Healthy lifestyle

Addressing immunity in depression

What is depression?

Everybody goes through bad periods or bad days in life where there is hardly any room for joy. Bad weather, work or private issues can cause a downbeat mood. In these situations we frequently say that we are “depressed”. However, medically speaking, depressions are not just “bad days”, but negative states of mind that persist for more than two weeks. Depression is a severe disease that influences all areas of the affected person’s life (thoughts, feelings and actions). Physical problems can also show up during depression, given that the body and the mind are closely related and mutually influence one another. 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), depression is the main cause of disability among the world population, with a very high incidence. It is estimated that it affects 300 million people worldwide.  

immunity in depression blog post

Depression is usually associated with the following symptoms:

Downbeat mood or a constant negative feeling cause people with depression to withdraw from their social environment and isolate themselves. 

Apathy and “inner void”: during depression, interest in social contact and commitment to work decrease sharply, hobbies become less enjoyable, so that the affected feel empty inside. Positive events do not make things better either. 

Fatigue and lack of energy: daily tasks become a real burden for depressed people. Those who suffer from depression are hindered by constant fatigue that even makes it hard for them to get up in the morning.

The role of the immune system in depression

Depressions are complex conditions that cannot be explained by a single cause, as various factors contribute to the onset and development of the disease, including neurobiological factors (genetic inheritance or predisposition, imbalance of immune mediators) and psychosocial factors (e.g. traumatic experiences). However, depression is not necessarily triggered by a specific situation. 

Until recently, it was thought that cytokines, i.e. immune messenger substances, could not cross the blood-brain barrier that protects the brain. Today it is known that there are numerous pathways through which cytokines access the brain from the periphery. These processes can trigger the production of more cytokines by brain cells like microglia cells or astrocytes. Overproduction of proinflammatory cytokines can alter the normal functioning of the neuroendocrine system, overactivating the HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis), which leads to higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. This, in turn, causes a decrease in serotonin levels, the “happy” hormone. Such findings have come to underline the close interaction between the nervous system and the immune system as well as the importance of modulating the inflammatory response in psychological disorders like depression.  

Close-interaction-between-depression-and-immunity

Micro-immunotherapy & Depression

The treatment of depression is mainly based on two pillars: the administration of antidepressant medication and psychotherapy. Both forms of treatment are often combined and complemented by other measures.

Given that immune imbalances such as excessive inflammatory reactions are factors contributing to the development of depression, immunoregulatory approaches like micro-immunotherapy constitute an important cornerstone of the therapeutic strategy in this context. Through the sequential communication with the immune system via body-own immune messenger substances (cytokines and specific nucleic acids), it aims at balancing the dysregulation of the immune system involved in depression.

The fine-tuned action of micro-immunotherapy works its effect through low doses of active substances that circulate in the body in equal concentrations, thus speaking the same language and ensuring treatment tolerability. The micro-immunotherapy formula directed at regulating immunity in depression can help improve the quality of life of the patient and reduce the intake of antidepressants. However, treatment with antidepressants should never be interrupted without consulting an attending health professional.

EBV: A factor to keep in mind

Various studies have shown the relationship between depression and Epstein-Barr virus infections, as mononucleosis is followed by a depressive disorder in numerous cases. The Epstein-Barr virus acts as an immune disruptor, whereby it can be involved in the onset of a systemic dysregulation with effects on the neurological level. It is important to support the immune system in keeping the virus under control and thus prevent the onset or worsening of associated diseases. Micro-immunotherapy can be of help as an immune support against EBV infections. Learn more about micro-immunotherapy and EBV here.

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  2. Raison CL, Capuron L, Miller AH: Cytokines sing the blues: inflammation and the pathogenesis of depression. Trends Immunol 2006, 27:24–31.
  3. Dantzer R, O’Connor JC, Freund GG, Johnson RW, Kelley KW. From inflammation to sickness and depression: when the immune system subjugates the brain. Nat Rev 2008, 9:46–56.
  4. Chesnokova V, Melmed S. Minireview: Neuro-immuno-endocrine modulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis by gp130 signaling molecules. Endocrinology. 2002 May;143(5):1571-4.
  5. Vindegaard N, Petersen LV, Lyng-Rasmussen BI, Dalsgaard S, Benros ME. Infectious mononucleosis as a risk factor for depression: A nationwide cohort study. Brain Behav Immun. 2021 May;94:259-265.

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