Depression and Inflammation

The traditional view of depression is that it is caused by a dearth of neurotransmitters in the brain – this in turn leads to lowered levels of serotonin and endorphins in the body (the feel good hormones) – hence depression.

However there is an increasing body of evidence that suggests the chronic depression may be linked to low grade inflammation in the body.  Inflammation is essentially chronic over stimulation of the body’s immune system.  Inflammation can be caused by low level infection, smoking, excess alcohol, chronic stress, medication, poor sleep, reduced physical activity and a poor unbalanced diet.

Studies have linked depression with higher level of inflammatory blood markers compared to people who are not depressed. A marker of inflammation called CRP (C reactive protein) is typically noticeably elevated in depressed people.  Also it has been found that people given proinflammatory cytokines, people experience more symptoms of depression and anxiety.  Moreover imaging of patients with depressed often show neuroinflammation.

However there a number of clinically proven ways we can reduce our inflammation levels –

  1. Reduce stress levels – try to find ways to take more care of yourself – slow down and ensure you get into a pattern of healthy, restful sleeping (8 hours per night).  No one benefits from poor/short sleeping despite what famous people may say!!
  2. Eat less inflammatory food – fried food, salt food, sugary food, animal fats/transfats, processed food and red meat.  Increase your levels of fruit, vegetables, good quality plant oils/fish oils, nuts/seeds and fibre.
  3. Try to exercise 3 to 4 times per weeks -anything is better than nothing.
  4. Take up a mind body exercise – Yoga and Pilates are brilliant at relaxing the stressed.
  5. Practice meditation and breathing exercises, these have a massively powerful impact on bodily inflammatory markers.