Have you ever noticed that when you are under a lot of stress, you are more susceptible to illness? I remember when I was going through school that after an intense period of exams were over, I would often get sick with a cold.
Now, it shouldn’t be a surprise to you that stress negatively affects your health. That is why people are often told to decrease the stress in their lives. But what is the mechanism of how this works?
It turns out that stress negatively influences the body’s immune system response. This then leads to a decreased ability for your body to modulate inflammation and illness occurs.
A research team led by Carnegie Mellon University’s Sheldon Cohen has found that chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory 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.
Our body’s are for the most part self-regulating. This means that when we cut ourselves, we heal. Our heart, lungs, organs keep working without us having to think about them. Inflammation is also part of our body’s healing response. However, when our body receives distorted signals, it can no longer respond in an appropriate manner.
In order for our bodies to regain the proper signals, we need to resolve the abnormal signals. Tune in next week to find out what causes these abnormal signals in our body.
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Dr. Amanda Chan