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Exploring the Link Between Allergies and Depression

An image of a woman outside looking sadToo often, we think of the body and the issues we have with it as completely unrelated. As if the different parts of the human body don’t interact and don’t influence each other in any way. But as medical knowledge deepens, this idea is proving to be untrue. Instead, evidence shows the body is deeply and irrevocably interconnected. This means that there are often links between disorders that you may not have thought about before. This is certainly true when it comes to the link between allergies and depression. However, research is still in the early phases, and you still need to know how to manage these conditions if you have them. Here's what we know so far.

What Are Allergies?

Allergies are when your immune system overreacts to harmless irritants. These irritants can include things like:

  • Mold
  • Dust
  • Pet dander
  • Pollen
  • Different foods products like fish or eggs
  • Medications
  • Household chemicals

When your body encounters these irritants, also known as allergens, it treats them as threats and produces antibodies. These antibodies stimulate the immune cells to release inflammatory compounds that are designed to expel the allergens from your system. This results in the typical allergy symptoms that you may experience such as:

  • Congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezy
  • Itchy eyes
  • Coughing
  • Hives
  • Fatigue

Many people who have allergies also experience feelings of tiredness, fatigue, and low mood. However, research on allergies and depression is still incomplete, and it isn’t clear whether allergies are triggering mood changes or if there’s another factor in play.

The Link Between Allergies and Depression

Studies have shown that there may be a link between allergies and depression as well as other mental health issues. Here’s what the research shows:

  • People with a family history of depression are more likely to have allergies.
  • The risk of developing depressive symptoms if you have seasonal allergies is 1.82 times higher.
  • High pollen counts are associated with an increased incidence of suicide.

However, this doesn’t mean that there’s a causal relationship between allergies and depression. Here are some of the possible reasons why these issues may be connected:


The medications taken to address allergies can increase symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Uncomfortable Symptoms

If you have seasonal allergies, then it means that you spend days with headaches, a stuffed nose, and itchy eyes. This can severely interfere with your sleeping patterns as well. It’s not really a stretch to say that dealing with all of these symptoms for days, if not weeks, on end could cause depressive symptoms.

Biological Causes

Seasonal allergies cause cells in the nose to release cytokines, which are inflammatory proteins. In studies, these proteins have been shown to trigger feelings of sadness, lower concentration, and increase fatigue. This may be the reason for increased depression when you have allergic symptoms.

What to Do About Allergies and Depression

Whether there’s a link between allergies and depression or not, you still shouldn’t ignore either condition. You should talk to your doctor about strategies for managing each condition separately.

Strategies for Managing Mild Depression

An image of a man in therapyMethods for managing depression will usually include therapy and antidepressant medication as well as lifestyle strategies such as:

  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Making sure you’re eating a balanced diet
  • Sleeping properly
  • Meditation
  • Exercising regularly

Strategies for Managing Allergies

You should also talk to your doctor about effective allergy medications. These can often be bought over the counter and include antihistamine medications and nasal sprays, which can both give you a lot of relief from your symptoms. You can also try some ideas for allergy relief at home such as:

Avoiding Allergens

The most important thing you can do to avoid allergy symptoms is to avoid allergens as much as possible. You can do this by:

  • Wash your bedding in hot water to kill dust mites
  • Remove pets from your bedroom
  • Keep the humidity in your room below 50% to stop the growth of mold
  • Use a dehumidifier
  • Staying indoors when pollen counts are high
  • Use anti-allergen bed linen
  • If you go outside, shower and wash your hair before bed
  • Avoid scented products in your home
  • Get rid of rugs and curtains if possible
  • Wear a mask outside

Taking Supplements

There are several supplements that may help calm and rebalance your immune system, alleviating allergy symptoms. Some effective vitamins for this are:

  • Bromelain
  • Vitamin C
  • Probiotics
  • Butterbur
  • Zinc
  • Quercetin
  • Vitamin B12

Allergies, Depression, and Adrenal Fatigue

Conditions like allergies and depression can severely impact the health of your adrenal glands and lead to or exacerbate Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). This condition occurs when you’re stressed over a long period. The mechanism in your body that helps you cope with stress is known as the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response. This stress response prompts the release of cortisol from your adrenal glands, which then changes the way the body’s six circuits, composed of related organ systems, function. These changes are meant to help you survive the cause of the stress and minimize damage.

But the NEM stress response isn’t meant to be active for a long time. When it is, because of chronic stress, the adrenal glands can begin to fatigue and malfunction because of the overwork. The changes in the body’s circuits caused by ongoing high cortisol levels can also cause the related organ systems to become unbalanced and dysfunctional. This is what’s known as AFS, and it can result in a range of confusing, debilitating, and potentially dangerous symptoms.

Depression and allergies can both be related to AFS. And they can also cause stress that further fatigues the adrenal glands and worsens existing imbalances. Here’s how:

How Inflammation Circuit Dysfunction Can Bring On Allergies and Depression

The Inflammation Circuit includes the immune system, the microbiome, and the gut. It’s this circuit that responds to invaders into the body like bacteria or viruses. When you’re under threat, the 3 components of this circuit work to cause inflammation to force out the invaders. This is a natural function, and when you’re healthy, it will occur in the background and without your awareness.

But when you have AFS, this circuit becomes dysfunctional. The microbiome, or the bacteria in the body, becomes unbalanced, resulting in infections and issues like a leaky gut. Leaky gut happens when the tight junctions in the gut loosen, allowing food particles and pathogens into the bloodstream. This prompts more inflammation in the gut and disrupts the normal processes of digestion and elimination. The immune system becomes overactive, causing chronic inflammation and attacking food particles in the blood, which can lead to allergies and autoimmunity.

Allergies and depression can also worsen this situation. The cytokines released because of seasonal allergies may worsen the immune system's overactivity, causing more stress and inflammation. Depression is also often accompanied by inflammation and poor eating and sleeping habits. This all could bring on or exacerbate AFS.

If you have AFS, then you may also be at higher risk of experiencing both depression and allergies because of immune system dysfunction, microbiome and gut imbalances, and issues with the Neuroaffect Circuit.

The Neuroaffect Circuit

An image of the autonomic nervous systemThe Neuroaffect Circuit consists of the microbiome, the brain, and the autonomic nervous system (ANS). It’s this circuit that’s responsible for the biological aspects of mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, sleep problems, mood swings, and others.

When this circuit becomes unhealthy, neurotransmitter (NT) level imbalances can occur. Your brain uses NTs to send messages throughout the body, so these messages can become faulty. When you’re stressed, NTs known as norepinephrine or epinephrine are released to excite the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the adrenomedullary hormonal system (AHS), which are both part of the ANS. This prepares you to fight or flee from a threat. But when you have AFS and your NTs are unbalanced, the ANS is then prevented from calming down again. This leaves it in an ongoing stressed state, leaving you feeling ‘wired but tired’ and disrupting functions like sleep and digestion.

The microbiome too will become unhealthy in your gut, where bad bacteria can become overgrown. And because the health of the gut and the brain are connected because of the vagus nerve, brain health will decline when gut health does.

AFS also comes with a host of uncomfortable and even debilitating symptoms, including unusual food sensitivities, fatigue, and brain fog that are hard for doctors to identify. Struggling with these symptoms could strain relationships and leave you feeling depressed. This is another reason why it’s important that you talk to a doctor who is aware of AFS if you believe you suffer from this condition.

The Takeaway

Both allergies and depression can leave you feeling generally unwell, fatigued, and unable to function properly. These two conditions may also be linked, which is why you need to take care of yourself if you experience either one. Here are some ideas to do that:

  1. Make sure you visit your doctor for effective solutions for both conditions.
  2. Try to avoid allergens where possible.
  3. Be aware of an increased possibility for depressive symptoms at times when your allergies are active, and seek help if need be.

For more info on how your different health conditions may be linked, talk to our team at +1 (626) 571-1234 for a free initial consultation, or click here.

© Copyright 2023 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

There does seem to be a link between allergies and depression; however, the nature of that link isn’t well understood yet. What is clear is that you should never ignore either of these conditions. Right now the best way to deal with them is to address each condition individually.

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