Could Depression Be an Allergic Reaction?


PET-imageMost people are still locked into the theory that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain – a shortage of feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin that deliver messages from one neuron to another. That explanation works well for public consumption because it’s simple and it makes for great pharmaceutical commercials.

But depression is a whole lot more complicated than that.

For starters, there’s faulty brain wiring. On functional MRIs, depressed brains display lower activity levels in the frontal lobes, responsible for cognitive processes, and higher levels of activity in the amygdala region of the brain (fear central). Depression can be associated with the loss of volume in parts of the brain, namely the hippocampus, which belongs to the limbic system (the emotional center of the brain). The more severe the depression, the greater the loss of brain volume. The endocrine system plays a significant role in mood disturbances. Some studies on depression have indicated a default in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the region that manages the body’s response to stress. Chronic activation of the HPA is no good, as anyone with thyroid or pituitary issues will tell you.

And there’s another theory has been lurking in the background for quite awhile, but is finally gaining the trust and attention of the public: that depression is an allergic reaction to inflammation.

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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4 Responses
  1. Linda Jackson

    I was so disturbed to read your research about sugar consumption. Thinking about giving up sugar CAUSES me to be depressed. I think I must be addicted!

    1. Therese Borchard

      Sorry, Linda. It might not have the same effect on you. It doesn’t on anyone else in my family. Try it for a few weeks or a month and see. Everyone is different.

  2. beth

    I found that article very affirming. I have an 8 year old son who suffered from severe nasal inflammation. So we took him off dairy for a year. Out of our 4 children, he was chronically grouchy and well, depressed. After no dairy we noticed a dramatic improvement in his attitude. He as so much happier and the inflammation went down. I wish I had a pediatrician that took it more seriously. Most doctors give me a quizzical look when i mention the link between the two. Thanks for putting it out there!

    1. Therese Borchard

      I know what you mean, Beth. But that’s wonderful that you’re on to it. You’re a good mom!