Inflammation: A Possible Causative Factor in Depression


Recently, there have been various articles circulating that refer to brain inflammation as a possible culprit in depression and schizophrenia. Inflammation (brain or body) is also linked to autism, dementia, heart disease, allergies, ADHD, Parkinson’s, and asthma. This is enough to make a health conscious person want to know more about inflammation.

What It Is

Our immune system’s response to infection, irritants and toxins cause inflammation. When any of these intruders enter our body, our immune system’s inflammatory hormones release the white knights (white blood cells) to get rid of damaged or infected tissue. When the invasion is subdued, anti-inflammatory biochemicals initiate healing.

If the inflammatory hormones don’t get the memo saying "return knights to the castle," our body's tissues remain inflamed. Your doctor calls this chronic inflammation. Over time, inflammation results in tissue damage or destruction, and eventually illness.

Chronic inflammation may begin in our intestinal tract, our first line of defense against toxins and other unwanted invaders. If the GI tract is inundated with stress, medication, poor food choices, and environmental poisons, our intestines lose integrity and no longer keep the irritants contained.

What Triggers It

Because inflammation likely begins in the intestinal tract, it doesn’t take an expert to realize what we eat makes a difference. Inflammatory foods include processed and refined flours, refined sugars, acidic foods, animal fats, dairy products, caffeine, and alcohol. Hidden food allergies can cause brain or body inflammation.

Our lifestyle habits can contribute as well. A sedentary lifestyle, poor sleep, antibiotic overuse, and continuous stress can all instigate inflammation. We also have to consider environmental factors such as toxic metals (i.e, mercury, lead), pesticides, food preservatives and additives.


There may be a connection between the parasite T. gondii and suicide. A research study suggests those carrying the parasite are seven times more likely to attempt taking their life. T. gondii causes damaging inflammation in brain tissue that may turn out to be a factor in some suicides.

One of the researchers, Lena Brundin (Michigan State U), said, “It is estimated 90 percent of people who attempt suicide have a diagnosed psychiatric disorder. If we could identify those people infected with this parasite, it could help us predict who is at a higher risk.”

Being infected with the parasite does not mean a person will become suicidal, or even depressed. The parasite can be contracted by eating raw, or poorly cooked meat, and ingesting water contaminated with the parasite.

Inflammation and Treatment

Recent research suggests that having a high level of inflammation makes depressed people less responsive to traditional treatments for depressive symptoms. A medication that blocks tissue inflammation was studied for its effectiveness in reducing depression. The drug, infliximab, helped those participants who had the highest levels of inflammation.

“The study opens the door to a host of new approaches that target the immune system to treat psychiatric diseases,” reports Charles Raison, MD. first author of the study.


Emory University


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