INFLAMMATION & YOUR BRAIN
No, it’s not where the term ‘hot head’ comes from, however, we do need to look at how much inflammation is affecting our overall health and consequently, how it is affecting our brains.
Firstly, what is inflammation? Inflammation comes from the root ‘inflame”, from the Latin word inflammare meaning “to set on fire’. Wait, so if we are talking about our brains, does that mean our brain is on fire”?
Well, sort of, let me explain a little bit more.
When the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, it leads to chronic inflammation, which can be detrimental to overall health. Chronic inflammation is becoming increasingly common in the global population due to various factors, such as poor diet and lifestyle patterns.
The prevalence of chronic disease is rising simultaneously. In fact, the condition is one of the most common pathways to chronic illness. Many lifestyle factors can stoke the flames of inflammation, including a pro-inflammatory diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods. Lifestyle factors such as exposure to environmental toxins, sleep deprivation, chronic stress, low vitamin D, obesity, prediabetes, and smoking additionally contribute to inflammatory conditions.
It’s important to note that chronic inflammation doesn’t always present itself with obvious symptoms, making it difficult to diagnose. However, identifying and addressing the root causes of chronic inflammation is crucial for preventing and managing depression and other associated health problems.
The link between chronic inflammation and depression is becoming increasingly clear, but the connection is complex. As Andrew Miller, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Emory University School of Medicine shared, “inflammation is killing us, and one of the ways that it is killing us is by affecting our brains.” Prolonged and elevated inflammation can lead to a breakdown in the barrier between the body and the brain, causing neuroinflammation and altering essential neural circuits/neurotransmitters which can trigger depression in people at risk. This can result in a leak in the blood-brain barrier, which normally protects the brain from harmful molecules in the blood. As a result of a leaky blood-brain barrier, neuroinflammatory changes to nearby neurons could interfere with the re-wired circuit, contributing to depression.
With a greater understanding of the relationship between inflammation and depression, we can address inflammation as a whole-person approach and target each individual’s inflammation and where they are specifically carrying it in their own bodies. Addressing the root cause of inflammation through integrative approaches, such as dietary modifications, supplementation, and mind-body therapies, may augment new treatment protocols and benefit physical and mental health. In this way, we may be able to improve the outcomes for those who do not respond to current antidepressant treatments. With the potential to revolutionize the standard of care for depression, further research into inflammation and its role in mental illness is necessary.
How can we begin the process of addressing inflammation? Well, we can simply begin by establishing healthy foundations such as, proper hydration = water (drinking 50% of your body weight in ounces per day), minimum 30 minutes of moderation exercise/movement per day, 7-8 hours of uninterrupted, restful sleep per day, whole nutrient rich foods (including healthy fats, fruits and vegetables), and Sunshine!
It is also important for us to remember, we are Mind, Body and Spirit. Taking time each day to support each of these will help to create a ‘less inflamed’ you!