Tags: Health Topics | immune system | stress

Can Stress Hurt the Immune System?

By    |   Friday, 14 August 2015 04:16 PM

Too much stress can overwhelm the immune system, setting the body up for illness, according to experts.

"Psychologists in the field of psychoneuroimmunology have shown that state of mind affects one's state of health," the American Psychological Association said.

Research on stress has shown that "long-term or chronic stress, through too much wear and tear, can ravage the immune system," the APA noted, adding that in one study, a deeper analysis determined that "people who are older or already sick are more prone to stress-related immune changes."

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Small amounts of stress are beneficial, scientists say. "Some kinds of stress — very short-term, that last only a matter of minutes — actually redistribute cells in the bloodstream in a way that could be helpful," Suzanne Segerstrom, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky told HealthDay.

But, she added, "once stress starts to last a matter of days, there are changes in the immune system that aren't so helpful. And the longer that stress lasts, the more potentially harmful those changes are."

Livestrong reported that chronic stress can open the door to a host of illnesses including cancer, AIDS and some autoimmune disorders.

Stress heightens production of a hormone called cortisol, which is the body's "fight of flight" hormone. When it's ramped up, it works as "the body's way of taking care of an immediate emergency. The immune system also receives signals to slow down while cortisol does its job," Livestrong noted.

Stress has been linked in research to premature aging. HealthDay reported that those who act as caregivers to loved ones suffering from Alzheimer's disease report high levels of stress and "showed a marked overproduction of an immune factor called IL-6, which is normally involved in the immune response to injury. A rise in IL-6 is associated with many age-related conditions, including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and mental decline."

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High stress has also been linked to slower wound healing and also to infectious diseases.

Dr. David Spiegel, a Stanford University psychiatrist who leads the school’s Center on Stress and Health, told HealthDay that NK cells, described as the body's natural killer of bacteria and even cancer cells, are often lowered in those who are under chronic stress.

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Too much stress can overwhelm the immune system, setting the body up for illness, according to experts.
immune system, stress
Friday, 14 August 2015 04:16 PM
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