Most people these days have likely heard that chronic inflammation is at the root of the majority illnesses in todays’ day – but did you know that more and more research is coming out connecting inflammation within the body to ones mental health – including conditions such as anxiety and depression? (1)
In fact, there’s a term called ‘neuroinflammation’ which specifically refers to inflammation within the neurons of the brain. This field of research looks at how brain inflammation can be connected to anxiety, along with other mental health conditions such as Alzheimers, Parkinsons, and depression. (5)
How Is Inflammation Linked to Anxiety?
There are numerous ways in which inflammation within the body can be linked to anxiety! It’s so important to remember that our bodies and minds are intrinsically connected – so when the body is in an inflammatory state, our brains will be too!
Dr. Vincent Pedre, M.D., explains that;
“Inflammation causes oxidative stress (a form of biochemical stress), which leads to distress signals in the brain that can lead to either depression or anxiety—or both. (3)
One of the main reasons inflammation and anxiety are so deeply connected is by way of the gut/ brain axis. As Dr. Uma Naidoo states, “Gut inflammation is brain inflammation.” (2)
Any time we are eating pro-inflammatory foods such as poor quality oils, refined sugars, processed meats, pesticides, etc. our gut will begin to become inflamed – eventually leading to an unequal balance of healthy bacteria (dysbiosis). By way of the gut/ brain connection, when the gut becomes inflamed, so too will the brain.
Also to note, the gut is the home to where 90% of serotonin is produced, 50% of dopamine is produced, and there are certain gut bacteria that act on regions of the brain (such as the amagydala) to help regulate mood.
When the gut is in a state of inflammation (or imbalance) it can not do its job of producing these important neurotransmitters to help regulate mood and keep anxiety levels at bay.
To understand how connected inflammation and anxiety are, a recent study found that participants who had higher anxiety levels were associated with increased levels of certain chronic inflammatory markers such as CRP and IL-6. (4)
How Do I Know If My Body is Inflamed?
It’s important to know that inflammation in and of itself is not a bad thing. However, over a long periods of time, chronic inflammation can wreak havoc on the body in a variety of ways.
The signs and symptoms of chronic inflammation can occur subtly over time – and can sometimes be easy to miss if we’re not tuning into our bodies enough.
Below are a few of the most common signs of inflammation within the body:
- Feeling exhausted all the time
- Mild joint pain
- Muscle aches
- Digestive issues
- Brain fog
- Frequently stuffy nose/ swollen lymph nodes
- Skin conditions (acne, eczema, psorisis)
How to Decrease Inflammation in the Body to Help Ease Anxiety?
The good news is there is SO much you can do to help decrease the inflammation in your body – and as a result help to reduce anxiety levels!
- Add more organic fresh fruits & vegetables to your diet!
- Minimize processed sugar, refined grains, dairy, and poor quality meats
- Add more turmeric and ginger to your meals: Ex. adding to your soups, smoothies, stir fry’s etc.
- Include fermented foods daily
- Drink more filtered water (add some fresh lemon for extra benefits)
- Include more anti-inflammatory recipes in your diet – like the kitchari pictured below
- Work towards improving your gut health!
- Prioritize sleep: 7-8 hours minimum per night
- Practice self care as much as possible – do things you know that can help to lower your stress levels such as yoga, deep breathing, meditation, walking/ running, taking a long bath, etc.
- Work with a practitioner (such as a nutritionist like myself) to get to the root of your inflammation – check out here for more details on working together!
Alright so there we have it, there are numerous ways in which inflammation can impact your body – and even your anxiety levels!
If you’re experiencing chronic anxiety and also have some of the signs and symptoms of chronic inflammation within your body, it’s a great idea to work with a practitioner (such as a nutritionist like myself) to help get to the bottom of your inflammation and which might be in part at the root of your anxiety – and other health concerns!
It’s also important to note that there is NO magic bullet solution when it comes to reducing inflammation within your body. In fact, the best way to reduce inflammation is through habit stacking of long term shifts in both your diet and lifestyle.