I’ve shared numerous times in the past that inflammation is at the root of most, if not all, chronic disease. We know eating packaged, processed, fake foods increases inflammation as does using vegetable and seed oils, trans fats, gluten, sugar and high fructose corn syrup and processed meats.
However, here is something else that drives destructive inflammation that you may find surprising. Anxiety.
According to Dr. David Hanscom: “Anxiety is a physiological response to a threat. Your whole body is on fire. You need to decrease anxiety, decrease cytokines, decrease that stress response. If your body’s inflamed, you’re going to feel anxious.”
Every cell in the body has cytokines. The term “cytokine” is derived from a combination of two Greek words – “cyto” meaning cell and “kinos” meaning movement. Cytokines are cell signaling molecules that aid cell to cell communication in immune responses and stimulate the movement of cells towards sites of inflammation, infection and trauma.
By reducing or resolving stress and anxiety, you lower levels of inflammatory cytokines. Not only does this allow your immune system to function better, it also relieves pain. Anxiety is a symptom of inflammation. Inflammation is a symptom of anxiety. Quite the vicious cycle. They are directly connected.
The antidote to anxiety is control. When you lose control, your body secretes more stress hormones, more cytokines, which trigger anger and anxiety. When you’re angry or stressed out, you’re in a constant state of threat. When you’re trapped by anything, especially chronic pain or even trapped in your house from COVID, you’re frustrated, which increases your inflammatory cytokines. While there are situations which you cannot control, you can learn to control your response to them.
Prayer, meditation, time in nature, EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) are all proven, effective ways to deal with anxiety and stress and finding which way works best for you will go a long way to helping you not only reduce stress and inflammation but will also support and improve your immune system as well.
Your sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) is activated in response to threats, whereas your parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) is activated through the relaxation response. The vagus nerve is the connection. There are simple ways to activate your vagus nerve, triggering the relaxation response, such as deep breathing, humming, cold showers, probiotics, practicing EFT, prayer, meditation, intermittent fasting and expressing gratitude.
Because even in the best of times most people spend their days in a state of constant, chronic stress, the relaxation response, which should kick in after the threat is over, gets stuck. Sympathetic dominance weakens the rest and digest, detox and heal response and many can no longer effectively activate it when they need to. Another thing to keep in mind is how EMFs are affecting all of us. There is definitely correlation to the vagus nerve.
Since the bulk of your immune system resides in your gut, taking specific steps to keep your digestive system healthy is of primary importance. There’s no disputing that anxiety and stress compromise gut function.
If you are chronically stressed, chances are very great that your vagal function is compromised. If you simply take steps to support and improve your vagal tone and intentionally seek ways to reduce anxiety and stress, you will lower inflammation, which will help improve your immune function.