The Many Ways Stress Affects Our Bodies

This week I want to share two articles that focus on stress and the incredible impact it has on our bodies. Both relay how stress directly correlates to disease and illness. Below you’ll find these articles and my thoughts on their implications.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed below are those of Mark Pew, Senior Vice President of Product Development and Marketing, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Preferred Medical.

How stress influences disease: Study reveals inflammation as the culprit 

For a while now we have known that stress impacts our mind and body, but we weren’t exactly sure how. A research team from Carnegie Mellon University has found that chronic psychological stress causes the body to lose its ability to regulate inflammatory response. This means that stress can actually promote the development and progression of disease. This is because inflammation is regulated by the hormone cortisol and prolonged stress affects cortisol’s ability to do its job.

Mark’s Thoughts:
“Researchers have found that chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response.” And since inflammation is often the source of chronic pain, the implications are clear. This is in follow-up to a similar clinical study I posted last week (“How do our emotions affect our immune response?“). “Cohen argued that prolonged stress alters the effectiveness of cortisol to regulate the inflammatory response because it decreases tissue sensitivity to the hormone. Specifically, immune cells become insensitive to cortisol’s regulatory effect. In turn, runaway inflammation is thought to promote the development and progression of many diseases.” Reducing stress in your life is the simple answer. Actually doing it is much more difficult. But given the repercussions of not doing so will hopefully redouble our efforts to find a way. A helpful comment from Rory Haynie: “One of the quickest easiest ways we can all take the edge off of stress is to practice deep breathing. Navy Seals call it Box Breathing. It definitely works and we all have the tools to do it!” I know several people in daily, excruciating chronic pain that use diaphragmatic breathing as their primary management tool. The evidence is clear—it calms you down. Which is exactly the point—lower your stress, increase your ability to regulate organic inflammation, have a better life. Beside increasing your quality of life, those around you will appreciate your lower stress level as well!

Life Event, Stress and Illness

Stress can cause all kinds of negative health problems, such as ulcers, diabetes, depression and schizophrenia. However, we often only think of stress as a negative thing. Stress can actually have some positive effects such as boosting the immune system (if stress is short-term). No matter whether the effects are positive or negative, there should be no doubt that stress impacts the immune system.

Mark’s Thoughts:
Stress isn’t always negative. In fact, stress is how we grow (“When the body tolerates stress and uses it to overcome lethargy or enhance performance, the stress is positive, healthy and challenging”). However, too much for too prolonged a time can be negative. I found this quote astounding – “Both Japan and Korea recognize suicide as an official and compensatable work-related condition.” Wow. This is a long read with 63 clinical references, but if you’re trying to figure out how stress and illness may be connected and be motivated to change how you respond to stress (“among the factors that influenced the susceptibility to stress are genetic vulnerability, coping style, type of personality and social support”) then this is worth ten minutes of your time. Eradicating stress is likely impossible because life comes fast, from multiple directions, and often in unsolicited ways. But negative, prolonged, unmanaged stress can ruin your life. The insertion of stress into our lives is usually not our decision, but how we respond is. Will stress propel us or diminish us? Ultimately it our choice.

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Until Next Week,