Your Guide to Stress and Inflammation

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A quick search on the internet quickly reveals a range of content covering the topic of stress. It's no secret that the demands of modern life often lead to chronic stress for many people. What some people don't realise is that stress can also have a significant impact on our physical and mental health. One of the fundamental ways stress can manifest is through inflammation in the body.

For too long our culture has taught us to absorb and battle through stress as a matter of virtue, often without regard for our wellbeing. Ideas like having a ‘stiff upper lip’ and ‘picking yourself up by your bootstraps’ exemplify a way of thinking that ignores this factor. After all, what good are we to anyone if we suffer burnout?

That’s not to say we should not strive to achieve great things - but how about we reach those peaks intact and healthy? This article explores the question of ‘Can stress and anxiety cause inflammation?,’ and ‘How can you mitigate the effect through knowledge and smart choices?’

What Happens When We Are Stressed?

Chronic stress can wreak havoc on our physical and mental health. When we're stressed, the sympathetic nervous system revs up and triggers the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Our bodies enter a primal survival mode known as "fight-or-flight." This is a complex physiological orchestration designed to give us a burst of energy and focus to handle immediate threats.

Adrenaline acts like a shot of rocket fuel, causing your heart rate to surge, blood pressure to rise, and breathing to quicken. This increased blood flow diverts resources to your muscles, preparing them for action, which can lead to several health problems in long-term situations, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and anxiety.

Cortisol, also known as "the stress hormone," plays a more prolonged role. It elevates blood sugar levels to provide readily available energy, while also suppressing non-essential functions like digestion and the immune system to conserve resources for the impending threat. This is ok in short bursts - but here we can begin to see where consistently high levels of cortisol are at odds with a normal functioning body, and inflammation can occur. 

What is Inflammation?

So where does inflammation come into all this? Inflammation is the body's incredible natural response to injury or infection. But our built-in defence system is not always our friend and is a fascinating double-edged sword. If you fall and bash your knee, for example, the tissues around the injury become inflamed. This redness, swelling, warmth, and pain signal the immune system to send white blood cells, the body's soldiers, to fight off invaders and repair damaged tissue. It's a localised, acute response that helps us heal. However, chronic stress throws a wrench into this finely-tuned system. When we're constantly under pressure, our bodies stay in a heightened state of alert, and the stress hormone cortisol remains elevated.

This chronic cortisol surge disrupts the normal anti-inflammatory processes and can trigger low-grade inflammation throughout the body, even in the absence of any immediate threat. This underlying, simmering inflammation is what can contribute to various health problems down the line.

Stress and Chronic Illnesses

It makes for grim reading, but more and more research has shown us that chronic inflammation has been linked to an array of health problems, including:

Heart Disease

Studies have shown a link between chronic inflammation and an increased risk of heart disease. Inflammation can damage blood vessels and contribute to the buildup of plaque, which can narrow arteries and lead to heart attacks and strokes.


Similar to heart disease, chronic inflammation can damage blood vessels and increase the risk of stroke.


Chronic inflammation can impair the body's ability to use insulin effectively, leading to type 2 diabetes.


Inflammation is a major component of various types of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

Autoimmune Diseases

In autoimmune diseases, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues. Chronic stress is thought to contribute to the development of some autoimmune diseases.

Depression and Anxiety

The relationship between inflammation and mental health is complex, but research suggests that chronic inflammation may play a role in depression and anxiety.

Reducing Stress and Decreasing Inflammation - The Science Behind It

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There is good news, however. As luck would have it, our Earth provides naturally occurring plant medicines, in the form of adaptogenic mushrooms and the compound, CBD. These contain properties which can aid us in being more relaxed, managing stress and as such, reducing underlying inflammation.

Adaptogenic mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine to help the body adapt to stress, but it would be true to say that until recent times, they have been largely forgotten in the Western world. Now, mushrooms like Ashwagandha and Reishi, have been brought into the limelight, and are being taken more seriously in the scientific community. Similarly, CBD the now well-known (non-psychoactive) substance derived from cannabis is a useful tool to naturally reduce stress in a variety of ways.

Let’s delve deeper:


A 2020 study found that Ashwagandha supplementation significantly reduced markers of inflammation in chronically stressed adults. The study concluded that Ashwagandha "may be a promising therapeutic agent for various inflammatory disorders"


A 2021 study found that Reishi mushroom extract reduced inflammation and improved symptoms in people with osteoarthritis. Reishi is thought to exert its anti-inflammatory effects through various mechanisms, including inhibiting the production of inflammatory cytokines. 


Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound found in the cannabis plant that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. It can be ingested or applied topically, depending on your own specific needs. Studies suggest that CBD may work by inhibiting the production of inflammatory cytokines and enzymes

How to Reduce Stress and Inflammation

It’s good practice to add delicious superfood treats to your day - but the smart move is to take a holistic approach. There are actionable steps you can take to achieve the goal of a low-stress and low-inflammation life. Here are some evidence-based techniques we can use to manage stress, lower cortisol levels and improve our overall well-being:

1. Get Regular Exercise

Exercise is a well-established longevity, health and stress reliever. It helps to reduce stress hormones and promote the production of endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. With just  30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise 3-4 days a week, you can radically improve your wellbeing.

2. Eat a Healthy Diet

What we eat can have a significant impact on our stress levels. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help to reduce inflammation and improve stress resilience. Conversely, processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats can contribute to stress and inflammation. Sugar is a big one - it lurks as a silent culprit behind chronic inflammation. Excess sugar intake disrupts gut bacteria, allowing harmful ones to trigger inflammation. It also harms blood fats and creates AGEs, molecules that damage cells. To keep your body happy, it's better to ditch sugary drinks and refined carbs.

3. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is amazing When we're well-rested, we're better able to cope with stress. Chronic sleep deprivation can disrupt the body's stress response system and make us more susceptible to stress-related health problems. So prioritising regular, good-quality sleep is a surefire way to improve your overall wellbeing. Try not to look at your phone or TV at least 1 hour before bed to assist your body in winding down and syncing with your circadian rhythm. 

4. Indulge in Lion's Mane Lattes

lions-mane-turmeric latte for a happy mind

Lion's mane mushroom has been shown to promote nerve growth factor production in the brain, which may help to improve cognitive function and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Some studies suggest that Lion's mane may also help to improve sleep quality. 

5. Incorporate CBD

Drops, coffee blends, hot chocolate and chocolate bars containing CBD are delicious and convenient ways to incorporate this into your routine. With mainstream adoption and a plethora of choices available, this is certainly an easy step you can take. See our range here

6. Consider Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation can help to calm the mind and body and reduce stress levels. These practices can be done alone or in groups and are fantastic ways to improve overall health and calmness and, in a group, you have the bonus of social interaction and community.

Personal well-being and health are at the core of what we do at Cheerful Buddha. Our premium products are carefully crafted to include these potent natural ingredients. Incorporating them into your daily routine as a part of a healthy lifestyle is a brilliant way to keep stress and inflammation to a minimum. Take a browse through our store to see our adaptogenic mushroom and CBD-infused products, including our new Lions Mane teas, superfood hot chocolate and coffee blends, chocolate bars and naturally flavoured CBD drops.


Can stress cause inflammation in the body?

Yes, chronic stress can lead to low-grade inflammation throughout the body, even in the absence of injury or infection. Stress actions the release of cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels can trigger the immune system, leading to the production of inflammatory molecules throughout the body.

Can anxiety cause inflammation?

Yes, because stress and anxiety are often closely linked, as one can lead to the other, and both can contribute to inflammation. They both activate similar hormonal pathways in the body and as described above trigger the immune system and increase the production of inflammatory markers.

How do you reduce inflammation from stress?

There are three key ways to reduce inflammation caused by excessive stress:

  • Lifestyle ChangesPrioritise a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains while limiting processed foods, sugary drinks, and unhealthy fats. Regular exercise is also crucial, along with good quality and regular sleep. Simple incremental changes allow your body to better cope with stress and regulate inflammation.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Techniques like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can help calm the mind and body, reducing stress hormones and their inflammatory effects.
  • Natural Remedies: Experiment with what Mother Earth provides and incorporate Adaptogenic mushrooms and CBD products into your daily routine.

What are the 5 classic signs of inflammation?

The 5 signs of inflammation are:

  1. Pain: Inflammation often causes discomfort or tenderness in the affected area.
  2. Redness: Inflamed tissues often appear red due to increased blood flow.
  3. Swelling: Inflammation can cause a build-up of fluid in the affected tissues, leading to swelling.
  4. Heat: Inflamed tissues may feel warm to the touch due to increased blood flow.
Loss of Function: Inflammation can sometimes limit the normal function of the affected area, such as stiffness in a joint.

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