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Inflammation and Mental Health: Their Connection and How to Control Them

When it comes to inflammation, the first thing people think of first is swelling, redness, or injury. While that is entirely factual, there is more to it. Inflammation is a form of body mechanism that acts as an immune response, protecting you from threats, such as viruses, bacteria, and cancer. When your body is in conflict with infection or injury, it sends inflammatory cells to your rescue, hence the swelling, redness, and pain.

When inflammation occurs continuously, it can be chronic; wherein your body stays fully alert all the time, triggering major health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. It can also cause mental illnesses like depression and anxiety.

There is a straightforward answer to where inflammation comes from. As many results from search engines lead you to diet and weight management when searching for inflammation, what many people may not know is that stress is also a primary factor. This is where it starts on how mental health and inflammation connect.

Inflammation and Mental Health

Cytokines are immune cells that assist in regulating your body’s immune response to inflammation and diseases. When you experience too much stress, these pro-inflammatory cytokines have to protect and preserve themselves from extinction by disappearing, hence why your immune system becomes weak, and there’s limited protection from threats, including inflammation. Without proper protection, this is when inflammation causes harm to your body.

A way to measure inflammation’s role in your anxiety levels is by your bowel movement. Constipation or slower bowel motility can provide you with indications of your digestive function, which, in turn, can leave you with increased inflammation.

Chronic medical conditions associated with stress and inflammation include rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease (which relates to high blood pressure), inflammatory bowel disease, and depression.

For some people, cytokines can trigger depressive symptoms, which leads to poor mood and fatigue. For people who already have MDD (major depressive disorder), inflammation can worsen.

In a 2018 study, scientists concluded that anxiety and depression-like activity are linked to the activation of immune cells, suggesting that the more exposure to stress, the more possibility it can cause rewiring of neural circuits that set off unimproved mood.

Controlling Inflammation Through Diet

You don’t want to be diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease when you undergo an endoscopy. If you’re disciplined enough, you can definitely control your inflammation levels. Excessive alcohol, smoking, and obesity must be out of your system. They are primary factors of inflammation, which can lead to various illnesses.

Diet plays a vital role, and adjusting yours can make you better and healthier. Lowering your inflammation levels can always be better than relying entirely on medication. Taking medication only when necessary is a good idea as well because many drugs include unwanted side effects, such as fogginess, drowsiness, and memory loss.

Reducing your body’s inflammation also means preventing yourself from the risks of physical and mental illnesses. You want to reach out for fruits and vegetables every day to do this properly. Too much red meat and dairy can increase inflammatory levels, so you want to avoid those. Get processed food items off your list and choose complex carbohydrates or whole grains, such as beans, oats, whole-wheat bread, quinoa, barley, potatoes, and other whole-plant foods.

Opt for omega-3 fatty acids found in some fish and seafood, such as salmon, halibut, and mussels. Don’t confuse them with omega-6 fatty acids. Stay away from processed sugar, and instead, reach for unsaturated fats, nuts, seeds, and lean proteins. Athletes and people who are into high-intensity workouts look into lessening their inflammation.

Regular Exercise Can Also Reduce Inflammatory Risks
woman being shown by the trainer the next set of exercise she needs to do

One 20-minute session of moderate exercise can already serve as an anti-inflammatory, producing more cytokines and making them more helpful. Acute exercises such as daily walking, jogging, running, and cycling are beneficial not only for inflammatory responses but also for overall health. You don’t need an intense workout just to prevent diseases.

Yoga can help regulate your blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and improve your mood. Again, you don’t need to be intense when doing yoga for a start. Bodyweight exercises are also a great way to build strength without adding more stress on the joints and even on our mental health. Resistance exercises can also slow down your body’s inflammatory response.

Inflammation is more than just swelling and pain. It’s more connected to your body than you realize, and preventing any forms of it can lower your risks of it. A healthy lifestyle choice or simply nutritional food intake can be a good start that will lead to better overall health.

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