You might be wondering what do inflammation and mental health have in common?
The latest research shows a surprising connection between inflammation in the body and some common mental illnesses such as depression, chronic fatigue, and Alzheimer disease.
It is hard to believe that inflammatory processes can have such a strong effect on the functioning of the brain that they can contribute to the development of a wide range of psychiatric conditions. But unfortunately, it seems to be the case.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is our body’s immune system response to a physical injury, infection or tissue irritation. When inflammation occurs, chemicals from the body’s white blood cells are released into the bloodstream and affected tissues to protect your body from foreign substances.
This release of chemicals increases the blood flow to the area of injury or infection and may result in redness and warmth. Some of the chemicals cause a leak of fluid into the tissues, resulting in swelling. This protective process may stimulate nerves and cause pain.
Inflammation is a part of a natural healing process and is beneficial in the short term when the body is trying to heal itself. However, sometimes, when the body cannot rid itself of the pathogens, inflammation becomes chronic and it becomes harmful not just to the body, but also to its the general well being.
There is also increasing evidence that persistent low-grade inflammation in the body leads to psychological changes. According to a research conducted by Andrew Millar – a Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, inflammation can affect person’s motivation, motor activity, level anxiety and sensitivity to threat.
The study revealed that 30% – 50% of people suffering from depression also have raised inflammation levels, so inflammation, although not the exact cause of depression, could be a strong contributing factor.
Dental inflammation and mental health
You might be wondering what do inflammation and mental health have to do with a dentist?
One of the dental conditions which can result in chronic inflammation is periodontitis, a serious gum disease which affects 80% of people in Ireland over the age of 35. It has been known for quite some time that periodontitis, significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, adversely affects the management of diabetes and may also raise the risk of premature birth in some pregnant women.
It may surprise you to find out that oral inflammation caused by periodontitis is also associated with the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease, and could be a major contributing factor to chronic tiredness, low energy and even depression.
So, before you reach for Prozac, schedule a visit to a dentist. It will certainly improve your general health, improve your mood and it may even cure your depression.