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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Inflammation in two disorders

I  listened to a podcast today by a fellow who calls himself the Healthy Skeptic.  Click here   He often has interesting things to say about health and nutrition.  The first subject he covered today was about thyroid supplements.  That was interesting enough, but buried in there he made an almost off-hand comment.  It was that  older women often show some hypothyroidism because chronic inflammation interferes in the conversion from the inactive to the active form of thyroid hormone.

Ah, so as we age (and if we don’t pay attention to chronic inflammation) that increasing inflammation can be at the root of low thyroid.  Most doctors simply supplement levothroxine the pharmaceutical form of T-4 the inactive form of the hormone.  If the problem is in conversion to the active form, clearly that prescription will give nice numbers but not change symptoms.

So thyroid problem as we age are also laid at the door of inflammation.

You may have heard me say that many mental disorders are now known to be caused by chronic inflammation—including depression. 

Meanwhile, the magazine “Psychology Today” had a recent article titled, Depression - Caused by Inflammation, Thus Like Other Diseases of Civilization.”    See the article here.

It very thoroughly talks about the mechanisms by which out-of-control inflammation triggers depression.  In my e-book, “Inflammation Run Amok” I talk about the mechanism of inflammation causing heart disease and other diseases.  Here, then, in my version of in a  nutshell how it causes depression.

1.  Tryptophan, an amino acid is a precursor of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter.  But tryptophan is also the precursor of a lesser known neurotransmitter—kynurenic.   In the presence of inflammatory cytokines, tryptophan converts much more to  kynurenic and not to the serotonin, leaving serotonin in short supply.

2.  We have receptors (called NMDA receptors) for a neurotransmitter (glutamate) that causes excitation.  Too much glutamate pounding on these receptors causes depression among other brain problems.   Cells called astrocytes are supposed to clean up extra glutamate to prevent that.  It turns out that inflammatory cytokines interfere with the mop up process.

3.  The article doesn’t explain this thoroughly, but simply states that inflammatory chemicals (cytokines) push the brain from “happy” plasticity to a neurotoxic environment by depressing the production of a type of brain “fertilizer” called BDNF.

To sort of tie the two subjects together today, one of the symptoms of low thyroid is depression (along with a myriad of others) and now we can see that chronic inflammation is playing its negative chemical message in both thyroid and depression problems.

Why inflammation makes some people get a heart attack, some get depressed and some others get diabetes or cancer or osteoporosis (and on and on) I do not know.  It’s easy to just say we’re all different and we all have different histories, diets, and genetics.  As the scientists discover these different pathways to dysfunction, I will continue to report.  Reduce inflammation to reduce risk, cure ailments and age with vigor and function into your late years!!!

Want help with that?  Email me with questions and concerns.


  1. Okay Ellie, so what's the solution? Is there a simple one like a pill? Or is it more complicated? BTW, I seem to have the symptoms you describe but my doctor says my thyroid tests find... what do you think>

  2. Listen to the first part of the podcast for a complete answer on thyroid, but the short answer is that doctors are stuck on testing for TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) or T-4 the precursor of active thyroid hormone (T-3). Don't ask me why, the info is clearly out there but probably since most went to school. So if you get tested for T-3 it tells you if your body is doing the conversion (enough) from T-4. And if not, low iodine or too much inflammation is the culprit.

    See "Inflammation Run Amok" at for a comprehensive look at inflammation reducing strategies. There are lots, some are easier than others. Remember inflammation is the body's response to insult. When we remove insults, we are at optimal.