Blog,  Nutrition,  Stress Management

Depression…More Than Just Low Serotonin


When you think of depression, the first mechanism that comes to mind for most people is low serotonin. There is however a strong body of data emerging that depression is associated with a chronic low grade inflammatory response.

The epidemiological link between depression and cardiovascular disease is well established in the medical literature. Inflammatory disorders such as cardiovascular disease and autoimmune disease can trigger depression. On the other hand it is also well documented that depression is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Two recent meta-analyses associated three markers of inflammation as common contributors to major depression: IL6, TNF alpha, CRP (1, 2). Recent studies have also found a reduction of depressive symptoms in those treated with anti-inflammatory medication like NSAID, ASA and celexcoib (3)

One of the most conclusive findings yet was published in JAMA Psychiatry.  Researchers showed that brain inflammation was 30% higher in those with depression  (4). There is more work to be done, but scientific evidence is adding up that there is in fact a link.

The tricky thing about inflammation is that there are multiple things that can affect it. The wonderful thing about inflammation is that lifestyle modification can influence many of the causative factors.

Lets look at some the major contributing to inflammation

  • smoking
  • altered gut microbiota (imbalanced gut bacteria)
  • low levels of vitamin D
  • stress
  • a diet high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods, low in good fats
  • inactivity
  • obesity
  • poor quality sleep
  • dental

When you work on lifestyle modification, all of these topics are addressed.

One marker that can identify the amount of inflammation in the body is c-reactive protein (CRP).  Inflammation is a way for the body to protect itself from injury and infection. CRP is a protein that the liver makes when there is inflammation in the body.  CRP can be a very inexpensive way to track your inflammation and as a way to objectively measure how your lifestyle program is working.  This marker can be tested for less than $20, and can be ordered by your ND.

Take charge of your health!  Reduce inflammation…change your life.


  1. Strawbridge, R. Inflammation and clinical response to treatment in depression: A meta analysis. Eur Neuropsychopharmol. 2015 Oct;25 (10):1532-43
  2. Valkanova, V. CRP, IL6 and depression. A systematic review and meta analysis of longitudinal studies. J Affect Disorder. 2013 Sep 25;150(3):736-44
  3. Zunszain PA. Improving the treatment of depressive symptoms and major depression with antiinflammatory drugs. Evid Based Ment Health. 2015 Nov;18 (4):116.
  4. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015;72(3):268-275. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.2427.  


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