A growing number of researchers suggest that depression is linked to chronic inflammation, as inflammation can have a significant effect on mental health.
Psychoneuroimmunology is the study of the effect of inflammation on behavior. The journal Neuropsychopharmacology published a 2012 study which suggests:
“Elevated biomarkers of inflammation, including inflammatory cytokines and acute-phase proteins, have been found in depressed patients, and administration of inflammatory stimuli has been associated with the development of depressive symptoms.
Data also have demonstrated that inflammatory cytokines can interact with multiple pathways known to be involved in the development of depression, including monoamine metabolism, neuroendocrine function, synaptic plasticity, and neurocircuits relevant to mood regulation …
Psychosocial stress, diet, obesity, a leaky gut and an imbalance between regulatory and pro-inflammatory T cells also contribute to inflammation and may serve as a focus for preventative strategies relevant to both the development of depression and its recurrence.”
This indicates that depression occurs as a result of the attempt of the body to protect against inflammation, and this involves hormones and neurotransmitters.
Depressive symptoms linked to chronic inflammation include metabolic changes, flat mood, slowed thinking, avoidance, and alterations in perception.
Cytokines in the blood or inflammatory messengers like CRP, interleukin-1 (IL-1), interleukin-6 (IL-6) and TNF-alpha predict and correlate to depression.
For instance, in the case of bipolar disorders, melancholic depression, and postpartum depression, monocytes, or white blood, express pro-inflammatory genes that stimulate the release of cytokines, and at the same time, cortisol sensitivity is reduced.
These inflammatory agents transfer information to the nervous system, usually by stimulating the vagus nerve, that connects the brain and the gut.
Microglia, a type of brain cells, are activated during inflammatory states, and at this time, an enzyme indoleamine 2 3-dioxygenase (IDO) directs tryptophan away from the secretion of serotonin and melatonin, triggering the production of NMDA (an amino acid derivative) agonist known as quinolinic acid, which can lead to anxiety and agitation.
According to BBC, researchers have recently highlighted the inflammatory underpinnings of depression:
“The focus is on an errant immune system causing inflammation in the body and altering mood … [Professor Ed Bullmore, Ph.D., head of psychiatry at the University of Cambridge and an employee of GlaxoSmithKline] said: ‘Depression and inflammation often go hand in hand …
[I]f you have flu, the immune system reacts to that, you become inflamed and very often people find that their mood changes too. Their [behavior] changes, they may become less sociable, more sleepy [and] more withdrawn.
They may begin to have some of the negative ways of thinking that are characteristic of depression and all of that follows an infection’ …
Inflammation is part of the immune system’s response to danger … If it is too high, it causes damage. And for some reason, about one-third of depressed patients have consistently high levels of inflammation.”
Rheumatoid arthritis patients were treated with anti-inflammatory drugs that focus on certain parts of the immune system and improve mood.
As professor Iain McInnes, a consultant rheumatologist told the BBC:
“When we give these therapies we see a fairly rapid increase in a sense of well-being, mood state improving quite remarkably often disproportionately given the amount of inflammation we can see in their joints and their skin.”
His team conducted brain scans on patients with rheumatoid arthritis, before and after they received an immune targeted drug.
After receiving it, they found significant changes in the neurochemical circuitry of their brain, and they recognized positive effects on the pathways involved in alleviating depression.
Carmine Pariante, a professor of biological psychiatry, found that people with overactive immune systems have fewer chances to respond to anti-depressants, and the emotional trauma changes their immune system, and “prime” it so that it predisposes them to depression.
“We think the immune system is the key mechanism by which early life events produce this long-term effect.
We have some data showing adult individuals who have a history of early life trauma, even if they have never been depressed, have an activated immune system so they are in a state of risk.”
Researchers are currently testing the effects of the arthritis drug sirukumab on depressed patients. Yet, all drugs have side-effects, which can sometimes be terminal.
Fortunately, inflammation can be fought in a natural way, and one of the most effective ways is the ketogenic diet, which is high in healthy fats and low in net carbs.
It virtually vanishes the C-reactive protein (CRP) level (an inflammatory marker). There are other highly effective anti-inflammatory dietary and lifestyle strategies, like regular exercise, appropriate sun exposure, and the consumption of anti-inflammatory foods.
Moreover, raw nuts are an excellent source of healthy fats, and the consumption of an ounce of nuts 5 times a week significantly reduces inflammation. According to Reuters:
“Past research has linked eating nuts to lower rates of heart disease and diabetes, but the exact reason was unknown, senior study author Dr. Ying Bao, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, told Reuters Health. ‘We hypothesized that nuts may exert these health benefits by reducing inflammation,’ Bao said …”
The findings of two long-term studies — the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS) — indicate that individuals who ate nuts 5 times a week had 20 percent lower CRP levels and 16 percent lower IL-6 than compared to those who rarely or never ate nuts.
The regular consumption of nuts has been found to be linked to:
- Improved heart health
- Weight loss
- Lower mortality risk and increased longevity
- Lower systolic blood pressure
- Reduced risk factors for metabolic syndrome and diabetes
One study has found that people who consumed a small handful (1 ounce or 28 grams) of nuts seven times a week or more had a reduced risk of death for any reason by 20%, and the intake of at least 5 times per week was linked to a reduced risk of mortality from heart disease by 29 percent and a lower risk of mortality from cancer by 11%.
Nuts are rich in anti-inflammatory ingredients like antioxidants, magnesium, the amino acid L-arginine, fiber, and unsaturated fatty acids like α-linolenic acid. Most of these antioxidants are concentrated in their skin, so for best effects, always choose organic, raw and unpeeled nuts.
From all nuts, pecans and macadamia are the richest sources of healthy fat and are the lowest in protein and carbs. Raw macadamia nuts are also rich in vitamin B1, magnesium and manganese, and 60% of the fatty acid is the monounsaturated fat oleic acid.
On the other hand, pecans are among the top 15 foods known for their antioxidant effects and contain 19 different vitamins and minerals.
One of their antioxidants is vitamin W, which conveys neurological protection and prevents oxidation of the blood lipids. Pecans are also abundant in beta-carotenes, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which prevent free radical damage and fight inflammation.
Nuts contain plant-based omega-3, but animal-based omega-3 is a potent anti-inflammatory which can turn the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) into the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) which supports brain health.
Additionally, every single body cell needs the marine-based DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Therefore, increase the intake of fatty, cold-water fish like herring, krill oil, fish roe, sardines, wild Alaskan salmon, to optimize the levels of animal-based DHA and EPA.
On the other hand, vitamin D is also very important in the struggle against inflammation. It is best obtained from regular, sensible sun exposure, as it produces more than 200 anti-microbial peptides and regulates multiple genes, including the ones that combat infections and chronic inflammation.
The findings of one placebo-controlled study indicate that high-dose vitamin D supplementation improved anti-inflammatory molecules, meaning that it can be an effective anti-inflammatory “medicine” in the case of heart failure.
The deficiency in this vitamin has also been linked to depression, and researchers have found that seniors with the lowest vitamin D levels were 11 times more prone to depression than others.
Vitamin D receptors appear in various brain tissues as well, so by optimization of its levels, one can improve important chemicals in the brain and protect brain cells by boosting the effectiveness of glial cells that cure the damaged neurons.
Your vitamin D levels should be at least 40 to 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml), and it is best to optimize its levels by appropriate solar exposure, as oral vitamin D might disrupt some physiologic actions.
Moreover, to treat depression, you need all the frequencies in sunlight, and the daily exposure to sunlight will normalize and regulate numerous functions in the body.
So, if you suffer from depression, you should take all these necessary steps to lower its symptoms and avoid the use of drugs. The first thing you should do is to start eating a healthy diet, high in animal-based omega-3 and vitamin D.
Raw organic nuts are the best healthy fat source, so make sure you increase their intake. Don’t forget to support your gut health, as depression is also aggravated due to impaired gut flora.
Make sure you consume traditionally fermented and cultured foods like natto, kefir, kimchi and fermented vegetables. Moreover, avoid the consumption of processed foods, and eat real foods, rich in nutrients and antioxidants.