By Gabriel and Jennifer Arruda
Depression is like a traveler. It often comes with baggage. It often brings other unwanted problems with it. Those who have depression often also deal with other issues such as chronic pain, chronic fatigue, digestion problems, anxiety, and brain fog. What could be causing these other issues to come along with depression? Certainly there’s more than one reason, but a significant factor that often goes under the radar is that those suffering with depression could also have an autoimmune disease. In some cases, an autoimmune disease could actually be a root cause of the depression.
Autoimmune diseases are a class of 80-100 different diseases in which the body’s own immune system attacks its own tissues and/or organs. You’ve probably heard of some of them such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and Hashimoto’s to name a few.
The reason why autoimmune diseases can be an unknown factor in depression is because although they can frequently come together, autoimmune diseases are difficult to diagnose, often taking more than three-and-a-half years to receive a diagnosis.1
Research shows that depression and autoimmunity overlap at a frequency much higher than chance allows. A 2017 study done with over eight thousand people found that those with an autoimmune disease were much more likely to experience depression, and those with depression were much more likely to develop an autoimmune disease.2 This was found to be especially true with rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory bowel diseases.3 4
If you are depressed, and you also have symptoms like arthritis (joint and muscle pain), fatigue, food sensitivities, rashes, headaches, and brain fog you could be dealing with an underlying autoimmune disease.
Is there any good news in all of this? Absolutely! By discovering and healing a hidden autoimmune disease, you could simultaneously take care of your depression.
The Depression-Autoimmunity Link
So what is the factor that both those that are depressed and autoimmune sufferers have in common? Inflammation throughout the body.
“Longitudinal studies have shown that depression shows a two-way association with systemic inflammation, which is a key component in the pathophysiology of autoimmune disorders…”5
There is a lot of research showing the frequent link between depression and inflammation in the brain,6 7 and it’s also very well known that inflammation is a foundational factor in autoimmunity.
How can inflammation simultaneously cause depression and autoimmunity? With autoimmune diseases, there is usually a breakdown in the walls of the small intestine due to toxic exposure. This is called leaky gut. When the gut walls become permeable, it allows all kinds of substances into the bloodstream that aren’t supposed to be there such as chemicals, heavy metals, bad bacteria, viruses, and large particles of undigested food. Once these toxins get into the bloodstream, they can cause body-wide inflammation. When this inflammation happens in the brain, it disturbs how brain cells communicate.8 And in some cases of autoimmunity, the malfunctioning immune system can even target brain and nerve cells to be attacked.
One of the blessings of understanding the inflammation connection to depression is that inflammation can be successfully turned off. When inflammation is healed, it can go a long way in helping both autoimmunity and depression.
Here are some practical steps to calm down inflammation in the body which I (Gabriel) used in healing my own autoimmune disease:
1. Find out what’s agitating your gut and avoid it entirely. The biggest culprits include:
- GMOs and pesticide-laden produce
- Gluten (because modern gluten has had its DNA modified with radiation and deadly chemicals and the body doesn’t like this)
- Meat, poultry, fish, and animal products (dairy, cheese, and eggs)
- Soy and peanuts
- Medications (NOTE: only remove under the guidance of your doctor)
- Tobacco and alcohol
- Mercury and other heavy metals
- Chemicals in personal care and cleaning products
- Refined sugar
This tends to be the hardest part because it takes a little detective work and then self-control. But you can do it with help from Someone who fasted on nothing but water for 40 days. Jesus can help you eliminate the things that are hurting you. Ask Him for His power.
2. Heal your leaky gut. Here are several natural methods I used to heal mine:
- Aloe vera: eat the inside gel of a 1-inch piece of a fresh aloe vera leaf, 20 minutes before meals
- Turmeric: 1 1/2 tsp turmeric powder 1 to 3x/day (you can mix it with coconut milk, raw honey, and lemon juice to make it tastes better or just take with water)
A recent study even revealed that curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) was as effective as medications in managing depression.9 Incredible!
- Potato-onion broth soup. Here’s the recipe:
1 onion, organic, cut in large pieces
1 potato, organic, cut in large pieces
water to cover the onion and potatoes
2 inches orange peel, organic
1 inch fresh ginger, minced
1 inch fresh turmeric, minced (or if not accessible, use 1 tsp turmeric powder)
1 tsp Himalayan mineral salt or other unrefined full mineral salt
Instructions: Bring to boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. We add a spoonful of coconut milk to our bowl to give it a rich, creamy taste.
- Licorice root tea and slippery elm tea
Lastly, don’t forget to lay a solid foundation by following the basic principles of health such as plant-based nutrition, exercise, plenty of pure water, sunshine, self-control, fresh air, rest, and trusting in God. Never forget that God wants to walk with you through this trial, and He can even bring unexpected blessings out of it.
If you would like a more detailed explanation of how I reversed my autoimmune disease, visit our website ReverseAutoimmune.com.
May you be blessed in your pursuit of health,
Gabriel and Jennifer Arruda
1 “NCAPG News Briefing.” American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc. AARD.org, March 18.2014.
2 Euesden, Jack et al. “A Bidirectional Relationship between Depression and the Autoimmune Disorders – New Perspectives from the National Child Development Study.” Ed. Kenji Hashimoto. PLoS ONE 12.3 (2017): e0173015. PMC. Web. 29 Aug. 2018.
3 Dickens C, McGowan L, Clark-Carter D, Creed F (2002) Depression in rheumatoid arthritis: a systematic review of the literature with meta-analysis. Psychosom Med 64: 52–60.
4 Patten SB, Beck CA, Williams JV, Barbui C, Metz LM (2003) Major depression in multiple sclerosis: a population-based perspective. Neurology 61: 1524–1527.
5 Euesden, Jack et al. “A Bidirectional Relationship between Depression and the Autoimmune Disorders – New Perspectives from the National Child Development Study.” Ed. Kenji Hashimoto. PLoS ONE 12.3 (2017): e0173015. PMC. Web. 29 Aug. 2018.
6 Blume J, Douglas SD, Evans DL. Immune suppression and immune activation in depression. Brain Behav Immun. 2011;25:221–9.
7 Miller AH, Maletic V, Raison CL. Inflammation and its discontents: the role of cytokines in the pathophysiology of major depression. Biol Psychiatry. 2009;65:732–41.
8 Patrick J. Skerrett, “Infection, autoimmune disease linked to depression” Harvard Health Blog, June 17, 2013
9 Sanmukhani J, Satodia V, Trivedi J, et al. “Efficacy and safety of curcumin in major depressive disorder: a randomized controlled trial.” Phytotherapy Research 28.4 (Apr. 2014): 579-585.