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Are depression and anxiety related to inflammation?

Inflammation is a useful and essential part of our immune system for healing issues such as a cut or a sprained wrist. However, if inflammation is persistent, it can wreak havoc on the body, including the brain. The causes of chronic inflammation are all around us: excessive sugar intake, heating refined oils, unknown food intolerances, stress, hidden infections. All of these can trigger unseen, yet dangerous, chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is considered to be central to the pathogenesis of medical disorders such as cardiovascular disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and more. Recently it’s also been identified that depression and anxiety are linked to inflammation. If the immune system is impaired, this is a huge deal when it comes to brain health.

Inflammatory cytokines ( chemical messengers) may lead to the high rates of depression seen in modern times. It’s believed these cytokines were neuroprotective back in ancient times; however, given the chronic inflammation now prevalent, this “benefit” may be causing harm. With the widespread inflammation seen today, depression and anxiety are becoming all too common. We were not meant to endure constant inflammation like this.

A better understanding of these pathways, and also learning how to better decrease chronic inflammation, may lead to the development of more effective ways of treating and likely avoiding such high rates of escalating depression and anxiety. It may also help in remedying the treatment-resistant depression and anxiety that have become more common.

Practitioners are starting to see the benefits of treating the root cause, often the culprit of inflammation, when it comes to treating anxiety and depression. If you have a mental disorder, first of all, I am very sorry, second I would recommend that you see a practitioner who understands the connection of the brain to inflammation and whole-body health and can assist you in restoring your wellbeing.


Miller, A. H., & Raison, C. L. (2016). The role of inflammation in depression: from evolutionary imperative to modern treatment target. Nature reviews. Immunology, 16(1), 22–34. doi:10.1038/nri.2015.5

Leonard, B.E. Neurochem Res (2007) 32: 1749. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11064-007-9385-y

Kiecolt-Glaser, J et al. Amer Jour Psychiatry (2015) 172:11. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.2015.15020152

Dr. M. Hyman MD “Broken Brain: The Mind-Body Connection”

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