By Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RNInflammation is your body’s way of responding to something that’s wrong. For example, when you come down with a cold, your blood releases inflammatory chemicals to fight the infection. This is a normal response.
However, in certain circumstances, inflammation can get out of hand and turn into chronic inflammation, leading to tissue damage and disease.
Inflammation can damage different parts of the body including your joints, arteries, and even your brain.
Several neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s have an inflammatory component.1 So, it’s not hard to conceive that depression can have an inflammatory component as well.
Take, for instance, the common cold. When coming down with a cold, most people feel a little down or moody. Well, that’s inflammation doing its job.
Inflammation involves the production of inflammatory proteins called cytokines, which can reach the brain and may affect your mood.2 In fact, studies show that high levels of inflammatory cytokines are associated with depressive symptoms. 3-4
Could Lowering Inflammation Treat Depression?It’s possible. For example, curcumin, a known anti-inflammatory, blocks brain inflammation5 and boosts mood. In animal studies, it’s been found to alleviate symptoms of depression as effectively as antidepressant drugs.6
Curcumin modulates the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin which are needed for a healthy mood.7 We haven’t seen any human studies yet, but scientists believe it certainly holds potential.
An Anti-inflammatory Drug Improves Depressive SymptomsInfliximab inhibits the production of tumor-necrosis factor alpha, or TNF-alpha, a marker of inflammation. This drug is prescribed for autoimmune diseases like inflammatory bowel disease.
In an attempt to correlate inflammation with depressive symptoms, scientists from Emory University studied the effects of Infliximab on depression.
The study showed that Infliximab improved mood in depressed patients.8
However, it’s important to note that the patients who improved had high levels of inflammatory markers, like TNF in their blood. Those who didn’t have high levels of inflammatory markers did not significantly improve.
What You Need to KnowThirty percent of depressed patients don’t respond to traditional treatment.9 Where does that leave us?
Since we now believe that inflammation is likely associated with depressive symptoms, anti-inflammatories could someday serve as novel antidepressants. This is pretty exciting, to say the least.
So if you’re one of the 30% who hasn’t found relief from traditional drugs, you may want to talk to your doctor about anti-inflammatories.
Who knows? They may just be able to help you feel better.
- Antiinflamm Antiallergy Agents Med Chem. 2012 Aug 28. [Epub ahead of print]
- Adv Protein Chem Struct Biol. 2012;88:1-25.
- Biol Psychiatry. 2009 Jun 1;65(11):973-8.
- Neurosci Lett. 2010 Nov 5;484(3):201-5.
- Mol Ther. 2011 Oct;19(10):1769-79.
- Acta Pol Pharm. 2011 Sep-Oct;68(5):769-75.
- ScientificWorldJournal. 2009 Nov 1;9:1233-41.
- Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2012 Sep 3:1-11. doi: 10.1001/2013.jamapsychiatry.4. [Epub ahead of print]
- Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2009 Jun;18(6):767-88.
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