It’s Time To Relax More And Stress Less
I have always found that the patients we see as who are “continually sick” with infections are the ones who have a tendency to suffer from long term low-grade stress. Among adults, job and financial worries are often among the leading contributors to stress, but increased crime, violence, peer pressure leading to substance abuse (alcohol and drugs like ecstasy, cannabis and methamphetamine), social isolation, loneliness, and family problems can also create stress-related problems. Stress is not only creating problems with adults, but is increasingly causing health problems among children, teenagers and the elderly. When
I grew up in the 60’s, stress didn’t seem to be the buzz word that it is today. Sure people “did drugs”, but nothing like today, alcohol was a problem – now alcohol related problems are chronic. Sure there was violence, but nothing like today – now we accept violence on most all of our TV programs and computer games. Remember the 50’s ? Children could walk to school and “high school massacres” were unheard of. In the 21st Century, it seems that we have become an increasingly violent, hurried, worried and sick society. Baby boomers today are much more prone to stress related illness like diabetes, heart disease and cancer than our forebears ever were. It is the immune system that is particularly affected by chronic low grade stress – and these are the things we see in the clinic on a daily basis. We see allergies, auto-immune diseases and cancers. We see some patients who are “always sick” or who are chronically fatigued from the hurry and worry of modern life.
Most people today associate stress with worry, but stress has a much broader definition to your body. I have always noted that patients don’t generally see themselves as living under much stress, or feeling stressed. Any kind of change, whether it be emotional, environmental, an illness, hormonal or just pushing yourself too hard, can be stressful to your body. Even positive events, such as getting a promotion at work or taking a vacation can be stressful and can gradually weaken your health before you realise what is happening. If you have recently experienced a change in your sleep patterns, feel fatigued, anxious or a lack of enjoyment for life, or have multiple aches and pains, it is highly likely that you are overstressed.
Research by Dr. Hans Selye, the first scientist who discovered that stress actually made people sick found something quite amazing – that animals which were simply restrained died quicker from stress than animals which were physically injured. How does this relate to humans? Women for example who are living in a situation of constraint, such as a new born baby or perhaps in an unhappy relationship tend to feel constrained, that there is “no light at the end of the tunnel”. The same goes for the teacher trying to teach a class of unruly students, or the air traffic controller with too many decisions to make under high pressure.
My elderly mother was recently placed in a nursing home at 78 after a stroke and is proving to be more than a handful for my brothers. After a life of independence she is not freely able to “relinquish control” and feels very stressed, almost like an animal in Dr. Selye’s experiments which who was tied to a chair.
Research has found that psychological stress in human beings can take a hefty toll on the immune system by reducing the concentration of cytokines, proteins that help to ward off infections. Cytokines are proteins that are produced by cells of the immune system in order to regulate the body’s response to disease and infection.
It was recently discovered that people under chronic low grade stress had above-normal levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), an immune-system protein that promotes inflammation and has been linked with heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, severe infections and certain cancers. It appears that stress increases levels of IL-6, which in turn accelerates a variety of age-related diseases. Stress can weaken a person’s immune response, leaving them much more susceptible to infection, and can lead to unhealthy lifestyle habits. For instance, stress often leads people to overeat, insomnia, and neglect exercise, drink alcohol and coffee all of which can create health problems on their own right. Many people are simply too tired to enjoy life today. Have a look at eating for fatigue about eating right for your adrenal glands
Stress increases your chances of an infection
In one study, skin wounds on the arms of women who had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol had lower levels of key compounds released by the body to mediate healing. Stress may make it easier for germs to infect skin wounds as researchers have proved. Investigators created skin wounds in mice that were exposed to stressful living conditions. The researchers then applied Streptococcus bacteria to the wounds, and compared the healing rates of the stressed mice with those of mice with skin wounds that were also exposed to the bacteria but did not undergo the same levels of stress.
Mice that had been stressed out prior to wounding and infection showed a 30% delay in wound healing at 3 and 5 days compared with the mice that were not stressed, the report indicates. In addition, the investigators found that after 5 days, the stressed mice had 100,000 times more opportunistic bacteria in their wounds than the non-stressed mice. Seven days after the bacteria exposure, about 85% of the wounds in the stressed mice were infected, versus about 27% of the wounds in the non-stressed mice. In this study, stress increased the rate of wound infection by threefold. Stress disrupts the body’s equilibrium, in turn significantly impairing its ability to control and eradicate bacterial infection during wound healing.
Chronic stress, which has been called our number one health problem, is not something to take lightly, it can have profound effects on your immune system and your overall health.
Stress-related problems cause of 75 percent to 90 percent of doctor visits.
Psycho-neuroimmunology is a whole new field that studies the effects of psychological stress on the immune system. Scientists in this area have demonstrated alterations in the normal function of immune cells in animals during times of stress. For example, excessive physical stress changes your immune cell profile. Increased upper respiratory tract infections occur in athletes who over-train, and a decreased cell-mediated immunity has been demonstrated in such athletes.Without a properly functioning immune system, your body is vulnerable to invasion by opportunistic germs such as fungi, viruses and bacteria.
It is not practical to advise people to avoid stress because, let’s face it, we all have stress in our lives from one degree to another. What is practical, however, is to emphasise the importance of dealing with stress before it takes a toll on your health. There now exists ample scientific evidence to suggest that stress impairs the immune system, which allows underlying infections to cause damage.
Relaxation and Meditation Calms the Mind and Fights Stress
Relaxation techniques can also be useful when stress becomes overwhelming. Yoga, a psycho-physical discipline, can lead to mental clarity, greater self-understanding, and a feeling of well being, along with improved physical fitness. Many people experience benefits not only because of the physical stretching and muscle strengthening but also because of the meditative state that is encouraged. Have you ever considered Yoga or Tai Chi? They are both wonderful and will add a whole new dimension to your life.
Meditation is another technique that will allow you to calm your mind and fight stress. Meditating can help you to focus your thoughts on relaxing images or principles. It can also help you to examine your daily life and determine what activities are contributing to your stress.
The bottom line is that stress shuts down either the recruitment or the function of those immune cells needed to fight infection. Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Fatigue Program can significantly help by supporting the hormonal control of the body under-pinning stress. This highly effective protocol along with the correct dietary and lifestyle changes as outlined in Dr. Wilson’s ground breaking book entitled “Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome”can offer you the greatest chance of overcoming stress before it takes control and ruins your health.
Is it any wonder that most Western countries are now experiencing soaring rates of cancer? It is important for you to recognise that stress can be a good thing, we call this “eu-stress” as opposed to “dis-stress” which leads ultimately to disease and death.. For example if you are going for a job interview, a driving test, or are going to give a speech at a wedding, such short term acute stress actually boosts your adrenaline and gives your body a natural push to get things done, your mind has a bit more clarity, you feel more alert. The key is to be aware of your stress level and get things under control if stress starts to take over. The best awareness you can have is self-awareness.
- Brain, Behaviour, and Immunity on line 2001;10.1006
- Segerstrom & Miller, 2004. Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Enquiry Psychological Bulletin, 130, 4.
Patti Fluegel said,
” I have a friend who is only in her early 40s. She has been hospitalised over a dozen times in the last year. She feels there is something drastically wrong with her and the doctors are always running different blood tests and doing exams to rule stuff out. I have no medical experience at all but for me I can clearly see it is stress related. This woman hasn’t worked in nearly two years now, is in a bad relationship and has two boys off in Iraq. So yes she does have stress. I can always see it coming on when she starts worrying about something which is always followed by a continuous vomiting and then into the hospital to get re-hydrated. Is there any information that you can send to me so I can pass it on. I want to be a good friend but I also am tired of trying to help when one doesn’t want to help themselves. Thank you in advance for any information you can give”.
Eric Bakker ND said,
I am sorry that your friend is experiencing such hardships with her sons and is fatigued and stressed to the point that it is causing her to be unwell. It is best that she seek professional help.
Eric Bakker ND