Immune System and Stress

So, Immune System and Stress are related indeed! i said i went through tons of literature and i would do my best to bring the information here and break it down nicely or make it easier to understand...

Looking at Immune System and Stress, i realized that this is one of the overlooked aspects on the big picture by a lot of people. Some other would admit it easily but would be skeptical about the prevention and treatment.

For now, I’ll talk about a couple of studies that caught my attention the most. Yes i have some more but I’ll post these two first! More of it coming soon!

I came across this study done by the American Psychological Association a while ago and it very helpful to explain how Chronic stress affects people and it is a great example of how Stress and Immune System go hand in hand...

It says chronic stress not only makes people more vulnerable to disease but can also undermine the ability of the immune system to respond to their own anti-inflammatory signals that are activated by certain hormones, possibly changing the course of an inflammatory disease.

Chronic stress seem to impair the ability of the immune system to respond to glucocorticoids hormones that are usually responsible for the end of the inflammatory response following an infection and/or damage, according to the researchers

To examine what happens with the immune system, during situations of continuous stress, researchers compared 25 healthy parents with children under treatment of pediatric cancer and 25 healthy parents with healthy children - being evaluated in terms of mental health, the effect of social support and certain immune system responses.

All parents had blood tests done in the initial session and salivary cortisol samples were taken from time to time by more than 2 days. Quick reminder: Cortisol is “the stress hormone” because it’s also secreted in higher levels in response to stress, and it is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body.

Parents of children with cancer have reported more psychological distress than parents with healthy children, according to the study. The parents of cancer patients also showed decreased glucocorticoid sensitivity - compared to the parents of healthy children.

The good news was that the researchers found that the social support (or the support provided by friends, community, family members, etc.) caused a decrease in the immunological consequences brought about by having to take care of a child with cancer, perhaps for the help given to parents to deal with problems, economic or labor problems caused by the disease and treatment.

The above shows us that the Stress and Immune System relation works both ways meaning... anything external that helps to relieve the stress, causes the immune system to move back to normal as a result.

"These findings suggest a new mechanism by which the psychological stress could influence the attack and/or the progression of conditions involving excess inflammation, such as allergic diseases, autoimmune, cardiovascular, infectious and rheumatologic," says Dr. Miller. PhD., of Washington University, and colleagues.

But despite the parents of cancer patient report more depressive symptoms, depression does not appear to operate as a mediator. It may be that the anxiety, introvert thoughts, feelings of helplessness or lack of sleep might be influencing the reduction of glucocorticoid sensitivity related to stress.

Source: This discovery was reported in an issue of Health Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA).

I’ll keep summarizing and adding other interesting studies here which support the relation between Immune System and Stress and also some nice suggestions to fight stress and support the immune system.

Taking control of our lives and learning how to relax is very important and can improve our lives in so many ways!

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