An Allergy to Modern Life

Caroline Williams recently wrote quite a fascinating article summarising a growing body of research that points to depression having much more of a physical component than previously thought. In fact, it seems that this ‘mental illness’ may have a direct link to the body’s immune system and inflammatory response. George Slavich, a clinical psychologist at the University of California in Los Angeles, has spent years studying depression, and has come to the conclusion that it has as much to do with the body as the mind. “I don’t even talk about it as a psychiatric condition any more,” he says. “It does involve psychology, but it also involves equal parts of biology and physical health.”

If you think about depressive symptoms such as appetite changes, insomnia or oversleeping, lethargy, and a lack of motivation, it’s not a far stretch to say this mimics a lot of other physical illnesses in many ways. With this in mind, and research pointing to raised inflammatory markers in people with depression, scientists are now asking if a fundamental change is needed in the way some types of depression are treated.

A few clinical trials done so far found that including anti-inflammatory medicines alongside antidepressants improves symptoms and actually increases the number of people who respond to treatment. There is also some evidence that natural anti-inflammatories such as omega 3 supplements and curcumin (an extract of tumeric) have similar effects, but there’s not enough evidence to suggest replacing antidepressants altogether.

To read the full article, click here.