Stress And Immune System Function
Stress can reduce the number of natural killer cells or lymphocytes in the body, which are needed to fight viruses, according to the American Psychological Association.
A review of studies in Current Opinion in Psychology found that stress can cause the immune system to produce an inflammatory response, which can be temporarily beneficial for fighting germs. However, if inflammation is persistent and widespread, it can contribute to chronic diseases, including the buildup of plaque on your arterial walls. This is just one of the many factors at play in the complex relationship between stress and your heart.
Chronic stress can produce higher-than-normal levels of the hormonecortisol. This can hamper the bodys anti-inflammatory response and cause continual infections, according to recent immunology research studies.
If youre dealing with stress you cant seem to shake, take time to identify the sources and find ways to avoid or cope with them. Youll be doing your immune system and healtha favor.
How Does The Body Respond To Stress
The stress response mobilises the body to deal with an immediate threat so it abandons many everyday bodily functions, such as reproduction and growth, until the source of stress has passed. Immune function also becomes focused on countering injuries arising from the stressor, whilst patrols to spot infections are put on hold .
In addition to the above, no surplus energy is stored when stress is present, so fatigue becomes more likely. Bone formation and mending is also neglected, whilst the metabolism of food is no longer regarded as a priority.
So, when the stress is purely psychological, the stress response can become more damaging than the stressor itself.
Cytokines And Mental Health
Now that we’ve established the important role of cytokines and inflammation in maintaining your health let us move on to how and why they influence our mental state.
Recent research on cytokines is slowly revolutionising our understanding of how this can affect our mental health. In addition to producing all of the signs and symptoms of a physical disease, cytokines have been shown to be able to provoke a wide range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.
What is interesting still is that cytokines can also produce the physical signs that are usually associated with depression and anxiety, such as hormone disorders, inflammation, biochemical abnormalities, fatigue and headaches.
The usual assumption when considering the biological basis of psychiatric diseases is to look for the cause of it in the brain. However, recent research indicates that in many cases the culprit could very well be the immune system.
Cytokines have the ability to pass from the bloodstream into the brain. Additionally, they can also be secreted by immune cells that reside in the brain. Once in the brain, cytokines greatly influence the activity of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine. This is of great importance, as an abnormal activity of these neurotransmitters is associated with depression and anxiety.
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Cytokines Anxiety Pain And Poor Immune Function
Cytokines are small proteins that serve to regulate different tissues. There are both proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines. Cytokines have specific relevance to COVID-19, as they modulate your immune system and its function.
Other members of the group include Stephen Porges, Ph.D., a behavioral neuroscientist who developed Polyvagal 30, and Dr. David Clawson, a podiatrist who is very knowledgeable about cytokines.
Cytokines are everywhere. Every cell in the body has cytokines. Its how they talk to each other. It turns out that the glial cells in your brain, that connect the tissue of the brain, put out cytokines. So do the endothelial cells, the linings of blood vessels.
When you have a threat surgeons think in terms of muscle tension, sweating and heart rate that to us is a threat response, versus safety where you relax and regenerate. What I didnt realize is that threat fires up the immune system, and threat is all sorts of stuff. Its viruses, bacteria, cancer cells, a bully, a difficult boss, but also your thoughts, emotions and repressed emotions.<
Neuroscience has shown us that those thoughts and emotions are processed in the brain the same way as a physical threat. It turns out that every degenerative disease is, what Clawson says, the same soup. In other words, we know that cardiac disease, critical vascular disease, adult onset diabetes, obesity, Parkinsons and Alzheimers are just examples of inflammatory disorders. Its all inflammatory.
What Happens In The Body When Youre Stressed
When youre stressed emotionally or psychologically your body goes into whats colloquially called the fight-or-flight response, as it readies for, well, fighting or fleeing. One effect is the release of the stress hormone cortisol, says Dr. Gupta. Cortisol works to suppress nonessential-in-an-emergency functions, like your immune response and digestion. The hormone also fuels the production of glucose, or blood sugar, boosting energy to the large muscles, while inhibiting insulin production and narrowing arteries, which forces the blood to pump harder to aid our stressor response.
Another hormone, adrenaline, is also released, which tells the body to increase heart and respiratory rate, and to expand airways to push more oxygen into muscles. Your body also makes glycogen, or stored glucose , available to power muscles. In addition, stress decreases lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system, putting you at risk of viruses like the common cold.
When the fight or flight response is invoked, your body directs resources away from functions that arent crucial in life-threatening situations, Gupta says.
Its this maladaptive response to stress, says Gupta, that over time perpetuates itself and becomes implicated in chronic health problems.
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When Pain Leads To Stress
When you have chronic pain, its always on your mind. Living with chronic pain can make you feel like youre not able to do some of the activities you want to do. For example, people with arthritis can have trouble with simple tasks such as bending, carrying groceries, or climbing stairs. If youve had a difficult time finding ways to manage your pain, it can take a toll on your emotionsyou may feel angry, frustrated, anxious, or depressed.
Five Things Causing Inflammation In Your Body Right Now
Inflammation is the bodys natural response to injury and infection. Its actually a good thing as long as it is under control. Inflammation should only last a few hours or days at most after youve hurt yourself or gotten a minor infection. If it persists, it could indicate that there are bigger problems with your body which require additional medical care and treatment.
There are a number of reasons why youre experiencing inflammation in your body right. Here are five things that contribute to your condition:
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How Chronic Stress And Inflammation Hurts You
As Dr. Deepak Chopra describes it, you didnt evolve to live in a constant state of stress. Instead, your fight-or-flight response evolved to help you survive immediate threats of short duration, such as an attack by a wild animal that can threaten your life.
When your stress response is triggered, normal biological functions are disrupted in order for you to be able to survive the threat:
- your heart rate and blood pressure increase,
- your blood sugar rises, and your immune system is suppressed, and
- your digestion is temporarily halted and your breathing accelerates.
All of these reactions take place instantly so that your body is prepared to fight off the threat or run away.
The problem is when the stress event doesnt recede and relieve you of fight-or-flight. When you live in a prolonged state of fight-or-flight, your cortisol and adrenaline sustain higher than health levels, generating chronic stress and inflammation in response to everyday hassles, such as a long commute in traffic, or unrelenting obligations, such as caring for elderly parents.
While research about the precise biochemical links between chronic stress and inflammation is ongoing, we do know that these two factors are big contributors to reduced immunity and the development of what are called lifestyle disorders.
What follows are a few simple practices and supplements to help you reduce chronic stress and inflammation, and help you experience your natural state of wellness and vitality.
Effects Of Acute Stress On The Immune System
Cortisol has numerous effects on the body, such as sympathetic nervous system activation, increasing blood sugar for energy purposes, and anti-inflammatory effects that include the inhibition of certain inflammatory mediators that are important in innate immunity. For example, expression of IL-1 IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha from immune cells are all inhibited by cortisol, while cytokines that control helper T-cell activity are increased. Evolutionary biologists believe that this stress mechanism is intended to protect the immune system from becoming overactive to facilitate the fight-or-flight response, which would be weakened by inflammation. Other studies show that the weakened inflammatory effect makes pathogen-caused diseases more likely to lead to infection.
Research studies in which participants were subjected to a variety of viruses showed that stress has a negative effect on the immune system. A study was conducted using a rhinovirus, the causative agent of the common cold. Participants were infected with the virus and given a stress index. Results showed that an increase in score on the stress index correlated with greater severity of cold symptoms. Studies with HIV have also shown that stress speeds up viral progression. Men with HIV were two to three times more likely to develop AIDS when under above-average stress.
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Research Linking Inflammation To Depression
A team of researchers at Denmark’s Aarhus University analysed the health records of about 3.6 million people in 2013 to find a link between inflammation and mental health disorders. They observed that people:
- Suffering from autoimmune conditions that raised their inflammation level had a 45% greater chance of suffering from depression
- Who had been hospitalised for a life-threatening inflammatory infection, had a 62% greater chance of suffering from depression
Numerous other research papers have tackled this subject and demonstrated that the presence of inflammatory messengers such as:
- C-reactive protein
Are linked to an increased risk of developing psychological issues such as anxiety and depression.
Make Time For Relationships
During stressful times, you may feel the urge to step back and avoid socializing. However, this is the time reaching out to the people you love means the most. It is especially important to stay connected during the pandemic.
Your social support system can help you cope with life problems by improving your self-esteem. Take some time for a video-chat date with a friend, attend an online gathering or give a family member a call.
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How Can You Better Manage Your Stress Levels
Stress reduction strategies not only give your mind a break, but they can also relieve the pressure on your immune system. You can take steps to reduce short-term and long-term stress, Dr. Calabrese says. Two tactics are most effective:
Stress in acute situations, however, can be healthful and protective, so its not all bad for us. Remember: its chronic stress that we seek to control.
Connection To Autoimmune Disorders
Research suggests that abnormal inflammatory response is correlated with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease , hyperthyroidism, and diabetes.
Unlike western medicine, where it focuses on diagnosing and not preventing disease, Functional Medicine helps to read between the lines to prevent disease before it happens. If you have elevated inflammatory markers now, its vital that you address them before it contributes to full-blown autoimmune disease.
If you already have an autoimmune disease, reducing your inflammation can put it into remission for good.
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How Does Stress Lead To Inflammation
The body relies on inflammatory processes to deal with harmful components, such as bacteria or a virus. Inflammation is also part of the body’s natural response to stress.
Inflammation causes the release of white blood cells which are intended to protect the body from foreign substances. These chemicals may leak into the tissues, however, resulting in swelling plus, it can stimulate the nerves and cause pain. If you’re already suffering from muscle or joint pain, inflammation that is the result of stress is likely to make it worse.
Whilst inflammation is a normal bodily process, chronic inflammation can arise if stress persists for an extended period of time. Also, the problem may be fuelled by the fact that we are unlikely to make healthy food choices or get sufficient sleep when stressed. Both of these factors are likely to drive inflammation further.
What You Need To Know About The Root Causes Of Mental Health Symptoms
A decade ago, soon after I moved to Africa, I got sick a lot. I had several bacterial and viral infections, and many small colds. I was tired all the time, mothering toddlers in a new environment, and working as a trauma therapist with clients facing enormous amounts of trauma and pain.
I got gradually sicker, experiencing muscle pain, nerve and joint pain, irritable bowel, and severe hormonal changes. I was bloated, unable to sleep well, fatigued, and moody. My doctor suggested that I see a psychiatrist and start taking antidepressants. I told him that I didnt think this was depression. True, I was moody, but something wasnt right in me physically. Although there was no way to know for sure, I felt strongly that treating only the emotional side of things was just not enough.
I come from a line of women who believed and practice mind-body healing. When I was sick as a child, my mother, like her mother, used all kinds of homemade remedies. When I was not well she was as likely to take me to a homeopathist or acupuncturist as to a medical doctor.
Determined to heal, I began a long expedition of research, trial, and error that continues to this day. One benefit has been valuable learning for my role as a trauma therapist incorporating wellness and integrative health into my work. In the beginning, I mostly focused on nutrition and the brain-gut connection and continued to other avenues of integrative health.
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What Is Oxidative Stress
Oxidative stress is caused due to an imbalancebetween antioxidants and free radicals in the body. Free radicals areoxygen-containing molecules that have one or more unpaired electrons. Due to this uneven number ofelectrons, they easily bind with other molecules.
As free radicals readily react with othermolecules, many chemical reactions take place in the body. These reactions arereferred to as oxidation, and they can either benefit or harm your body.
The bodys cells produce free radicals andantioxidants. Antioxidants are molecules that can neutralise free radicals bydonating an electron. As a result, the free radical becomes less reactive andstabilised.
Factors contributing to oxidative stress include:
Environmental factors such as pollution andradiation
The natural immune response can causeoxidative stress temporarily, further leading to mild inflammation. It goesaway when the immunity strength of the body against the infection is increased.
Oxidative stress, if uncontrolled, can speedthe process of ageing and lead to several other conditions.
Supplements To Reduce Inflammation
The top supplements to reduce inflammation include things that work to shut down inflammatory gene pathways such as COX-2, Nf-Kb and TNF-a. These include things like purified fish oil that is high in EPA and DHA, high dose curcumin and compounds that support glutathione production.
My top supplement for inflammation support include our Pro Omega CRP, which is a combination of EPA and DHA as well as curcumin and glutathione. Other top anti-inflammatory supplements include Inflam Defense, Super Glutathione and our Organic Turmeric.
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Signs To Watch Out For
Symptoms such as body pain, fatigue, insomnia, depression, gastrointestinal complaints, neurological conditions and poor immune function become more pronounced and ironically, all of these symptoms have been shown to further the inflammatory response overall, said Dr. Pingel. To simply treat the disease process alone is ignoring the common thread the impact of stress on our bodies inflammatory response. One leads to the other, which means, to help with one, were going to have to start with the root cause of the inflammation. The stress that caused it.
How Is Inflammation Treated
Inflammation does not always require treatment. For acute inflammation, rest, ice and good wound care often relieve the discomfort in a few days.
If you have chronic inflammation, your healthcare provider may recommend:
- Supplements: Certain vitamins and supplements may reduce inflammation and enhance repair. For example, your healthcare provider may prescribe a fish oil supplement or vitamin. Or you may use spices with anti-inflammatory properties, such as turmeric, ginger or garlic.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs : These over-the-counter medicines lower inflammation. Your healthcare provider may recommend ibuprofen , aspirin or naproxen .
- Steroid injections: Corticosteroid shots decrease inflammation at a specific joint or muscle. For example, if you have rheumatoid arthritis that affects your back, your healthcare provider may give a steroid shot in your spine. You should not have more than three to four steroid injections in the same body part per year.
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