Tags: stress | immune | system

Stress Impacts the Immune System

Tuesday, 26 Jun 2012 01:46 PM


It’s no surprise that chronic stress can harm the immune system, with many studies showing it can promote health problems. But new research by Stanford University School of Medicine scientists has found minor, short-term stresses may actually boost immunity and help the body fend off disease.
The findings, published in the Journal of Psychoneuroendocrinology, is one of the first to thoroughly detail how stress hormones affect the immune system and could lead to new ways to manipulate stress-hormone levels to improve patients' recovery from surgery, injuries or their responses to vaccines.
The study, conducted in rats, suggests immune responsiveness is heightened, rather than suppressed, by the so-called "fight-or-flight" response to short-term stress.
"Mother Nature gave us the fight-or-flight stress response to help us, not to kill us," said lead researcher Firdaus Dhabhar.
Dhabhar and his colleagues noted research has shown that chronic stress, lasting weeks and months, can suppress the immune response. But the Stanford study found short-term stress, lasting minutes or hours in response to immediate threats, actually stimulates immune activity, boosting the body’s ability to fight infection, heal injury and combat disease.
Dhabhar laboratory studies showed that subjecting laboratory rats to mild stress caused a massive mobilization of several key types of immune cells into the bloodstream and to skin, organs and other tissues – a response he compared to “mustering the immune troops…in a crisis.”
Although the study involved rats, the stress response is seen in all animals and humans, he said.
"You don't want to keep your immune system on high alert at all times," Dhabhar said. "So nature uses the brain, the organ most capable of detecting an approaching challenge, to signal that detection to the rest of the body by directing the release of stress hormones."
Dhabhar said the findings could lead to medical applications, such as administering low doses of stress hormones or drugs that mimic to boost patients' immune readiness for procedures such as surgery or vaccination.




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Tuesday, 26 Jun 2012 01:46 PM
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