Our minds can do a lot to our bodies, guys! Stress and even depression can impact the levels of inflammation in your body, and that’s bad news. Health problems such as type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and obesity are all rooted in inflammation, specifically chronic inflammation that can get out of control in your body.
Usually, eating a healthy diet is a solid way to keep that pesky inflammation in check, but some research is now suggesting that is not even enough if you’re also under too much stress.
One study involving 58 women that was published in the Molecular Psychiatry journal showed just how much stress can affect health, even in a person who has a healthy diet (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27646264).
In the study, the women received two meals–one healthy and one not–and filled out questionnaires that looked for symptoms of depression over the prior seven days and stressors over the preceding 24 hours. When a participant had a low stress level, they had higher inflammation markers after eating an unhealthy meal. However, those markers lessened after they had the healthy meal.
When the women reported that they were stressed out, their inflammation levels rose no matter which meal they ate. In addition, participants with a history of depression also had higher blood pressure levels post-meal than those who did not have a history of depression.
Of course, this study wasn’t perfect–there are questions surrounding what the researchers defined as a healthy meal versus an unhealthy one, for example–but the results showing that increased stress meant higher levels of inflammation are not surprising. In 2015, a study published in the Biological Psychiatry journal discovered that the metabolic changes associated with daily stress could lead a person to gain 11 pounds per year on average (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25034950).
As you work on improving and maintaining your diet, keep in mind the effects stress may be having on it. All the kale in the world may not be enough to counteract the effects of stress on your body, so it’s time to start focusing on how to get your stress levels down. There are many ways to do this, such as meditation, finding and doing a hobby you truly enjoy, working out and more. Try different healthy outlets for your stress until you find the one that really works for you.