Depression may not be a psychological condition, but rather a physical one caused by a faulty immune system, scientists now believe. After thorough observations, it has been concluded that depression may, in fact, be a symptom of the immune system failing to switch off after a trauma or illness.
With more and more people suffering from depression worldwide, one has to ask why and how this condition is triggered and what can be done to prevent it. Current treatment is largely centered around restoring the necessary mood-boosting chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, and it’s largely done by prescribing antidepressants.
However, experts now think that depression, as well as chronic fatigue, are, in fact, caused by an overactive immune system which triggers inflammation throughout the entire body.
Recent papers and unexpected results from clinical trials have shown how depression symptoms seem to disappear after treating inflammation, and how drugs that boost the immune system to fight illness have often triggered a depressive mood.
Professor Ed Bullmore, Head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, explains that inflammation can cause depression.
“In relation to mood, beyond reasonable doubt, there is a very robust association between inflammation and depressive symptoms. We give people a vaccination and they will become depressed. Vaccine clinics could always predict it, but they could never explain it.
“The question is does the inflammation drive the depression or vice versa or is it just a coincidence?
“In experimental medicine studies, if you treat a healthy individual with an inflammatory drug, like interferon, a substantial percentage of those people will become depressed. So, we think there is good enough evidence for a causal effect.”
And new trials are set to test whether anti-inflammatory drugs could switch off depression. Bullmore believes that it should work, based on the evidence presented so far.
The theory behind the correlation between depression and inflammation is one that spans back to our ancestors, and scientists explain that it may have brought an evolutionary benefit to us. This association worked in a way that prevented the ill or wounded tribal member from passing the disease on by becoming depressed and withdrawn.
The fact that scientists believed the brain was entirely cut off from the immune system has prevented them from establishing this link so far. However, recent studies have shown that there is an interaction between the nerve cells in the brain and the immune function and that they can have an impact on one another.
And with today’s unhealthy dieting trends which involve large quantities of sugar, refined carbohydrates – all too well known to trigger inflammation – the reason why more and more people are depressed is pretty obvious.
Which is more, we have subjected ourselves to high doses of stress in our fast-paced lifestyles, one which is equally responsible for inflammation and, consequently, chronic fatigue. What’s new, though, is that the way we disrespect our bodies affects our mental health as well.
NATURAL WAYS TO REDUCE INFLAMMATION
Dr. Kelly Brogan, author of A Mind of Your Own, points to certain lifestyle changes with a natural anti-inflammatory effect that can help you improve your mood:
Exercise – It has long been considered a very healthy and suitable way to alleviate and treat symptoms of depression, and it acts as a “biological insurance plan against the bodily effects of stress.” Give yourself 3 days in the week where you’ll exercise for at least 20 minutes – that’s all you need.
Diet – Eliminate processed food, especially refined carbohydrates and sugar, as it increases the inflammation in the body. Introduce fruits and vegetables, pastured animal products, wild fish, and eggs.
Meditate – Meditation has been shown to stimulate the expression of genes that are powerfully anti-inflammatory. Introducing only 10 minutes per day of mindfulness, deep breathing, or gratitude journaling can improve your mood greatly.