How To Know If Inflammation Is The Cause Of Your Anxiety, According To An RD

We know the nebulous term, inflammation, is associated with many health-related issues: From bloating, to rashes, to allergies, inflammation has become a concept that immediately sparks some negative undertones in the wellness community. 

Even Ali Miller, R.D., L.D., CDE, agrees: “Inflammation has been deemed the silent killer,” she told us on the mindbodygreen podcast. 

But how do we really know when inflammation is the culprit of anxiety? Are there any tell-all signs that our stress levels stem from the inflammation in our bodies? 

How to tell if inflammation is inducing your anxiety.

It’s kind of a trick question. Stress is inflammatory, after all. But Miller offers some expert advice on how to tell if inflammation really is at the root of your anxiety. While some of the signs she offers are joint pain, chronic fatigue, weight gain, or a stubborn metabolism, there’s one symptom in particular that is the main indicator for inflammation-induced anxiety: Your digestive function. If your digestion is a little out of whack and you’re feeling extra anxious all of a sudden, it may be time to revisit your diet and remove inflammatory foods.

Dairy and gluten are particularly inflammatory in terms of mental health, Miller says, so you may want to consider omitting from your diet. “Gluten and dairy both cross the blood-brain barrier, and they actually sit on the opioid receptors, which can drive addictive tendency, outrage, and really severe mood imbalance,” Miller notes. 

Another way you can measure inflammation’s role in your anxiety levels is by checking your bowels. That’s right, your bowel habits (or lack thereof, actually) can help give you insight to your digestive function, which in turn can offer signs of increased inflammation. “You might have slower bowel motility or constipation, or you might have bloating or dissension,” Miller states. Basically, a lot can happen when we eat inflammatory foods, so it’s best to steer clear if they give your body these adverse reactions. 

The bottom line is: Experiment with your diet to see whether your anxiety and inflammation levels go hand in hand. It’s important to recognize how your inflammation could be contributing to your anxiety—no one likes that crushing feeling of stress, and discovering the ways we can lessen those feelings is crucial.

Even something as simple as a bag of chips can have significant effects on your mood, according to Miller. So if you’re feeling especially anxious after indulging in some ice cream, there may be a perfectly scientific reason why: It may have everything to do with your digestive function. Like Miller, feel free to experiment with cutting out certain inflammatory foods in your diet to figure out if it’s your inflammation that has you feeling stressed.

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