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Is Depression a Symptom of Inflammation?

In any given year, one in five Canadians will personally experience a mental health problem or illness with approximately 8% of adults experiencing major depression at some time in their lives.[1] Inflammatory molecules interact with neuro-circuits in the brain, which can lead to behavioural responses such as avoidance and alarm. In the brain, inflammation also serves to divert the use of tryptophan toward production of anxiety-provoking chemicals, instead of toward serotonin and melatonin. Psychiatric researchers have observed that patients with higher levels of inflammatory markers (like CRP-hs) are less likely to respond to antidepressants, and more likely to respond to anti-inflammatories.

Increasingly, research is indicating that inflammatory responses have an important role in the origin of depression. Stress, which can precipitate depression, can also promote inflammatory responses through effects on sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system pathways.[2] Cortisol and insulin are stress-response hormones; high cortisol can contribute to high insulin levels (insulin resistance). Insulin serves to promote fat storage, and fat cells secrete their own inflammatory signals. In addition, fat cells play a role in converting testosterone to estradiol, disrupting overall hormone balance.  If you’re experiencing mood symptoms, talk to your trusted healthcare professional about testing options to identify inflammation and hormonal imbalances within your body.


1. Canadian Mental Health Association. Fast Facts about Mental Illness. 2013. https://cmha.ca/about-cmha/fast-facts-about-mental-illness

2. Charles L. Raison, LucileCapuron, Andrew H.Miller. Cytokines sing the blues: inflammation and the pathogenesis of depression. Trends in Immunology Volume 27, Issue 1, January 2006, Pages 24-31. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.it.2005.11.006