Suffer, or know of someone who suffers from mental health problems? Then this article provides a summary of exciting new research on the role of inflammation in the cause of depression, anxiety and other mental disorders and how natural inflammatory’s such as fish oils and Turmeric may work as well as anti-depressant SSRI’s.
You may be familiar with the concept that “inflammation is the root of all evil,” when it comes to chronic disease. This is as true of mental diseases as it is of any other.
A surprise discovery in the field of psychiatry occurred in 1987 when hepatitis patients were given a chemical called cytokine which causes inflammation, and it was found to induce psychiatric complaints in many patients.4 Subsequent studies confirmed a link between higher levels of inflammation and mental conditions from depression to obsessive-compulsive disorder.5,6 Conversely, numerous trials show that administration of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs provide significant relief to depressed patients.7 This strongly suggests that anti-inflammatory support should form part of the treatment of mood disorders.
When a person has an acute infection they often feel miserable and anti-social. Known as ‘sickness behaviour’, and bearing a striking similarity to clinical depression, these symptoms are not caused directly by the infection, but by the inflammatory response, it induces. This response concentrates the body’s energy on healing, rather than dissipating it through work, social interaction, or reproduction (“not tonight honey…”). Furthermore, it essentially quarantines the infected and potentially infectious individual from the rest of society.8
Immune-induced Inflammation Drives Affective Disorders
Research is identifying mechanisms by which inflammation may drive affective disorders such as depression. It has been found that any inflammation – from the gut or via autoimmunity, as well as infection – can induce this neurodepressive response.
The Herbal Swiss Army Knife
In order to resolve these disorders we need to address neuroinflammation. Arguably the most effective natural anti-inflammatory is Curcuma longa (turmeric), although labelling it solely as an anti-inflammatory is like considering a Swiss army knife only good for its long blade. While turmeric will reduce the neurotoxic damage caused by inflammation, the benefits don’t stop there. Curcumin, the major active constituent of turmeric, has many other neurotrophic benefits: it has been shown to increase production of brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) amongst other brain actions, BDNF supports the survival of existing neurons, and encourages the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses.15 This is significant as the hippocampus is known to shrink under the effects of stress. Two randomised clinical trials have shown that 25g per day of turmeric extract BCM-95® provides significant benefits to patients with major depressive disorder,16 comparable to fluoxetine (a popular SSRI antidepressant).17
Saffron A lesser known, but equally useful herb for managing depression is Crocus sativus (saffron). Saffron contains crocin, a potent anti-inflammatory phytochemical that is gathering an impressive portfolio of clinical trials for depression. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised study, 40 individuals received 90mg per day of saffron or placebo. A significant change in depressive symptoms was noted from week two, which continued until the end of the trial.18 Another study of 30 individuals over six weeks compared the effect of saffron with fluoxetine; finding that saffron had similar effects to fluoxetine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.19
The formulation of BCM-95® Turmeric & Saffron for Depression (Metagenics Infla-mood) is based on the results of six clinical trials on turmeric and saffron and provides 25g per day of BCM-95® and 90mg per day of saffron for the management of depression and other mood disorders. The great thing is that this phytonutrient can effectively be used alongside antidepressants.
Solutions for mood disorders
Mood disorders such as depression result from an excess of neurotoxic factors such as inflammation, cortisol and glutamate, and a relative deficiency of neurotrophic factors, such as BDNF. Comprehensive treatment for depression would include a Stress Less programme including nutrition and lifestyle changes and incorporating B vitamins and magnesium, together with turmeric and saffron for inflammation and promotion of BDNF, and fish oil for its anti-inflammatory and membrane restorative actions.
Please note: Work with a health professional if you are considering coming off any medication, including anti-depressants, to ensure the best result and to keep you safe
Contact me for more details and information on trials using this programme of nutrition and lifestyle changes and herb and nutrient supplementation.
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