The Inflammation and Depression Connection
When we think about depression, we don’t often think about our immune systems, right? We think about brain chemicals, life stress, and hereditary mental illness. But perhaps we need to widen that perception.
Our immune systems are supposed to have one job: defend the body. One of tools used by the immune system is inflammation. It is how our bodies respond to injuries and it can heal your body and aid in the defense against illness. And for the most part, they do a great job.
But sometimes it all goes a bit haywire.
Chronic inflammation ends up attacking your body and leaving you with all sorts of negative symptoms, chronic diseases, and higher risk of developing serious conditions like cancer.
And research is showing us that it can also be connected to depression.
It’s estimated that somewhere around 350 million in the world suffer from depression. This is a very real, very serious condition that can at best make life much more difficult and at worst, end in a lost life.
So figuring out what’s causing it and how to get rid of it is really important. Read on to learn about the inflammation/depression connection and steps you can take to improve the inflammation in your body.
The Inflammation and Depression Connection
People used to think that those with depression would have lagging immune systems. But more recently, people are starting to see that they may have overworking immune systems.
In fact, there are lots of different studies pointing to the correlation between elevated and/or chronic inflammation with depression.
For example, a fairly recent study looked at over 14,000 people who were 20 years old or older. Each was interviewed, examined by a medical doctor, and blood tested. After collecting all the data, the researchers believed that nearly 8% of the participants had symptoms of depression.
The blood tests they took looked for something called CRP levels (C-reactive protein), which is considered a marker of inflammatory diseases. That 8% with symptoms of depression showed a 31% increase in CRP.
This is only one of quite a few studies that have done this sort of found this sort of connection between inflammatory markers and depression.
Another study showed getting an autoimmune disease (which are often characterized by inflammation) ups your chances of being depressed by 45% and around 70% of everyone with autoimmune diseases also have depression.
Other studies have shown that inhibiting inflammation can improve mood and that inflammation can be reduced by antidepressants.
So Will Lowering Inflammation Get Rid of Depression?
Most studies on inflammation and depression focus on correlation. And as we’ve seen above, the scientific proof for this is overwhelming: inflammation and depression definitely go together.
But there are really not enough studies on causation. Does inflammation in the body lead to depression? Or does having depression make your body more inflamed? These are questions that need more study.
But – that does not mean researchers are not heading that way. They seem to fully recognize the capability of lowered inflammation to also lower depression. In fact, one review stated:
“Preliminary data from patients with inflammatory disorders, as well as medically healthy depressed patients, suggest that inhibiting proinflammatory cytokines or their signaling pathways may improve depressed mood and increase treatment response to conventional antidepressant medication.”
And both European countries and Iran have released very small studies on using anti-inflammatory drugs as depression treatment. They did find that anti-inflammatories brought relief to symptoms from hopelessness to feeling tired.
Another small study of only 60 people with depression gave an anti-inflammatory to people with depression – some of which had a lot of inflammation in the body, and some did not. And it found that those without too much inflammation did not respond well to the anti-inflammatory treatment.
As researchers study inflammation treatment as depression treatment over the next years, we should have a clearer understanding, but here is what we definitely know now:
- Inflammation and depression go hand in hand
- Inflammation also leads to joint problems, digestive problems, insomnia, heart problems, breathing problems, and even cancer
So no matter what – lowering increased inflammation is essential.
Ways You Can Lower Chronic Inflammation
Here are seven steps you can take to start lowering your inflammation today.
1. Change Your Diet
One of the easiest and most effective steps you can take to lower inflammation is simply changing your diet. Eat fewer inflammatory foods and eat more anti-inflammatory foods. Here’s a breakdown of some of those choices.
Examples of inflammatory foods to avoid:
- Refined starch
- Processed meat (like sausages)
- Fried foods
- Trans fats
Examples of anti-inflammatory foods to eat more of:
- All the fruits
- All the vegetables
- Whole grains (like oatmeal or quinoa)
The goal should be a plant-based or plant-heavy diet. Even if you do choose meat, you can do small portions of lean, healthy meats.
Studies have shown that regular exercise lowers the body’s inflammation in many different ways. Pair that idea with the knowledge that exercise has been shown time and time again to ease all sort of depression symptoms.
It is an absolute must-do.
The key is to find a type of exercise that makes you feel good. If you like “typical” exercise like running on a treadmill or lifting weights – that’s great. Do that. But if you are like a lot of people that dread that type of activing you are probably:
- Not going to do it regularly
- Hate it when you do it (which won’t necessarily uplift your mood!)
Instead, figure out what type of body movement brings you joy and do that. Some creative ideas include:
- Join a community sports league
- Make a list of hiking trails within driving distance and try all of them
- Take different workout classes – from yoga and Pilates to Zumba and or aerial aerobics
- Re-do your backyard or plant a garden
- Take dancing lessons
- Buy a bike and take leisurely rides
3. Go Outside
Studies show that vitamin D deficiencies and inflammation are connected.
This is a major problem when you consider somewhere around 73% to 85% of people are deficient in vitamin D.
So one of the best things you can do is simply go outside and let your body make its own vitamin D. One of the best things you can do is allow your skin to touch the sunshine for a few minutes each day without sunscreen (just a few!).
4. Get Some More Sleep
We all know that not getting enough sleep can lead to all sorts of negatives like – difficulty focusing, crankiness, getting sick more easily, even dangerous conditions at work …
But it also can lead to inflammation.
The catch-22 is insomnia or sleep issues are common among If you struggle to get enough sleep every night, try some of these tips:
- Start an all-natural sleep aid with ingredients like melatonin, magnesium, and valerian root. My favorite is Eu Natural’s Serenity Sleep Aid.
- Keep a regular bedtime and stick to it – on the weekdays and the weekends.
- Have a no screen policy in your bedroom.
- Play a white noise sound machine to drown out any noises that could keep you up.
We already know that stress negatively impacts depression. But studies have more recently shown that stress can directly affect the way your body regulates inflammation.
I know we’ve all been told to “lower stress.” It’s an idea most people probably agree with. The problem is we don’t always know how to practically make that happen. In reality, you will have to try different things to see what works best for you. Here are a few options to get you started:
- Try relaxation techniques: Meditation, tapping, deep breathing, and guided imagery are all techniques that can help you find calm in the midst of any stressful situation
- Remove stressors: Sometimes we are able to end relationships or leave jobs that are bringing immense stress – this isn’t selfish; it’s lowering inflammation
- Go to therapy: Talking to a professional can help you get an unbiased, educated, compassionate new perspective on your problems; plus, they can give you tools to cope with your stress
RELATED: How Negative Emotions Harm The Body
6. Take An All-Natural Anti-Inflammatory
There are many all-natural substances that help lower the body’s inflammation. These are great choices because they don’t come with the same side effects as NSAIDs or other medications. Here are some of my favorites:
- Turmeric Curcumin: You’ve probably already heard that the turmeric spice is an incredible anti-inflammatory, but the true star is its active ingredient: curcumin. This antioxidant actively lowers pro-inflammatory enzymes.
- Boron: This mineral may not be very well-known, but it plays an important role in managing the body’s inflammation levels.
- Vitamin D: We already know about the power of this important vitamin!
- Celadrin®: This blend of amino acids that helps lower inflammation
Eu Natural joins these supplements alongside others to give you all of that anti-inflammatory goodness with their Primal Joint Support and Anti-Inflammatory.
7. Talk To Your Doctor
The reason you may have too much inflammation could be that you have some sort of inflammatory disease. Ask your doctor for a full exam and blood test to check for any of these conditions, which include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Celiac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- And many more
If you do end up with one of these diagnoses, treatment can be as simple as changing your diet (like getting rid of gluten). If it’s a more complicated diagnosis, realize that the early you catch it, the better off you are.
Lowering Inflammation and Depression
The nice thing about the steps to lower inflammation is that they are also so important for treating depression too. Healthy eating, exercise, sun exposure, relaxation, and sleep all help both issues independently – but know you also know they are helping both issues connectedly as well.