According to a 2011 report by the CDC, up to 11 percent of Americans over the age of 12 take antidepressants and more than 60 percent of them had been taking them for at least two years. Although most professionals believe that antidepressants are the answer to the disease, others strongly refute them and seek another alternative.
Most medical professionals assume that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance. Specifically, a lack of monoamine neurotransmitters in the body, which in turn decreases both norepinephrine and serotonin levels in the brain. The antidepressants that they prescribe are designed to fix this imbalance.
As Chris Kresser explains, “The idea that depression and other mental health conditions are caused by an imbalance of chemicals (particularly serotonin and norepinephrine) in the brain is so deeply ingrained in our collective psyche that it seems almost sacrilegious to question it.”
Of course, Big Pharma has played a role in perpetuating this idea. Antidepressant drugs, which are based on the chemical imbalance theory, represent a $10 billion-dollar market in the U.S. alone,” Kresser adds, “…they are the second-most prescribed medications (after cholesterol-lowering drugs). Doctors wrote a staggering 254 million prescriptions for antidepressants in 2010.”
However, mounting evidence focuses on the link between depression and inflammation, suggesting that it is inflammation that plays the most important role in the development of depression. A 2016 study A 2016 study published in ‘The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry’ explored this connection, examining a data of 14,275 patients using the Patient Health Questionnaire to test for depression along with test results from blood samples.
The study showed that the ones who had depression had 46 percent higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a protein marker that identifies inflammatory disease. Although this study only pointed to the link between depression and inflammation, it does open the door for further research on the topic.
Dr. Kelly Brogan, a holistic women’s health psychiatrist, also agrees with this theory. In her book ‘A Mind of Your Own’ she wrote, “Depression is a meaningful symptom of mismatch, biologically, with lifestyle – we eat a poor diet, harbor too much stress, lack sufficient physical movement, deprive ourselves of natural sunlight, expose ourselves to environmental toxicants, and take too many drugs. Inflammation is the language that the body speaks, expressing imbalance, inviting change. We usually suppress these symptoms with medication but that is like turning off the smoke alarm when you have a fire going on.”
Here are some of the factors that also point to a link between depression and inflammation:
- Depression often is comorbid with many inflammatory illnesses
- Increased inflammatory biomarkers are linked to major depressive disorder (MDD)
- Exposure to immunomodulating agents is likely to increase the risk of developing depression
- Stress can activate proinflammatory pathways
- Antidepressants can reduce inflammatory response
- Inhibition of inflammatory pathways can boost mood