Inflammation May Cause Depression

Inflammation May Cause Depression

As your body reacts to the slings and arrows of everyday life, various inflammatory markers may ensue. This inflammation occurs for a reason as it signals the brain to instruct the body’s immune system to produce more white blood cells to fight potential pathogens at the inflamed site. In turn, it also enhances blood flow to the inflamed area so as to rapidly transport the new calvary of white blood cells as well as various healing proteins.

However, over-inflammation may cause too much of an immune response and could trigger the body into a revolving auto-immune disease. This is when a constant attempt to get back to homeostasis, aka healthy equilibrium, continues on a kind of loop that turns into a chronic cycle which is never able to heal. Therefore, symptoms remain and most conventional efforts to remedy are futile.

New research indicates that a constant attempt to fight inflammation may be the initial cause of depression. Some are even calling it a possible ‘depression allergy’ to certain systemic reactions that cause  inflammation.

This research is the beginning of a ‘thinking-out-of-the-box’ approach that may give hope to millions suffering from mild to debilitating sadness and in some cases, possibly even anxiety.

It’s in the Cytokines

The proteins that accompany white blood cell response to inflammation include cells known as cytokines. There are many variations of cytokines but certain ones may clue researchers to the development of depression.

Tim de Chant, Senior Digital Editor at NOVA and Lecturer at MIT wrote,

“Inflammation is our immune system’s natural response to injuries, infections, or foreign compounds. When triggered, the body pumps various cells and proteins to the site through the blood stream, including cytokines, a class of proteins that facilitate intercellular communication.

It also happens that people suffering from depression are loaded with cytokines.”

One conclusion from a study published in The Journal of Affective Disorders stated,

“These findings suggest that mania, and [] depression are associated with a pro-inflammatory state. These changes seem to be related to mood state, as changes in cytokine profile were more pronounced during acute episodes than in euthymia [normal non-depressed, reasonably positive mood]. This study provides further support to investigate the immune system as a target for future treatment development.”

Inflammation Factors

The inflammation that presents an increase in cytokines not only occurs when you experience a response to something like stubbing your toe. It is also the result of microscopic cellular inflammation reacting to a variety of outside factors which are notably:

  • Stress
  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Obesity
  • Weak gut bacteria
  • High sugar diets
  • High quantities of trans fats
  • Unhealthy diets in general

These causes and many more have been shown to increase cellular inflammation on such a continuous level that the brain almost reacts in a ‘giving up’ response which manifests in the form of depression. As the body continues to follow the immune system response, the constant attempt may be enough to throw off mental health.


Depression being linked to inflammation may still be a theory, but with growing evidence various treatments are being considered. At the same time, once more solid data is reported, some are calling for labeling depression as an infectious disease rather than a mental disorder.

Cytokine cell increase has prompted current pilot studies to log the effects of prescribing an anti-inflammatory along with an anti-depressant for a possible beneficial response. So far the studies show promise.

A PubMed Health report stated,

“Many people with depression (about one third) are not helped by usual antidepressant drugs, which alter levels of messenger chemicals in the brain. Treatments targeting inflammatory proteins – another possible cause of depression – might offer hope to some of these people.”

Treatment may come in the form taking a blood test to determine cytokine levels. Although such a test may be years away, some believe that it would be the beginning of a possible cure for depression. In the meantime, understanding the above mentioned causes of inflammation might warrant a simple way to reduce such triggers by implementing the opposite of such.

For example, to reduce inflammation and possibly alleviate mild, moderate or possibly crippling depressive symptoms:

  • Reduce stress
  • Lose weight
  • Start a probiotic regiment
  • Cut sugar and trans-fats from your diet
  • Moderate or terminate alcohol and tobacco use
  • Eat less processed food and more fresh vegetables, legumes, whole grains and fruit

Sometimes it is the simplest remedy that no one attempts and instead becoming shackled to a life of medication and struggle is the result. Until more research can determine definitive treatment, changing your diet may be all you need to get back to a healthy mindset.