body is inflammation. You might be familiar with inflammation of an injured body part, for example, that becomes hot, red, and swollen. In other cases, though, your whole body system becomes inflamed, which results in changes to your physical, behavioral, and cognitive health.
A great defense against depression and way to increase overall health is to reduce inflammation.
Here are a few ways to do this:
1. Reduce your stress levels by practicing deep breathing, getting good sleep, and listening to your needs.
2. Be intentional about food choices: increase anti-inflammatory foods like berries, leafy greens, olive oil, almonds, and fish. Try to avoid things like soda, alcohol, refined sugars, empty carbs (pasta, breads, etc) and fried foods.
3. Get moving: physical activity like talking a brisk walk, stretching while watching tv, playing with your kids outside, and doing yoga can help fight inflammation.
4. Talk with your healthcare provider about incorporating supplements like omega 3 and probiotics, which have been shown to normalize stress-induced inflammation.
If you face an immune disorder, be aware that depressive symptoms may co-occur. Similarly, if you struggle with depression, be careful to avoid things that could trigger your immune response. The more you know about how your body reacts to stress and inflammation, the more you can take good care of yourself.
Azab, M. (2018). The Brain on Fire: Depression and Inflammation. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/neuroscience-in-everyday-life/201810/the-brain-fire-depression-and-inflammation
Hope for Depression. Depression Facts. Retrieved from https://www.hopefordepression.org/depression-facts/
National Institute of Mental Health. Major Depression. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml
Rodriguez, T. (2018). Probiotics, Depression, and the Role of Inflammation. Retrieved from https://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/home/depression-advisor/probiotics-depression-and-the-role-of-inflammation/
Wei, M. (2017). New Research Shows Depression Linked with Inflammation. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/urban-survival/201701/new-research-shows-depression-linked-inflammation