Women's Health

Body on the Brain

the phrase “mind-body connection” can feel ambiguous, even woo-woo, something to be reconciled during yoga class. But emerging science is now bearing out physiological connections between many seemingly unrelated mental and bodily issues—many seemingly unrelated on the surface. And it can go both ways: Mental health issues can lead to physical ones, and vice versa.

This new research is a revelation because, until the past few years, the interplay between mental and physical was often chalked up to a behavioral domino effect (e.g., you binge-eat because you’re depressed, then the extra weight ups your diabetes risk). Now experts realize it’s governed by a far more complex mix of factors. Inflammation, the immune system’s natural response to threats, is a biggie: If this healing process fails to shut off after a problem has been neutralized, immune cells continue to attack healthy ones. That can lead to serious health conditions and an overactive nervous system, where mind and body ping-pong distress signals to each other.

The research is even more relevant given that roughly one in five women now suffers from a mental illness, and chronic conditions, like

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