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Neurological Inflammation and Depression: When it’s MORE Than Sadness

You probably have never heard neurological inflammation and depression spoken in the same sentence. That’s because many people don’t know what neurological inflammation is; many have never even heard the term. And neurological-inflammation-and-depressioneven if they know what it is, they have no idea how neurological inflammation and depression could possibly be linked.

After all, the cause for depression has already been determined, they say. It is a biochemical disorder that that must be corrected with medication. There is no room for a discussion of neurological inflammation and depression when the cause of depression has already been discovered.

Actually, science has never proven a biochemical link for depression. Yes, some people who are depressed have low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, but they are a minority. Low serotonin levels are often caused by poor nutrition, exposure to toxic chemicals, and other factors, yet the first thing many doctors do is prescribe antidepressant medication.

But studies now show a link between neurological inflammation and depression. This finding could eventually change the way doctors diagnose and treat depression.

Are You Suffering from Neurological Inflammation and Depression?

Have you ever suffered from depression? Are you depressed now? Do you often feel “blue” without an obvious reason? Are you excessively emotional, crying often? Do you have trouble concentrating? Sleeping? If so, you may be suffering from neurological inflammation and depression.

Studies show neurological inflammation and depression often go hand-in-hand. Several studies have found neurological inflammation leads to common symptoms of depression. One such study, published in the 2015 edition of JAMA Psychiatry, found a link between neurological inflammation and feelings of “sadness”, “loss of appetite”, “low mood”, and other symptoms of depression.

The discovery that neurological inflammation and depression are linked is good news; for if neurological inflammation causes depression — especially if it is the sole cause of clinical depression — we might have a cure for depression soon. That’s because neurological inflammation is curable.

No other depression treatment has been able to promise a 100% cure for this disorder. Hundreds of millions of people rely on often ineffective drugs with disturbing or dangerous side effects to treat their depression. Others don’t seek treatment at all, instead suffering in silence, or the medications don’t work for them.

Though almost everyone has felt depressed at times, clinical depression is different. Those who suffer from clinical depression, known as major depressive disorder, feel as if they have fallen into a black hole. Their lives are suddenly dark, hopeless. They feel worthless, helpless. They feel as if life is not worth living. And that’s why it is so important to find a cure for depression.

Importance of Finding a Cure for Depression

Depression is defined as a mood disorder characterized by persistently low feelings, sadness, apathy, and other feelings that can interfere with daily life.

That description sounds pretty benign, but depression is a serious mental illness that can lead to suicide. Statistics on the number of people suffering from depression vary depending on the type of depression. For instance, more than 16 million people in the U.S. suffer from major depressive disorder per year, while only about 3.3 American adults suffer from persistent depressive disorder. (Source: Anxiety and Depression Association of America)

But if you add the numbers of people suffering from all types of depressive disorders, it is a huge percentage of the U.S. population. And suffering is an apt term.

Symptoms of Depression

Though the exact symptoms vary depending upon the type of depression, here are some of the general symptoms of depression:

  • Continual sad mood regardless of circumstances
  • Frequent crying spells
  • Feelings of emptiness.
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Inability to attend to daily activities
  • Loss of interest in activities that once brought pleasure
  • Insomnia or sleeping all day
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Thoughts of suicide

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Types of Depressive Disorders

There are 5 main types of depressive disorders. Here is a brief explanation of each type.

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): Overwhelming depression persisting for more than two weeks. MDD is the most commonly diagnosed depressive disorder.

Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD): Depression persisting for at least two years. The depressed mood is not as severe as MDD, but the depression is almost always present.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Depression related to change in seasons. A high percentage of those with SAD experience a major depressive episode during winter.

Bipolar Disorder (BP): Depression alternating with periods of euphoria (mania). This condition is also known as manic depressive disorder.

Postpartum Depression: Severe depression occurring after childbirth.

Traditional Treatment Options for Depression

There are a few treatment options for depression that have varying success. Here are a few of the most common ones.

Medications to Treat Depression

Here are the major types of medications doctors prescribe for depression.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRIs are a class of drugs that relieve depression by working on serotonin in the brain. SSRIs are usually prescribed first, as they have fewer distressing side effects than other antidepressant medications. SSRIs include Prozac, Zoloft, and Lexapro.

Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs): SNRIs are a class of drugs that relieve depression by working on neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. SNRIs include Cymbalta, Effexor XR, and Pristiq.

Tricyclic antidepressants. This class of drugs increases levels of serotonin and norepinephrine while blocking the action of acetylcholine, another neurotransmitter. Though effective, tricyclic antidepressants can have severe side effects. For that reason, they are generally not prescribed unless a patient shows no improvement after taking an SSRI. Tricyclic antidepressants include Vivactil, Tofranil, and Surmontil.

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs): MAOIs were the first class of antidepressant drugs developed. They work by inhibiting the activity of monoamine oxidase enzymes in the brain. Though highly effective at treating depression and panic disorder, they can have serious side effects. Research shows MAOIs often have dangerous or deadly interactions with a variety of foods, drugs, and herbal supplements. For this reason, they are seldom prescribed unless other medications have been ineffective at treating the depression. MAOIs include Nardil, Marplan, and Parnate.

Atypical Antidepressants: These medications do not fit within any of the other categories. They include Wellbutrin XL, Remeron, and Trintellix.

Psychotherapy Treatments for Depression

Psychotherapy has proven to have varying levels of success in treating depression. The most commonly used type of psychotherapy for depression is cognitive-behavior therapy, which is based on the premise that our thoughts control our emotions. By challenging their negative feelings about themselves and the world, patients come to have a more realistic view that will help lift their depression.

Though all of these methods have varying rates of success, they all have high recidivism rates, meaning the depression often recurs. The link between neurological inflammation and depression, when fully researched and developed, may be a permanent cure to this damaging disorder.

Connection Between Neurological Inflammation and Depression

Studies show chronic inflammation contributes to many health conditions. In fact, many researchers believe this type of inflammation may be the underlying cause of most illnesses. This is because unlike acute inflammation that is temporary, lasting just long enough to remove foreign invaders and/or heal a wound, chronic inflammation is ongoing.

With chronic inflammation, the immune response is continually re-triggered. The inflammation never recedes, which damages the tissues. This eventually leads to heart disease or stroke diabetes or cancer — just about any disease.

Acute inflammation is a normal response of our immune system to bacteria, toxins, or other foreign invaders in the body. It only becomes dangerous when it turns chronic. But neither acute nor chronic inflammation is supposed to occur in the brain. That’s because the blood-brain barrier protects the brain.

However, if the blood-brain barrier is damaged, toxins, pathogens, and other dangerous substances “leak” into the brain’s sensitive home leading to brain inflammation. Scientists call this “leaky brain syndrome,” and research shows it is a real condition. Leaky brain syndrome may affect many millions of people, leading to a variety of cognitive and physical disorders — including depression.

In fact, studies increasingly show neurological inflammation as a factor in mood disorders such as depression. This is a HUGE discovery! If the link between neurological inflammation and depression stands up, all we have to do is heal the inflammation to heal the depression.

Healing neurological inflammation is not as difficult as you may think. One of the best ways to heal this condition is with nutrition.

Nutritional Causes of Neurological Inflammation and Depression

The things that cause neurological inflammation are the same things that cause damage to the blood-brain barrier — excessive consumption of ultra-processed foods and refined sugar consumption.

Ultra-processed foods contain no fiber and few nutrients. They also contain harmful processed fats and chemicals that destroy the blood-brain barrier. Sugar does the same, and interestingly, most of the excess sugar consumption in the U.S. comes from ultra-processed foods.

All ultra-processed foods contain added sugars — even ones that do not taste sweet — so when you eat these foods, your blood-brain barrier receives a “double-whammy” of harmful substances.

Nutritional Cures for Neurological Inflammation and Depression

neurological-inflammation-and-depressionThe best way to heal neurological inflammation and depression, then, is to reduce your consumption of ultra-processed foods. These foods are ones that require little to no preparation. They include microwave dinners, crackers, soups, sauces, baked goods, pastries, sodas, doughnuts. You’ll find ultra-processed foods in the center aisles of the grocery store.

Replace ultra-processed foods with whole foods, which you’ll find in the perimeter of the grocery store. Whole foods are ones as close to their natural states as possible. If you’re shopping for vegetables, for instance, select ones you could have picked. Frozen vegetables are okay as long as they don’t contain breading, preservatives, artificial flavorings, etc. Try to select humanely raised meats and poultry, preferably grass fed.

Heal Neurological Inflammation and Depression with the SANE Diet

Switching to a SANE Diet is one of the best steps you can take to heal neurological inflammation and depression. The SANE Diet focuses on whole foods that are delicious and filling. You won’t feel hungry or deprived while eating nutritious foods that heal your neurological inflammation and depression.

The SANE Diet is easy to remember, too. There are no calories or points to count, no menus to remember. All you have to really remember is to eat foods high in water, fiber, and protein. This translates into these 4 SANE food groups: non-starchy vegetables, nutrient-dense proteins, whole-food fats, and low-fructose fruits.

Non-Starchy Vegetables

10+ servings per day

Eating a variety of non-starchy vegetables provides nutrition to your cells, and the fiber regulates your blood sugar levels. Try to select dark leafy green vegetables, such as kale and spinach, as they are superfoods that contain massive amounts of vitamins and minerals that support neurological function.

Examples of non-starchy veggies include:

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Collard Greens
  • Eggplant
  • Kale
  • Spinach

Nutrient-Dense Proteins

3-5 servings per day, 30-55 grams per meal

Nutrient-dense proteins signal short- and long-term satiety hormones, meaning they fill you up fast and keep you full for an amazingly long time. The more protein you eat, the more signals they send to your satiety hormones. You’ll be too full of protein and the other SANE foods to think about eating inSANE ultra-processed foods that damage the blood-brain barrier.

Consuming more protein is important for another reason. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA that regulate mood are made from various amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Studies show eating more of certain amino acids increase levels of these neurotransmitters, which could help heal depression and other mood disorders.

Some amazing sources of nutrient-dense proteins include:

  • Chicken
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Egg Whites
  • Grass-Fed Beef
  • Liver
  • Plain Nonfat Greek Yogurt
  • Salmon
  • Sardines

Whole-Food Fats

3-6 servings per day

Whole-food fats are also highly satiating, and they are necessary to build hormones to help your body function.

Examples of whole-food fats include:

  • Almonds
  • Chia Seeds
  • Cocoa/Cacao
  • Coconut
  • Coconut Milk
  • Flax seeds
  • Macadamias
  • Olives

Low-Fructose Fruits

0-3 servings per day

Eating an occasional serving of low-fructose fruits keeps your blood glucose levels stable, helping protect your blood-brain barrier.

Examples of tasty low-fructose fruits include:

  • Acai Berries
  • Blueberries
  • Goji Berries
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries

Next Step: Heal Neurological Inflammation and Depression with the SANE

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