From the time of the ancient Greeks, it has been clear that the mind-gut-body connection influences one’s health; however, only during the last century have we begun to understand why this is the case.
With new tools, scientists can show that there is cross-talk between the brain, the gut and the immune system. Immune molecules from white blood cells send messages to the brain and the gut and in turn, these organs signal back to the immune system, up-regulating (increase) or down-regulating (decrease) inflammation.
©2017 Dr. H. C. Greenblatt
Chronic, long-term stress, affects immune cells by changing their gene activity. This prepares them to fight infection or trauma and increases inflammation. More immune cells are then enlisted for the fight, resulting in increased inflammation.
Inflammation is necessary for survival, but too much inflammation is linked to heart and autoimmune disease, diabetes, depression, and cancer. This is why it is essential to maintain the right balance of signals.
Stress responses are part of a vicious cycle in which stress triggers inflammation and inflammation triggers additional stress.
In stressed mice, there are four times the numbers of immune cells than found in non-stressed mice. Additionally in mice that are stressed 1100 genes are responsible for increasing (up-regulating) inflammation. These genes in non-stressed mice are not activated.
Similar outcomes are seen in humans under chronic stress. For weeks and months following natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes, individuals, especially those who have suffered great personal loss, have imbalances of the immune system that affects them both physically and emotionally.
The immune system and its inflammatory responses are in exquisite balance (homeostasis). The body expands much of its energy maintaining its balance in a steady state. This may be the reason that people who are stressed out tend to be “tired a lot of the time”.
Let us say that your immune system consists of 30 billion cells and that 15 billion of these cells are in the attack mode with excessive inflammation (up-regulation). Let us propose that another 15 billion cells are trying to limit the inflammatory response (down-regulation).
A total of 30 billion cells expending a “trivial” amount of energy is a great deal of wasted energy. No wonder people become exhausted when they are not in homeostasis, balance.
The key to reducing stress is to help the immune system return to homeostasis, to its natural balance.
To better manage stress especially during the holidays: incorporate an immune support supplement into your daily diet, be physically active 2-2.5 hours/week, spend time outdoors, eat smart, stay within healthy weight limits and remember that you are only one person—be kind to yourself; give yourself a break.
Achieving immune homeostasis will make all the difference in the quality of your emotional and physical well-being.
Contact Dr. Hellen at: DrHellen@DrHellenGreenblatt.info, use the form or give her a call at 302.265.3870 (ET, USA) at no charge to you.