Inflammation is a buzzword these days. We might be familiar with inflammation in the sense of having a messed-up knee from a sports injury, but what is it in the broader sense?
Inflammation can also be a systemic problem affecting the major organs and the entire body. It’s interesting to note that “pain may not be a primary symptom of an inflammatory disease, since many organs do not have many pain-sensitive nerves.”
Generally feeling achy, having low energy, shortness of breath, skin issues, and fluid retention are possible symptoms. Perhaps most surprising are correlations research is finding between inflammation and depression.
However, Tim De Chant of NOVA writes, “Inflammation is our immune system’s natural response to injuries, infections, or foreign compounds. When triggered, the body pumps various cells and proteins to the site through the blood stream, including cytokines, a class of proteins that facilitate intercellular communication. It also happens that people suffering from depression are loaded with cytokines.” According to this and other similar articles, depression qualifies as a symptom of an allergic reaction to inflammation.
An article in Nature Reviews Neuroscience notes, “Inflammation is therefore an important biological event that might increase the risk of major depressive episodes.” This is specifically true in those with chronic, systemic infections, cancer, and autoimmune diseases.
Chronic inflammation, in terms of autoimmune disease, is essentially the body’s defense mechanism gone rogue, or at least extreme. White blood cells react to and damage the body’s own tissues in the absence of foreign invaders.
Inflammation is 30% higher in clinically depressed patients. It appears that depression and inflammation feed off of each other in a destructive cycle, which wreaks havoc on the body and the mind.
It’s also clear that depression increases inflammation, as is highlighted in this paper by Stefan M. Gold PhD. and Michael R. Irwin MD. He states that “major depressive disorders show alterations in immunologic markers including increases in pro-inflammatory cytokine activity and inflammation.”
Essentially, when an individual is experiencing inflammation, depression adds fuel to the inflammatory fire by activating more of the elements that aggravate it. What’s more, research has uncovered clear links between inflammation and BiPolar disorder, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
This scientific review looks at the connections between depression, inflammation, and heart issues as a very stark and unavoidable progression. It states, “Depression leads to inflammation and inflammation leads to coronary artery disease.”
The possibility of reducing depression through anti-inflammatory drugs such as NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), Acetaminophens (paracetomal or Tylenol), or Corticosteroids (synthetic hormonal steroids) seems to be on the horizon, though more research is necessary before those avenues are actively pursued.
An alternative to pharmaceutical options is the more natural and long-term option of consuming healthier, inflammation-reducing foods, drinks, and herbs.
Here are some foods to help reduce inflammation and, therefore, depression:
- Tart Cherries – Linked to significant reduction in osteoarthritis symptoms for athletes.
- Fish Oil – Linked to reduction of inflammation and anxiety.
- Green Tea – Lots of polyphenols, a particular antioxidant shown to lower risks and symptoms of chronic disease
Herbs that may help reduce inflammation are:
- Turmeric – Contains high amounts of curcumin, which boasts powerful anti-inflammatory properties in recent studies.
- Ginger – “Contains pungent phenolic substances with pronounced anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory activities.”
- Rosemary – “Conclusively, rosemary can be considered an herbal anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor agent.”
It’s no surprise, but the most common and offensive foods triggering inflammation are those highly processed and loaded with sugar and unhealthy fats. However, each individual may have more specific allergens and should be tested for sensitivities to things like wheat, gluten, peanuts, eggs, etc. to figure out if there are more serious inflammatory responses at work compromising their health and vitality.