Are you stressed out? You can do everything else right—eat a healthy diet, exercise, take useful supplements, get 8 hours of sleep, clear infections, balance your hormones, and minimize exposure to toxins—but if you fail to address stress, it may be near impossible to fully heal.
When people recall what was happening in their lives before they first noticed the physical symptoms of autoimmune issues, they almost always have a story of a major life stressor. Physiologically, our bodies react to a stressor with the “fight, flight or freeze” response, a series of chemical reactions involving a cascade of hormonal changes. The adrenal gland releases the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine—also known as adrenaline—and norepinephrine into your bloodstream, preparing your body to fight or run. Your sympathetic nervous system activates, causing your heart rate and blood pressure to go up, your muscles to tighten and digestion to stop—all in an attempt to increase your chances of survival.
Here’s a snapshot of the science linking stress and autoimmune conditions:
- Worry and fear cause the release of harmful stress hormones like cortisol, histamine, and norepinephrine which can weaken the immune system.
- People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) frequently note the occurrence of stressful or traumatic life events prior to the onset of initial symptoms or disease flares.
- Daily stress—small but frequent amounts of stress—exacerbates symptoms of people suffering from lupus.
- A study of 2,490 Vietnam veterans found that those with chronic PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) had a 174% increased risk for autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriasis, type 1 diabetes, and autoimmune thyroid disease (Hashimoto’s or Graves), compared to controls.
You can reduce stress by breathing deeply, moving more, positive affirmations, forgiveness, laughing, and getting outside more! Our office would look at getting to the root cause of your stress to see if it is linked with autoimmunity. Ask us how we can support you.