Inflammation: The Hidden Cause of Depression.😴🔥

Think back to the last time you injured yourself. Perhaps you fell over and hurt your knee, or sprained your ankle playing sport. Along with the pain, you can probably recall how swollen, red and hot the area became. These changes were a sign of your body’s protective inflammatory response springing into action.

Although uncomfortable, inflammation enabled you to heal by forcing you to rest the affected limb and avoid injuring yourself further; protecting the area from infection, and clearing away damaged tissue. As healing occurred, the swelling and redness resolved, and your ankle went back to normal.

If a sprained ankle is what you think of when you hear the word ‘inflammation’, you are probably wondering what a simple injury and depression could possibly have in common. The answer is, more than you think.

Burn, Baby, Burn

There is a type of inflammation you can’t see as it may not be localised to a particular area, or have an obvious trigger, such as an injury. Instead, it’s systemic (affecting multiple areas throughout the body), and occurs on a microscopic scale.

However, just like the inflammation of a sprained ankle, systemic inflammation begins as a protective response to a trigger, such as infection or cell damage, and is designed to help you heal. Unfortunately, if the trigger is persistent, as in the case of chronic disease or infection, environmental exposure to irritants (e.g. pollution, smoking), or even chronic stress, then the inflammation remains constant. This creates a chronic, low-grade inflammatory state, which may damage healthy tissue and disrupt the functioning of many-body systems and organs – including your brain.

Inflammation The hidden Cause of Depression Metagenics Australia New Zealand Blog

Sick, Tired, and Depressed

To understand how chronic inflammation can affect mood, let’s consider something called ‘sickness behaviour’. Think back to a time when you had a significant infection – perhaps it was influenza or a bad bout of bronchitis. How did you feel?

If you’re like most people, you were exhausted; struggled to think; lost your appetite, your sense of pleasure, and your desire to spend time with others; and you probably felt very down. Rather than purely being caused by illness, these feelings were also a consequence of inflammation and, again, were designed to help you heal. How? By creating ‘sickness behaviours’, such as resting and keeping away from other people, which give you the best chance to recover without spreading the infection to others.

If you’re one of the 1.16 million Australians struggling with depression,1 you will have noticed the similarities between the feelings described above – such as a low mood, anhedonia (loss of pleasure) and fatigue – and how you feel when you’re depressed.

So, if inflammation can create depression-like feelings and behaviours in the context of being sick, can it cause depression in an otherwise healthy person?

Brain on Fire

Although inflammation and depression are definitely linked, researchers are still trying to establish which comes first, inflammation or depression. Here is what we know so far:

  • Otherwise healthy people with depression have higher levels of markers of inflammation in their blood compared with non-depressed, healthy individuals, including the systemic inflammatory marker, C-reactive protein (CRP)2
  • Children with elevated levels of CRP in their blood are more likely to develop depression 5 to 10 years later as young adults3
  • People who have been depressed for a long time show 30% more brain inflammation than those who are depressed for a shorter amount of time4
  • Depression is significantly more likely to develop in people with other inflammatory disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain, obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease5
  • Anti-inflammatory medications have been shown to reduce the severity of symptoms of depression6

Grab the Fire Extinguisher

The good news is that reducing your level of inflammation (also called your ‘inflammatory load’) could help with your mood. You can influence your inflammatory load by tweaking your daily diet, exercise and supplements. Here are some tips to get you started (for more tips, click here):

Anti-inflammatory foods

Your diet can either promote or reduce inflammation. In fact, people who end up developing depression often have higher intakes of pro-inflammatory foods such as sugar, unhealthy fats, and carbohydrates.7 Swap these foods for anti-inflammatory choices, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains and fatty fish. It can be as easy as starting with a bowl of lightly steamed vegetables, a tin of salmon, and some brown rice for lunch.

Inflammation The hidden Cause of Depression Metagenics Australia New Zealand Blog


Just 20 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, dancing, gardening or gentle cycling, has been shown to significantly reduce inflammation.8 Additionally, exercise provides well-known mood-boosting benefits, such as an increase in endorphins (feel-good brain chemicals). Start with whatever you can commit to doing at least three times a week, and build from there.


Turmeric is one of the most well-researched anti-inflammatory supplements. It significantly improves symptoms of depression when taken for at least four to six weeks, and also reduces anxiety in depressed people, without causing any unwanted side effects.9 In fact, a specific turmeric extract, known as BCM-95™, combined with saffron has shown similar benefits to antidepressant medication.10 Click here to find out more about how turmeric reduces inflammation.

Inflammation The hidden Cause of Depression Metagenics Australia New Zealand Blog

Put Out the Fire for a Better Mood

Inflammation and depression are inextricably linked. Regardless of which comes first, reducing your inflammatory load is vital in the fight against depression, enabling you to put out the fire of inflammation and achieve a healthy mood. For help changing your diet and exercise habits, or to help you choose the supplements that will be the best fit for you please contact me.

What Causes the Mid-Afternoon Slump, and How to Deal With It.😴🤯

Does your motivation level come to a grinding halt when the clock strikes 3 pm? Do you feel fatigued, sluggish and unable to concentrate on your work? If so, chances are you are experiencing the common ‘mid-afternoon slump’, where your energy levels clock out before you have permission to!

Whilst a slight dip in energy after lunchtime is normal, a major slump where you struggle to recover your focus, even with the help of some fresh air or a short break, may indicate a deeper issue with the way your body maintains its energy levels.

Let me explain…

Your body makes energy from the food you eat; the digestive system breaks down carbohydrates (found in foods such as vegetables and grains) to produce glucose, which is moved into your cells to create energy, or stored for later use. This process is controlled by the hormone, insulin, which is responsible for keeping a steady flow of glucose into your cells, and therefore an even flow of energy for your body’s needs.

This maintains your mental and physical momentum all day– keeping you feeling focused and active. However, in some instances, insulin is unable to effectively usher glucose into your cells – reducing your brain’s access to the fuel it needs to keep you switched on.

There are several reasons why this can occur, and many of these can be addressed naturally. To help you beat the slump, we’ve created a list of its top three causes and how to correct them, so you can get back to performing at your peak!

What Causes the Mid Afternoon Slump, and how to deal with it Metagenics Australia and New Zealand Blog

Running on empty without enough nutrients

Insulin’s ability to do its job relies on certain nutrients, however, it is common for many individuals to fall short of getting enough of these nutrients from their diet. This can occur for various reasons, including poor dietary habits and declining levels of nutrients in our food (due to farming, storage and transporting practices). On top of this, stressful events and certain medications can also deplete your nutrient levels by increasing the demand for particular nutrients, affecting their absorption from the gut, or by increasing clearance of these nutrients from the body.

Research has shown that low levels of vitamin D,1 magnesium,2 zinc3 and chromium4 can all impair how well your insulin ushers glucose into your cells, and this can limit the amount of glucose getting through to your brain, sending you into a slump.

If you think you might be lacking in some of these nutrients, please ask me, so I can help you to identify any nutritional deficiencies and enable you to manage them. In addition to reversing deficiencies, they may also prescribe natural ingredients such as alpha-lipoic acid, which enhances your cells’ ability to access glucose,5 helping your body get the steady stream of glucose and energy it needs.

Going into overdrive with stress

Your natural stress response is a wonderful thing as it allows you to tap into an alert, high-functioning state, both mentally and physically, to allow you to cope with and adapt to stress (find out more about how stress affects your body, here). That said, the pace of modern life can often lead to constant activation of your stress response, which can cause problems with blood glucose and energy levels.

Stressful situations cause the body to release high levels of cortisol, a hormone that stimulates the body to overcome stressful events by causing helpful changes, such as the release of stored glucose so that your cells can access energy on demand. Once midday hits, cortisol naturally tapers down (in preparation for allowing you to fall asleep in the evening), taking its glucose-releasing effects with it.  

Normally, this tapering effect causes a slight dip in energy, but under high levels of stress, elevated cortisol levels drop rapidly, causing the body to swing from releasing high amounts of glucose to low amounts. As there is still a lot of insulin circulating through the bloodstream, this rapidly clears the blood of glucose, suddenly leaving many cells high and dry without enough glucose to go around, resulting in a one-way ticket to slump-town!

Creating a healthy sleep routine, practising regular meditation, daily exercise, and making time to do the things you love can all lower stress levels and help you overcome your mid-afternoon slump, discussed further in this blog.

What Causes the Mid Afternoon Slump, and how to deal with it Metagenics Australia and New Zealand Blog

Fuelling yourself with a high sugar diet

A high sugar diet (rich in refined carbs, sweets and soft drinks) is another common reason for afternoon fatigue, as over time it can disrupt your body’s ability to control blood glucose. These foods contain large amounts of sugar that are quickly broken down to glucose, and then rapidly absorbed into the blood, causing your glucose levels to skyrocket. Even though insulin steps in to curb glucose levels, over time, consuming a high sugar diet results in your body becoming less sensitive to the effect of insulin (to avoid taking in more glucose). This effect is known as ‘insulin resistance’, and disrupts your cells’ ability to access glucose (and energy) when needed (e.g. in the afternoon when your energy levels naturally dip), causing fatigue.

The good news is that it only takes a few small changes to improve your diet and increase your energy. Firstly, eating a range of unprocessed wholefoods (i.e. foods that are closest to their natural form, such as vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, eggs and grains) can help maintain steady blood glucose levels. Rather than spiking your blood glucose quickly, these foods allow glucose to be steadily absorbed into the bloodstream over a few hours, due to their protein and fibre content, helping slow down the absorption of glucose. This reduces the risk of your body’s cells becoming saturated with glucose, lowering the risk of your body becoming insulin resistant. In addition, herbal medicines such as cinnamon6 and raw cocoa7 can also help to maintain steady blood glucose levels and reduce insulin resistance, allowing you to tap into energy and power through.

What Causes the Mid Afternoon Slump, and how to deal with it Metagenics Australia and New Zealand Blog

Beat the slump and get back on top

More often than not, finding solutions for the mid-afternoon slump starts with taking stock of personal health factors and habits that may contribute to your drop in energy. This includes reviewing the quality of your diet, sleep, levels of stress and other factors that can prevent your body from being able to maintain steady energy levels. Often, these factors can be numerous and complex, as qualified natural healthcare I can help you identify the areas that need support, and tailor solutions that meet your body’s particular needs – making the mid-afternoon slump all but a memory in a refreshed and re-energised mind.

1 Ekpenyong, CE. Micronutrient deficiency, a novel nutritional risk factor for insulin resistance and Syndrome X. Arch Food Nut Sci. 2018 Nov; 2: 016-030. doi: /10.29328/journal.afns.1001013.

2 Kostov K. Effects of magnesium deficiency on mechanisms of insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes: focusing on the processes of insulin secretion and signaling. Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Mar 18;20(6). doi: 10.3390/ijms20061351.

3 Cruz KJC, de Oliveira ARS, Morais JBS, Severo JS, Mendes PMV, de Sousa Melo SR, et al. Zinc and insulin resistance: biochemical and molecular aspects. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2018 Dec;186(2):407-412. doi:10.1007/s12011-018-1308-z.

4 Ekpenyong, CE. Micronutrient deficiency, a novel nutritional risk factor for insulin resistance and Syndrome X. Arch Food Nut Sci. 2018 Nov; 2: 016-030. doi: /10.29328/journal.afns.1001013.

5 Jacob S, Ruus P, Hermann R, Tritschler HJ, Maerker E, Renn W, et al. Oral administration of RAC-alpha-lipoic acid modulates insulin sensitivity in patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus: a placebo-controlled pilot trial. Free Radic Biol Med. 1999 Aug;27(3-4):309-14. PMID: 10468203.

6 Mang B, Wolters M, Schmitt B, Kelb K, Lichtinghagen R, Stichtenoth DO, et al. Effects of a cinnamon extract on plasma glucose, HbA, and serum lipids in diabetes mellitus type 2. Eur J Clin Invest. 2006 May;36(5):340-4.

7 Grassi D, Lippi C, Necozione S, Desideri G, Ferri C. Short-term administration of dark chocolate is followed by a significant increase in insulin sensitivity and a decrease in blood pressure in healthy persons. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Mar;81(3):611-4. 

It’s okay to move ‘BEING KIND TO YOURSELF’ to the top of your to-do list.💚

So often, we burn ourselves out by trying to please everyone or check off “one more box” on our to do list. Much like we tell athletes to rest their body if they are feeling sore or injured, we need to remind ourselves to rest our mind when we are feeling overwhelmed or exhausted.

Finally, it is important to note that there is no “right way” to practice self-care. Self-care can come in the form of exercise, bubble-baths, meditation, reading, journaling… the options are endless! I encourage you to experiment with different forms of self-care until you find what makes you feel most at peace with yourself. If you need some thought starters, feel free to check out the links below.

Treat yourself with kindness and always remember, it is more than okay – it is necessary – to move “being kind to yourself” to the top of your to-do list.

Links to Self-Care Tips and Tricks:

10 Tips to Manage the Stress of Mum Life! 💚🤗💚

Children bring countless moments of joy and love to your life. However, the age-old proverb “children are a blessing” neglects to mention how stressful, tiring and overwhelming motherhood can be. Amid the many blessings are the dirty nappies, temper tantrums, high expectations (usually of yourself), bouts of mum brain, and little time to yourself. It’s normal to feel stressed out and overwhelmed by mum life, however there are still a few tricks at your disposal to help you cope during motherhood’s more turbulent times.

Knock, Knock… Your Daily Dose of Stress Reporting for Duty!

Stress is often viewed as a negative thing, however small amounts of stress can help you get through daily challenges. Whether your stress is the result of sleepless nights, juggling school pick-ups and drop-offs, work, or simply having an ‘off’ day, your body’s stress response ensures there’s enough gas in the tank to power you through.

It does this by producing stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, and neurotransmitters, which are chemical messengers that carry signals between your nerves and other cells in your body (such as your muscles). These substances cause physiological changes that are beneficial in times of stress. For instance, you may notice an increase in your heart rate, breathing and mental alertness during a stressful event, all of which help you get through the situation.

While these hormones and neurotransmitters help you to push through life’s ups and downs, ongoing exposure to stress can put pressure on your body’s stress responses, leaving you feeling burnt out, fatigued and anxious.

Click here to learn more about the impact of stress on your health. To survive the challenges of mum life, it is important to learn healthy ways to cope with life’s stressors. Focussing on your own physical and emotional needs wherever possible can go a long way toward keeping your stress levels in check.

10 tips to manage the stress of mum life Metagenics blog Australia and New Zealand

Dear Stress, We Are on a Break. Love, Mum

Try these stress-reducing activities for a much-needed time out from the demands of mum life:

  • Meditate: Meditation has been shown to reduce stress, improve sleep and increase focus.1 Digital mindfulness programs available through many apps, websites and audio streaming services can walk you through the steps of meditation.
  • Spend time in nature: Two hours spent in a green space each week is associated with better overall health and psychological wellbeing.2 This can include a brisk walk through your local park, a hike on a trail, time spent tending your garden, or walking the dog.
  • Move your booty: Exercise boosts production of your body’s feel-good neurotransmitters, known as endorphins, which have a positive impact on your mood and stress. Though you might not always have time to hit the gym, a brisk walk, yoga at home or putting on some music for a quick boogie can be an excellent way to unwind.
  • Treat yo’ self: Some mums find the only opportunity for solitude is a bathroom break, while others get interrupted by little knuckles knocking on the door. Plan some alone time by waiting until your child naps or calling in a babysitting favour, and recharge your batteries by reading a book, soaking in a bath, or scheduling some kid-free pamper time. You may grapple with feelings of guilt around taking time out, however prioritising time to yourself can prevent you from experiencing burn-out.
  • Hang out with friends or family: Maintaining your social connections is an integral part of fostering a support network. Good adult conversation over a cuppa can help you blow off steam and give you a break from talking in baby talk.
  • Take a break from electronics: Scrolling through social media can add to your stress. Not only does it reduce the time you spend conversing with actual people, it can also leave you feeling self-conscious when comparing your life to embellished, picture-perfect Instagram grids. In fact, high exposure to social media has been associated with poor mood and depression in adults.3 Click here to discover how you can disconnect from social media.
  • Eat well: It is tempting to comfort eat when you are stressed, but this can leave you feeling lethargic, making mum life more difficult. Instead, opt for meals that nourish your body, including fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, good quality fats, and wholegrains.
  • Cut down your caffeine: While caffeine can enhance your mood and alertness, it can also stimulate your body’s production of stress hormones at times when you don’t need them,4 making it more difficult for you to relax.
  • Seek out support: If daily pressures are becoming overwhelming, speak to a health professional or an organisation such as Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia, also known as PANDA, which provides support to mums experiencing anxiety and depression.
  • Support your stress response with key nutrients: Your body’s production of stress hormones and neurotransmitters relies on specific nutrients, including B complex vitamins and magnesium.5 As previously mentioned, a balanced amount of stress hormones and neurotransmitters can be beneficial and help you turbo through mum life. So, for a healthy stress response, make sure you are getting enough of these important nutrients. Increasing your intake of wholegrains, nuts and seeds will help, however the quickest way to significantly boost your levels is with a supplement.

Mums Everywhere, You’ve Got This!

Motherhood can provide you with lifelong happiness, however it can also create a fair amount of chaos. While you spend the better part of your life giving to others, it is important to nurture your own needs and prevent the stresses of mum life overwhelming you completely. For tailored advice on how to reduce stress in your particular case, please contact me.