Inflammation and Depression

Depression and anxiety can strike anyone at any time. But with the winter approaching and the sweet yellow orb of vitamin D that is the sun giving way to longer and longer nights, mental illness becomes more prevalent than ever. Fortunately, however, we are gaining a greater understanding of what causes depression, and have recently made some promising discoveries on what some potential causes may be. Surprisingly, recent studies suggest that depression may be nothing more than an allergic reaction to inflammation in our bodies. Specifically to a type of mind-related inflammation called neuroinflammation. Every case of anxiety and depression is different, but there seems to be evidence now that with certain cases, a few simple lifestyle changes could prove to be a very effective treatment.

So… how is it that inflammation, depression, and anxiety are related? Tim de Chant from NOVA explains that inflammation is our immune system’s natural response to injuries, infections, or foreign compounds. Our bodies respond to these triggers by pumping various cells and proteins to the source of the injury, which are called cytokines, a class of proteins that facilitate intercellular communication. It has also been shown that people’s bodies who are suffering from depression have irregularly high amounts of cytokines.

Thus it seems that depression and anxiety have a direct link to neuroinflammation. And by treating the neuroinflammation instead taking a more psychological approach, we can effectively and easily treat many cases of anxiety and depression without having to get into dangerous and risky treatments involving psychotropic drugs. The possibility of adding anti-inflammatory elements to anti-depressants is being looked into, but there are even easier, safer, and more immediate ways to treat the inflammation. Below is a list of five easy treatments that can reduce inflammation in your body and thus drastically improve your mood.

1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. These acids have been found to effectively treat depression. They are found in many types of fish, but there are also supplements in pill form that you can take daily. They can be found in nearly any grocery store and are effective at treating inflammation which in turn has positive effects on your mood. They are also thought to help prevent many serious disorders and diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cancer.

2. Cinnamon. This common spice is more than just delicious; it is also proven to have healing qualities. Multiple studies have shown that it contains anti-inflammatory properties and can consistently and effectively reduce swelling in the body. The fact that it goes well with so many things, particularly tea, coffee, oatmeal, and cereal, also makes it an easy addition to one’s day.

3. Craniosacral therapy. Craniosacral therapy is a manipulation of the head and neck to reduce tension. Reducing tension is huge in treating the body systemically for inflammation and thus reducing depression and anxiety. Though it seems like a small gesture in the face of something as powerful as mental illness, it has been used as a treatment for neuroinflammation and has had surprisingly positive effects.

4. Acupuncture. As stated before in this blog, acupuncture is one of the key ways to treat for any kind of inflammation. It drastically reduces the effects and symptoms of inflammation and helps work on the body’s energies, making one feel calmer and happier. By regularly undergoing acupuncture, you can treat for inflammation induced depression in two ways at once.

5. Eliminating common allergens from you diet. As stated before, part of the problem of neuroinflammation is caused by a reaction to allergens in your system. Major ones include soy, gluten, and dairy. By eliminating them from your diet, you will be directly treating for your neuroinflammation.

Still, we must keep in mind that treating neuroinflammation is just one way of treating for depression. As Gary Kaplan, an osteopathic physician at his Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine in McLean, VA, and a strong supporter of the neuroinflammation treatments puts it, “We’re not going to help people who are depressed and in pain if we don’t spend time finding out about them as whole people with histories that greatly influence their health,” he says. “Neuroinflammation is not the answer to everything, but understanding it is extremely important. It will eventually change how we treat these reversible diseases.”