Yes, Stress Can Make You Sick. Here’s How
Stress is something we deal with every day. But when you’re under constant strain, it can leave you feeling agitated and moody, keep you awake at night and mess with your head.
There is also one more thing that happens when stress goes unreleased. It suppresses your immune system, which can ultimately results in some form of illness.
Severe stress is linked to diabetes, ulcers, the build up of plaque in the arteries, and even respiratory disorders. In fact, research shows that almost every system in the body can be influenced by chronic stress.
Do you often experience backaches, joint pain, weak bones, memory problems or other “age-related” health issues? You’re not alone.
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Part of the reasons for this may be linked to the “fight or flight” response. This response is accompanied by a large release of cortisol. However, prolonged stress alters the effectiveness of cortisol to regulate the body’s inflammatory response.
Another part of the reason may be associated with specific immune cells that are activated by stress.
Here’s How Stress May Be Making You Sick
During a new study, researchers compared histamine responses of mice to two types of stress conditions: psychological and allergic. In either condition, the immune system becomes overworked.
However, one group of mice had cells that lacked a certain type of stress receptor, called CRF1 (corticotropin-releasing factor). These receptors send signals that tell certain immune cells how to defend the body. The second group of mice had “normal” CRF1 receptors.
Interestingly, the CRF1-deficient mice had a 54 percent reduction in disease when exposed to allergic stress. And the mice that experienced psychological stress had a 63 percent decrease in disease.
“While the ‘normal’ mice exposed to stress exhibited high histamine levels and disease, the mice without CRF1 had low histamine levels, less disease and were protected against both types of stress,” study author Adam Moeser said. “This tells us that CRF1 is critically involved in some diseases initiated by these stressors.”
How to Address Your Stress
While this news is extremely exciting, it also shows us the importance of managing our stress on a daily basis to prevent it from manifesting into illness.
The American Psychological Association provides these strategies for reducing stress:
Identify the cause of your stress. Once you know what’s bothering you, develop a plan for addressing it.
Build strong relationships. Reach out to family members or close friends and let them know you’re having a tough time. Their support and ideas may help you tackle your stress more easily.
Walk away when you’re angry. Before you react, count to 10. Then reconsider. Walking and other physical activities can also help you work off steam.
Rest your mind. Relaxation exercises, yoga and similar activities help reduce stress and improve immune function. It’s also a good idea to shut down the TVs, computers and smartphones an hour or so before you go to bed each night.
Get help. If you continue to feel overwhelmed, consult with a psychologist or other licensed mental health professional who can help you learn how to manage.
Carnegie Mellon University. “How stress influences disease: Study reveals inflammation as the culprit.” ScienceDaily. Apr 2012.
Michigan State University. “Here’s how stress may be making you sick.” ScienceDaily. Jan 2018.
How stress affects your health. American Psychological Association. © 2018 American Psychological Association.
Dana Nicholas is a freelance writer and researcher in the field of natural and alternative healing. She has over 20 years of experience working with many noted health authors and anti-aging professionals, including James Balch, M.D., Dr. Linda Page, “Amazon” John Easterling and Al Sears M.D. Dana’s goal is to keep you up-to-date on information, news and breakthroughs that can have a direct impact on your health, your quality of life… and your lifespan. “I’m absolutely convinced that America’s misguided trust in mainstream medicine – including reliance on the government to regulate our food and medicine supply – is killing us, slowly but surely,” she cautions. “By sharing what I’ve learned throughout the years I hope I can empower others to take control over their own health.”