Most people experience depression at some point in their life. The feeling can occur after the loss of a loved one, during increased periods of stressed or just from feeling cut off from society and the world in general. Although many people experience depression, when this feeling continues for weeks, months or even years, it evolves into a much more complicated condition called major depression.
Major depression (otherwise known as clinical depression) is described a constant sense of hopelessness and despair that lasts for more than two weeks. It is estimated that between 20% to 25% of adults will experience episodes of major depression.
Depression can prove debilitating for some people and cause a variety of symptoms that can have a negative impact on one’s physical and mental health. Some symptoms of depression include:
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Constant feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- Impaired concentration
- Diminished feelings of pleasure and happiness during commonly enjoyed activities
- Reoccurring thoughts of suicide and death
- Significant weight loss or gain
What Causes Major Depression?
The most commonly assumed cause of depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain, specifically a lack of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that influences our mood, sexual desire, social interactions and a variety of other aspects of our life.
Although this is the most common explanation, recent research has shown that depression may be a side effect of inflammation that is occurring in the body.
According to a study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, adding an anti-inflammatory drug along with the use of an antidepressant greatly reduced symptoms of depression compared to taking just antidepressants alone.
The study consisted of 40 participants suffering from acute depressive episodes. 20 of the patients received an antidepressant along with an anti-inflammatory while the other 20 received an antidepressant along with a placebo.
The researchers found that, after a six week period, the group taking the anti-inflammatories had significantly more improvements in their mood compared to the group just taking antidepressants.
Although experts have now confirmed that depression is heavily associated with inflammation, many were still unable to locate the cause of this inflammation.
One study published in the journal BioMed Central analyzed several different factors associated with depression and inflammation to pinpoint possible causes. They found that common triggers of inflammation such as poor diet, obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, gut permeability (leaky gut) and vitamin D deficiency are all inflammatory factors that can contribute to depression.
How To Reduce This Inflammation
Although many of the studies testing anti-inflammatory’s efficacy at treating depression used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, many experts believe that natural anti-inflammatories can provide similar effects.
One of nature’s most potent and efficient anti-inflammatories is none other than curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice known as turmeric. It is commonly prescribed for people suffering from ailments caused by inflammation, such as arthritis, and has also been used to treat depression.
One study found that curcumin is almost as efficient at treating depression as Prozac. Researchers gave one group of participants Prozac and the other group curcumin and measured the success rate of each substance. They found that 64.7% of the Prozac users had relieved symptoms of depression compared to 62.5% of curcumin users.
The difference of a bit more than 2% could hardly be considered significant, and since Prozac is known to cause a variety of harmful side effects (including creating suicidal thoughts) makes curcumin the better natural alternative.
Other ways that you can reduce depression-causing inflammation include:
- Consuming more Omega-3’s
- Getting more vitamin D (sunlight, supplements)
- Avoiding gluten if you are intolerant
- Stop smoking if you do