Can inflammation cause depression

Feeling depressed?

You are not alone. Rates of depression continue to be an ongoing problem in our modern life. For a long time medical science thought the source of depression to be rooted in the mind and phycological issues. However recent research being done seems to suggest that another source could play a deeper role in this debilitating problem.


For us it comes as no surprise, since we see inflammation be the source of many of the challenges we work with. In fact it is the first thing we explore when someone calls us with a health issue. The likelihood that an average person living in the United States holds a certain level of inflammation in their body is high.

How do we know this? Well – due to a few reasons.

First, the diet of many in the US involves large amounts of foods that inflame the body – such as trans fats or sugar. In other words, they are foods that the body has difficulty breaking down and processing when presented with them over and over again. After years of exposure to these foods, our basic system stops handling the trauma these foods present. This creates a baseline inflammation that our body never shakes. As a result it makes it hard for the body to heal from infections that may arise. If the whole body is inflamed all the time, it is hard for the healing mechanisms of the body to find where an infection might reside. In a sense the body sees infection all over. As a result those infections persist longer, causing other long term issues to arise.

Secondly, the environmental toxins surrounding us on a daily basis contribute to inflammation. These are substances that the body gets saturated with. Since these substances often contain harsh chemicals, our body begins to fail in its ability to filter these toxins out. Often these are substances that we get exposed to slowly on a day to day basis. The body does what it can, but if we do not make choices to intentionally counter the effect of these substances, then inflammation often occurs.

Thirdly, we add in the emotional stressors that are part of our lives. These range from long work hours, relationship challenges or grief from a loss. With the electronic age, we are inundated with information about almost anything we can think of all the time. Time for silence, or even processing basic life challenges, is low on the list of to do’s everyday. Again, over time the effect of this stress level on the body can profoundly burden our mental state and wellbeing. When you add it to the inflammation likely already present, it becomes a recipe for serious illness and challenges.

One aspect the current research explores is the natural depression that occurs when one is sick. This is a normal way for the body to slow down so that you get the rest you need to recover. You become less engaged in the outside world. This helps recovery, as well as the likelihood that you won’t walk around and spread what you have to others. When your body is constantly in a state of inflammation, and potential infection, then it may also be triggering this normal depressive state. Your body is ill and so the body naturally tries to encourage rest. Taking an anti-depressant then may not be helping the actual underlying cause of the depression.

Some of the most advanced research tackling this new approach to depression comes from Dr. George Slavich, head of the UCLA Laboratory for Stress Assessment and Research. (Check out their site here). We highly recommend going and looking at the different issues they currently work with. It’s encouraging to see this kind of work being done, especially in regards to the role of inflammation on the functioning of the mind. He is one of several specialists around the world tackling this re-invisioning of depression.

In the coming year we hope to delve into this research more and share what we find.

To get a sense of some of the work he is doing, we’ve added an engaging talk below by Dr. Slavich on this subject. Also for a recent article on the subject check out this link to The Guardian.

Our purpose here is to open your curiosity on this subject and encourage thinking about holistic approaches to your health and wellness. Imagine that instead of years on a anti-depressant, you simply changed diet choices. What a safe and long term solution with the added benefit of reduced side effects. That is ideal. We are excited to see where this research goes and the discoveries they might make.

So check out Dr. Slavich’s talk and let us know what you think. As always let us know your thoughts, especially if you struggle with depression. You may have a solution to your challenges that is closer than you think.

Expect more on this important subject in the months to come.

Until then, To Your Health.

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