March 1, 2017
Depression May Be an
Underlying Sign of Inflammation

Several factors point to a relationship between inflammation and depression:

  • Depression frequently is comorbid with inflammatory illnesses.
  • Increased inflammatory biomarkers are associated with major depressive disorder (MDD).
  • Exposure to immunomodulating agents may increase the risk of developing depression.
  • Stress can activate proinflammatory pathways.
  • Antidepressants can decrease inflammatory response, and inhibition of inflammatory pathways can improve mood.

Inflammation is recognized as the underlying basis of a significant number of diseases, but is usually not linked to depression. It has long been known to play a role in allergic diseases like asthma, arthritis, and Crohn’s disease. It is also increasingly understood that heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, stroke, cancer, autoimmunity, and various neurodegenerative disorders, to name but a few, are all related to inflammation (chronic) in the body.

Inflammation is the body's natural response to injury and outside irritants. But when the irritants don't let up - because of a diet of high-fat foods, too much body fat, and smoking, for example, the immune system can spiral out of control and increase the risk for disease. Experts say when inflammation becomes chronic it will damage heart valves and brain cells, trigger strokes, and promote resistance to insulin, which leads to diabetes. In some instances, depression may be a sign of an underlying inflammatory process.

Research into the interplay between inflammation and hormones is still in its infancy. In particular, the sex hormones such as estrogens and progesterone appear to have important, if complex, effects on the body’s inflammatory response. For example, many researchers have wondered if the increase in inflammatory diseases that coincide with menopause, such as arthritis, might be related to shifts in the balance of progesterone and estrogens.

A depletion of cortisol, the “stress” hormone, is also often implicated in furthering a pro-inflammatory state. Like insulin, cortisol is required for energy metabolism. It is also produced in large amounts in response to an acute short-term stress, such as an infection. Thus, cortisol response must be adequate to handle short-term inflammation. After the stress and inflammation passes, the body’s “fight or flight” hormones quickly return to normal. The problem with cortisol occurs if the inflammation doesn’t stop!

If your patients are suffering with mood concerns, consider the Labrix NeuroHormone Complete Panel, which allows the practitioner to examine sex hormones, cortisol, and neurotransmitter imbalances. While the interplay between inflammation, hormones, and neurotransmitters is complex and emerging, identifying imbalances provides practitioners with an area to focus clinical support, as well as markers to monitor for change when inflammation is addressed.

  • Almond M. “Depression and inflammation: Examining the link.” Current Psychiatry. 2013 June;12(6):24-32.
  • Duque GA, Descoteaux A. Macrophage cytokines: involvement in immunity and infectious diseases. Front Immunol, 7 October 2014.
  • Tait AS, Butts CL, Sternberg EM. The role of glucocorticoids and progestins in inflammatory, autoimmune, and infectious disease. J Leukoc Biol. 2008 Oct;84(4):924-931.
  • Hyman MA. The Right Order of Things: Peeling the Onion of Chronic Disease. Alternative Therapies. Mar/Apr 2009, Vol 15, No. 2.
  • Maroon JC, Bnost JW, Maroon A. Natural anti-inflammatory agents for pain relief. Surg Neurol Int. 2010, 1:80.
  • Surh YJ, Kundu JK, Na HK, Lee JS. Redox-sensitive transcription factors as prime targets for chemoprevention with anti-inflammatory and antioxidative phytochemicals. J Nutr. 2005 Dec;135(12 Suppl):2993S-3001S.
  • Lund K and T Pantuso. J of Restorative Medicine. 2014;3:112.
  • Brenna JT, Salem N Jr, Sinclair AJ, et al. alpha-Linolenic acid supplementation and conversion to n-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in humans. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2009;80:85-91.
  • Tall JM, et al. Tart cherry anthocyanins suppress inflammation-induced pain behavior in rat. Behav Brain Res. 2004 Aug 12;153(1):181-8

All information given about health conditions, treatment, products, and dosages are for educational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice.

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