9 Quick Tricks To Heal Inflammation & Soothe Depression
More and more, we're learning that inflammation is intricately connected to depression1. In fact, it might be the root cause of it altogether. If you're suffering from depression, I recommend working with a qualified health care professional and focusing seriously on lifestyle and dietary changes that help you reduce chronic underlying inflammation and boost mood.
Here are a few quick go-to tips to soothe inflammation in your body and help lift your depression:
1. Try fermented foods.
2. Supplement with a probiotic.
I can't stress enough the importance of a healthy, happy gut. Taking a high-quality probiotic can help get your gut microbiome back on track. If you need help choosing a type and brand, here's everything you ever wanted to know about choosing a probiotic.
3. Consume plenty of omega-3 fats.
You can accomplish this by eating cold-water fatty fish (like salmon) or taking a good fish oil supplement, such as cod liver oil. Wondering why omega-3s are so great? Here's your omega-3 fatty acid guide. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for the production of serotonin, also known as the happiness hormone, and people with depression are more likely to be deficient in omega-3s1.
4. Make olive oil and deeply pigmented vegetables, like beets and cherries, part of your daily routine.
These foods are high in antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals and fight oxidative stress in the body to prevent diseases, including those of the brain that affect mood. Research even suggests that oxidative stress is directly related to depressive disorders3.
5. Cook with onions, garlic, and ginger.
This trio is the anti-inflammatory holy trinity! It's just an added bonus that they all taste great and can upgrade almost any recipe you're making for dinner. There hasn't been significant research in this area in humans, but researchers have tested the antidepressant activity of garlic on mice4 and found significant antidepressant-like activity, which is promising.
6. Cook with turmeric and black pepper.
When we're talking about inflammation, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention turmeric. Try consuming it in the form of golden milk, which is a traditional ayurvedic turmeric latte. Always add black pepper to increase turmeric's bioavailability. For the first few months, you may even want to supplement with curcumin, which is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric. It's a potent anti-inflammatory compound. Both curcumin and turmeric have exhibited antidepressant effects5 in peer-reviewed research.
7. Be sure to get adequate vitamin D.
Research has suggested that people suffering from mental health disorders often have low levels of vitamin D6, and experts think a lack of vitamin D plays a role in the pathology of seasonal affective disorder,7 or seasonal depression. My personal favorite approach is to let the sun touch your skin, but of course the benefits of sun exposure need to be balanced with the risk of skin cancer. Find the right balance for you, and use a good vitamin D supplement to close the gap on any additional vitamin D needs.
8. Try some lesser known anti-inflammatory supplements.
Other good anti-inflammatory supplements are boswelia, quercetin, and black sesame seed oil. I often recommend them to my patients and suggest that they work with a naturopath or functional medicine doc to tailor a personalized treatment plan for them.
9. Detox, detox, and then detox some more.
A final vital step toward decreasing your inflammation is to detox your environment8. Do your best to decrease any unnecessary burden on your immune system. Chuck your conventional cleaning and personal care products, upgrade the quality of the water you're drinking, put plants in every room, and get a good HEPA filter to help you breathe cleaner air at home since indoor air is even more polluted than outdoor air9.
Ellen Vora, M.D. is a board-certified psychiatrist, acupuncturist, and yoga teacher, and she is the author of the No. 1 bestselling book The Anatomy of Anxiety. She takes a functional medicine approach to mental health—considering the whole person and addressing imbalance at the root. Vora received her B.A. from Yale University and her M.D. from Columbia University.