Stress and Susceptibility to Disease

Hundreds of experiments and studies done over many years reveal how the nervous and endocrine systems influence the immune system (Sternberg, 2001). Two forms of white blood cells called Lymphocytes are part of this system. B Lymphocytes fight bacterial infections and are formed in the bone marrow. T Lymphocytes form in the Thymus and other Lymphatic tissue and attack cancer cells, viruses, and other foreign substances – the good as well as the bad like transplanted organs for example. Another agent of our immune system is Macrophage, which identifies, seeks out and consumes harmful invaders. Macrophages constantly patrol our bodies in search of invaders and debris, such as worn-out red blood cells.

Under- or Over-Reacting Immune System

Our immune system can err in two directions. Responding too strongly, it may attack the body’s own tissue causing arthritis or allergic reaction. Under-reacting, may allow dormant herpes virus to erupt or cancer cells to multiply. 

Stress Slows Healing

Our brain regulates the secretion of stress hormones, which suppress the disease-fighting Lymphocytes. Studies show that surgical wounds heal more slowly during stressful periods. A test of dental students who received small punctures in their skin three days before a major exam healed 40 percent slower than wounds placed during summer vacation (Kiecolt-Glaser, 1998).

Another experiment showed that 47 percent of participants who lived stressful lives developed colds after receiving a virus as did only 27 percent of those living relatively stress free.

Data assembled from 293 studies confirm that chronic stress causes wear and tear on our immune system (Segerstrom & Miller, 23004).

Centenarians Manage Stress Well

Managing stress may in fact be life-sustaining. The one personality trait shared by 169 people over the age of 100 was their ability to manage stress well (Perl Et al., 1999).

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

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