Brain Inflammation causes Depression

on December 08, 2021

People who tend to have inflammation elsewhere in their body are also much more likely to have depression. It has become clear that any overactive immune inflammatory response, like that in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis or in infections like sepsis, put you at greater risk for having depression. The medical understanding of depression used to be simply that there was a “neurotransmitter imbalance” in the brain, (a shortage of happiness hormones if you will). But as it turns out, this is only a small part of the story. The brain and blood of depressed patients show markedly elevated levels of inflammation, and strategies targeting inflammation appear to be more helpful than traditional antidepressant drugs. Furthermore, the antidepressant drugs that do work have an anti-inflammatory effect and new drugs targeting the overactive immune response that creates the inflammation appear to be a promising treatment for depression. 

Chronic stress, sleep deprivation, and an inflammatory diet are likely the most common causes of chronic inflammation in the brain and depression in the general population. It’s clear that intake of inflammatory foods, such as those containing arachidonic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) are associated with higher risk of suicide and depressive episodes, whereas people who eat diets lowest in arachidonic acid have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Foods containing arachidonic acid include meat, dairy, fish, and eggs. The most common source is chicken and eggs. Even just 1 egg elevates arachidonic acid levels in the blood. Multiple studies have found that a whole food plant-based diet (low in arachidonic acid and highly anti-inflammatory) improved mental health, sleep, and energy within 2 weeks. 

Foods that lower inflammation and decrease depression are those high in flavonoids - fruits, vegetables, and certain superfoods such as turmeric, beets, cacao, tea (especially green or matcha). Sound familiar? High flavonoid fruits and vegetables include apples, oranges, kale, onions, tomatoes, berries, while low flavonoid fruits and veggies include cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers, pears. At Elixir Shots, we choose ingredients highest in flavonoid content, like our Immunity and Vitality shots. Turmeric has the extra bonus of increasing BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) - a hormone that literally activates growth of new nerve cells. Low levels of BDNF are also thought to play a role in depression which can cause shrinkage of the brain in certain areas. Increasing BDNF levels helps to increase those atrophied parts of the brain. 

Check out this awesome video on plant-based diets for depression and this video on more ways to increase your BDNF



Sources:


Lee CH, Giuliani F. The Role of Inflammation in Depression and Fatigue. Front Immunol. 2019;10:1696. Published 2019 Jul 19. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2019.01696

Szałach ŁP, Lisowska KA, Cubała WJ. The Influence of Antidepressants on the Immune System. Arch Immunol Ther Exp (Warsz). 2019 Jun;67(3):143-151. doi: 10.1007/s00005-019-00543-8. Epub 2019 Apr 29. PMID: 31032529; PMCID: PMC6509093.

 

A L Lopresti, S D Hood, P D Drummond. A review of lifestyle factors that contribute to important pathways associated with major depression: diet, sleep and exercise. J Affect Disord. 2013 May 15;148(1):12-27.

U Agarwal, S Mishra, J Xu, S Levin, J Gonzales, N D Barnard. A multicenter randomized controlled trial of a nutrition intervention program in a multiethnic adult population in the corporate setting reduces depression and anxiety and improves quality of life: the GEICO study. Am J Health Promot. 2015 Mar-Apr;29(4):245-54.

J S Lai, S Hiles, A Bisquera, A J Hure, M McEvoy. A systematic review and meta-analysis of dietary patterns and depression in community-dwelling adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jan;99(1):181-97.Y T Szeto, T C Kwok, I F Benzie. Effects of a long-term vegetarian diet on biomarkers of antioxidant status and cardiovascular disease risk. Nutrition. 2004 Oct;20(10):863-6.H I Katcher, H R Ferdowsian, V J Hoover, 

J L Cohen, N D Barnard. A worksite vegan nutrition program is well-accepted and improves health-related quality of life and work productivity. Ann Nutr Metab. 2010;56(4):245-52. doi: 10.1159/000288281. Epub 2010 Apr 14.G D Brinkworth, J D BUchley, M Noakes, P M Clifton, C J Wilson. Long-term effects of a very low-carbohydrate diet and a low-fat diet on mood and cognitive function. Arch Intern Med. 2009 Nov 9;169(20):1873-80.

B L Beezhold, C S Johnston. Restriction of meat, fish, and poultry in omnivores improves mood: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Nutr J. 2012 Feb 14;11:9.

J J Wurtman, A Brzezinski, R J Wurtman, B Laferrere. Effect of nutrient intake on premenstrual depression. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1989 Nov;161(5):1228-34.

A A Farooqui, L A Horrocks, T Farooqui. Modulation of inflammation in brain: a matter of fat. J Neurochem. 2007 May;101(3):577-99.

B L Beezhold, C S Johnston, D R Daigle. Vegetarian diets are associated with healthy mood states: a cross-sectional study in seventh day adventist adults. Nutr J. 2010 Jun 1;9:26.

J S Vaz, G Kac, A E Nardi, J R Hibbein. Omega-6 fatty acids and greater likelihood of suicide risk and major depression in early pregnancy. J Affect Disord. 2014 Jan;152-154:76-82.

 

BACK TO TOP