In the 21st century, almost everyone accepts that depression is a mental health condition with a clinical basis, and is a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. At least, this is the scientific explanation that we accept collectively. Let’s not go into demons and evil spirits because this article does not fall under that topic.
Interestingly, some recent research has suggested that depression may be caused primarily by inflammation. This is something which many people, professionals included, are not willing to touch with a fifty-foot-pole because it then questions the thinking that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance. It might also suggest that depression is merely a symptom and not a disease on its own.
Oooh, controversy! That is how we like it. Anyways, this new theory, known as the “Immune Cytokine Model of Depression”, states that depression is not a disease itself, but instead a “multifaceted sign of chronic immune system activation.” To put it in plain human English, this means that depression may simply reflect the true condition of chronic inflammation.
All of this is not merely hearsay. A growing body of evidence is now showing an association between depression and a low-grade, chronic inflammatory response that subsequently comes with increased oxidative stress. Let us explore this a little further.
Scientifically, inflammation comes with an increase of chemicals known as cytokines. As early as in the 1980s, some researchers have found that inflammatory cytokines are capable of producing many psychiatric and neurological symptoms, which also happen to be *gasp* the defining characteristics of depression.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, antidepressants are known to reduce the production of cytokines that come with inflammation, while increasing the production of other cytokines that are known to be anti-inflammatory. Furthermore, these antidepressants can also change the gene expression of some immune cells that are involved in inflammatory processes.
As the body of evidence increases, the next obvious question that arises is, “what is causing the inflammation?” Most people do not realise this, but inflammation is at the root of many modern diseases. Some would even argue that it is at the root of almost all modern diseases – Alzheimers, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, arthritis, asthma etc. In light of this fact, maybe it becomes less surprising that inflammation is also associated with depression.
Back to the question of what is causing inflammation, the answer is starting to be obvious – almost everything in our modern way of life is contributing to it! One of the key culprits, as you might have guessed, is our modern-day western diet. Foods that are known to provoke inflammation include excess sugar intake, excess refined flour intake, chemicals, fats and preservatives. Scary thought, isn’t it?
As if it isn’t depressing enough (see what I did there?), obesity is now accepted to be an inflammatory state as well. Obese people are known to have higher levels of inflammatory cytokines in their blood, which is no surprise considering the likelihood of them becoming obese from eating foods that are associated with inflammation.
While there are indeed other known causes of depression, such as stress, sleep loss, and chronic illnesses, perhaps we can just stick to something we can control easily to at least eliminate one contributing factor of depression.
So my challenge to you today is that if you suffer from depression, try to clean up your diet and see if it makes any difference. I’m not saying that this will be the magic pill to cure all your woes, but it is worth a shot, and it is one of the many factors that contribute to your quality of life.
Oh, and please check out the Granite Fitness Solution. You might find it helpful.
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