Is Depression an Inflammatory Condition?

By Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

Inflammation is your body’s way of responding to something that’s wrong. For example, when you come down with a cold, your blood releases inflammatory chemicals to fight the infection. This is a normal response.

However, in certain circumstances, inflammation can get out of hand and turn into chronic inflammation, leading to tissue damage and disease.

Inflammation can damage different parts of the body including your joints, arteries, and even your brain.

Several neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s have an inflammatory component.1 So, it’s not hard to conceive that depression can have an inflammatory component as well.

Take, for instance, the common cold. When coming down with a cold, most people feel a little down or moody. Well, that’s inflammation doing its job.

Inflammation involves the production of inflammatory proteins called cytokines, which can reach the brain and may affect your mood.2 In fact, studies show that high levels of inflammatory cytokines are associated with depressive symptoms. 3-4

Could Lowering Inflammation Treat Depression?

It’s possible. For example, curcumin, a known anti-inflammatory, blocks brain inflammation5 and boosts mood. In animal studies, it’s been found to alleviate symptoms of depression as effectively as antidepressant drugs.6

Curcumin modulates the release of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin which are needed for a healthy mood.7 We haven’t seen any human studies yet, but scientists believe it certainly holds potential.

An Anti-inflammatory Drug Improves Depressive Symptoms

Infliximab inhibits the production of tumor-necrosis factor alpha, or TNF-alpha, a marker of inflammation. This drug is prescribed for autoimmune diseases like inflammatory bowel disease.

In an attempt to correlate inflammation with depressive symptoms, scientists from Emory University studied the effects of Infliximab on depression.

The study showed that Infliximab improved mood in depressed patients.8

However, it’s important to note that the patients who improved had high levels of inflammatory markers, like TNF in their blood. Those who didn’t have high levels of inflammatory markers did not significantly improve.

What You Need to Know

Thirty percent of depressed patients don’t respond to traditional treatment.9 Where does that leave us?

Since we now believe that inflammation is likely associated with depressive symptoms, anti-inflammatories could someday serve as novel antidepressants. This is pretty exciting, to say the least.

So if you’re one of the 30% who hasn’t found relief from traditional drugs, you may want to talk to your doctor about anti-inflammatories.

Who knows? They may just be able to help you feel better.


  1. Antiinflamm Antiallergy Agents Med Chem. 2012 Aug 28. [Epub ahead of print]
  2. Adv Protein Chem Struct Biol. 2012;88:1-25.
  3. Biol Psychiatry. 2009 Jun 1;65(11):973-8.
  4. Neurosci Lett. 2010 Nov 5;484(3):201-5.
  5. Mol Ther. 2011 Oct;19(10):1769-79.
  6. Acta Pol Pharm. 2011 Sep-Oct;68(5):769-75.
  7. ScientificWorldJournal. 2009 Nov 1;9:1233-41.
  8. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2012 Sep 3:1-11. doi: 10.1001/2013.jamapsychiatry.4. [Epub ahead of print]
  9. Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2009 Jun;18(6):767-88.


Anonymous said...

I have been on anti- depresion perscription drugs for 12yr's. I would like to get on natural substance; since l-tryptopan is not avalible to life-extenion, what do you recommend?

Life Extension said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

Wow, I'm flabbergasted by the stature of information on the site. There is a ton of good resources here. I know I will check out this page again.curing depression naturally

LifeExtension said...

Niccolo Alley - Thanks for saying so!

Signs of Depression said...

Near about 30 millions of Americans are suffering from depression, WHO says depression is no.4 cause of disability on this planet and by year 2020-2025, it is going to be no.2 after obesity, but it doesn't mean that Depression can't be handle, Learn early signs of depression, symptoms of depression. How to get rid of depression before it gets severe.

LifeExtension said...

Signs of Depression - Great points! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

Funfilled Life said...

No one cay say for sure that depression is a sign of inflammatory condition. If it is, then antiinflammatory drugs can be used to treat depression. There are many causes of depression; external and internal. If it it caused by body chemical-altering drugs then stopping or changing meds may uproot the depressive mood.

LifeExtension said...

Funfilled Life - Right! We're not exactly sure if depression is an inflammatory condition, but some research shows there is a connection. It's definitely a complex disease. :-)

Unknown said...

Food is generally a better way of reducing chronic inflammation than jumping straight to drugs. Reducing sugar and simple carbohydrates, adding in more leafy greens and anti-inflammatory foods is a much safer route.

Life Extension said...

Lauren Roerick - We truly appreciate your feedback! Food is medicine! :-)

MineralDoc said...

Good article, especially as it confirms what Dr Dwight Lundell told the world about inflammation years ago. I also like the information about Curcumin, which when taken in liquid form increases absorbability. Check me out on Twitter to do d why I promote this product.

Life Extension said...

MineralDoc - We're glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks for stopping by our blog!

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