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 :

» Tips For Maintaining A Positive Attitude

According to, a positive attitude surely helps one to cope more easily with the daily affairs of life. It brings optimism into your life, and makes it easier to avoid worry and negative thinking. If you adopt thinking as a way of life, it will...

» Scleroderma-Related PAH: The Need for Early Diagnosis and Treatment

Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) associated with scleroderma (systemic sclerosis) is an aggressive disorder with a poor prognosis. Effective therapies are available for PAH but patients with scleroderma-associated PAH have a poorer response to...

» Eating Well: Nutritional Needs in Scleroderma

The purpose of this article is to identify nutritional needs in and provide practical food advice, with the two goals of minimizing nutrition-related side effects and to improve your overall nutritional health. Since Scleroderma can be manifested...

» The Keys To Healthy Living

The key to eating and living healthy is a balanced, nutritious diet. And to consume a balanced diet, you need to have foods from all the food groups, that is, fruits, vegetables, meats and poultry, whole grains, dairy products and oils/fats.You must...

» Growing Your Very Own Wheatgrass

juice is increasing in popularity and with very good reason. Nothing more than baby wheat, grown and juiced, it's one of natures most powerpacked juices, possessing natural healing qualities which provide great benefits to our health. If you are on...

» 9 Essential Tips For A Health Kidney

Tip #1Drink 8-8 glasses of water in a gradual manner over the day. Gulping 8 glasses on a morning and thinking that you have flushed for the day is erroneous, as you would merely urinate more. So take a glassful at a time over the waking hours,...