Making A Connection Between Depression and Inflammation PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 04 November 2011 12:47
The dramatic rise in depression diagnoses over the last two decades is a great challenge to modern medicine. I believe that part of the "depression epidemic" is false - a creation of aggressive disease-mongering by pharmaceutical companies to promote antidepressant sales. However, it's equally clear that within that trend, there has been a real rise in depression rates.

The reasons for the increase are complex, but one important theory deserves special consideration, because I believe it offers new possibilities for prevention and treatment. At the center of this theory are cytokines -- proteins made by immune cells that govern responses to foreign antigens and germs.

Cytokines have varied effects. One type -- the interleukins -- controls inflammation and produces fever. Another type governs how red and white blood cells in the bone marrow mature. Because of such powerful effects, some cytokines have proved useful as medical treatments, though they can be quite toxic. In 1980, scientists succeeded in inserting a gene for human interferon into bacteria - this made it possible to mass-produce and purify these proteins. Since then, synthetic, injectable forms of interferon have been in wide use as treatments for several cancers (skin cancers, some leukemias), chronic viral hepatitis and multiple sclerosis.

A commonly-reported side effect of interferon therapy is severe depression. Long-term activation of the immune system, as in autoimmune disease, also seems to go along with depression. The reverse is also true: Depression seems to involve changes in various aspects of immunity, particularly those having to do with cytokines. People with rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, systemic lupus (SLE) and other forms of autoimmunity are often depressed. And when proinflammatory cytokines are administered to animals, they elicit "sickness behavior": The animals become listless, lose interest in eating, grooming, socializing and sex, and show increased sensitivity to pain, changes strikingly similar to those in humans with major depression.

Loss of interest in food and ability to take pleasure in eating make sense as a short-term response to infection - it frees up energy used for digestion and makes it available for immune defense. Once the immune system gains the upper hand, it can turn down the cytokines, allowing brain centers that control appetite and taste to resume normal activity. Malignant tumors, however, even when they are relatively small, often stimulate prolonged cytokine responses that do more harm than good. For example, they permanently suppress appetite. This leads to extreme wasting (cachexia) that all too many cancer patients suffer. Given that dramatic effect on the brain and body, consider the impact of prolonged cytokine responses on parts of the brain associated with thoughts and emotions.

The reason I find the cytokine hypothesis of depression so compelling is that it fits right in with my belief that doing everything we can to contain unnecessary inflammation - by adhering to an anti-inflammatory diet, for example - is the best overall strategy for attaining optimum health.

Inflammation is the cornerstone of the body's healing response. It is the process by which the immune system delivers more nourishment and more defensive activity to an area that is injured or under attack. But inflammation is so powerful and so potentially destructive that it must stay where it is supposed to be and end when it is supposed to end; otherwise it damages the body and causes disease. Cytokines are the principal chemical mediators of the inflammatory response. Anything you can do to keep them within their proper bounds will reduce your risks of chronic disease and also, it now appears, protect you from depression.

How to control inappropriate inflammation is a big subject, but dietary choices are perhaps the most important way to keep excessive cytokine production in check. The anti-inflammatory food pyramid consists of foods that can help control inflammation, as well as provide the vitamins, minerals and fiber required for optimal health. Prudent exercise regimes and stress-reduction techniques can also be helpful.

Depression is a serious problem, but as our understanding of the mechanisms behind it improves, I believe we can make significant progress in developing simple, safe, effective therapies to treat it.

Source: Dr. A. Weil (2011), "The Depression-Inflammation Connection", Huffington Post; the full and original article can be viewed here.

 
More articles :

» A Hands-On Approach to Improved Health

What therapy can help decrease pain, anxiety, stress and depression? It can help patients with arthritis, lymphedema, fibromyalgia, , pregnancy and psychological disorders. And it even can help relieve agitation that may occur with Alzheimer's...

» Alternative Therapies for Raynaud's, Discussed

Can biofeedback, fish oils, dietary supplements or other remedies ease the feelings of coldness, numbness and tingling in the fingers and toes of people with Raynaud’s disease? Those are among the questions posed by readers in a recent posting on...

» Increase Your Happiness Levels

Happiness is one of those concepts we all seem to love to learn more about, but we are unwilling to take any big steps to increase it in our own lives. Some experts claim happiness can be found in a particular herb or a special diet, but there's...

» Is The Gluten Free Diet A Fad?

Not long ago, the phrase “ free” was one relegated to health food stores and medical clinics, the sole concern of an unlucky few diagnosed with a gluten-intolerant condition known as and forced to scavenge the grocery isles for the few...

» Th22 Cells As Milestone Of Immunological Research

The newly discovered Th22 cells are a previously unknown subset of . T helper cells are white blood cells that help activate other immune cells when the body is infected by viruses or bacteria. At the same time they help the body to tolerate own...

» Free the Free Radicals

We’re all used to hearing that everything we once thought was good for us is not. But even within that framework, the latest science about , free radicals and exercise is telling. As many of us have heard, free radicals are molecules created by...