I have decided to add the stress related symptoms I have experienced over the past 7 years due to the number of emails I have received from this site. I have just received an email newsletter which contained an article pertaining to the effects of stress on the immune system. I am reading more research revealing how stress alters the immune system which triggers immune diseases such as hashimoto's disease as well as other autoimmune diseases. I've included the artical at the bottom of this page. I want to share a segment of the artical which explains the stress immune response here. It's highly interesting.|
A new take on psychoneuroimmunology
""So, the way this all works is really clever," explained Steven Maier PhD, who gave the Neal Miller Lecture at APA's 2001 Annual Convention. "Your macrophage chews on a bacteria, it releases interleukin-1 into the neighboring space, the interleukin-1 binds to receptors on the paraganglia, which send neurotransmitters to activate the vagus nerve," which sends a signal to the brain. This signal triggers the brain to make its own interleukin-1 and that sets off the sickness response and sends signals back to the immune system, further activating immune cells.
"We have a complete, bidirectional immune-to-brain circuit," said Maier.
Stress makes you sick
It turns out that stress taps into this very same circuit, but starting in the brain rather than the immune system. Maier and his colleagues find that if they stress animals--by socially isolating them or giving them electrical shock--they see massive increases in interleukin-1 in the hippocampus.
"Stress and infection activate overlapping neural circuits that critically involve interleukin-1 as a mediator," said Maier.
And, not only does stress produce the expected stress response, it also produces exactly the same behavioral changes--including decreased food and water intake and decreased exploration--and physiological changes, including fever, increased white blood cell count and activated macrophages seen in the "sickness response."
"These animals are physically sick after stress," said Maier. "You see everything you see with infection."
The implications of this shared neural loop are that stress and infection sensitize the body's reaction to the other. In other words, an infection primes the circuit so that it has an exaggerated response to later stress and vice versa.
"How you react to a stressor or an infectious agent depends critically on events of the other type in the past," said Maier. And, he added, the effect isn't short-lived. He's measured it out to 10 days."
Carolina Contemporary Medicine Recognizes the adverse effect of chronic stress on our bodies.
"OTHER HORMONE ISSUES More is being learned about the detrimental effects of certain conditions on overall hormonal imbalances. For instance, chronic stress, persistent pain or inflammation, and chronic allergies have been seen to produce long-term elevations of cortisol levels in the body. While temporary cortisol elevation can be beneficial during a brief emergency response ("fight or flight"), long-term elevation is extremely counter-productive in a direct manner. Indirectly, imbalances in many of the hormones will eventually affect production of other hormones due to their feedback regulatory mechanisms. DHEA, thyroid, growth hormone, as well as the familiar female and male hormones, and others can be affected."
I shared about the stress I experienced on my personal story about hypothyroidism so will focus here on the symptoms. I noticed these symptoms are decreasing and many have ceased over the past few months. However with most things I still experience some relapse of symptoms but overall there is gradual and noticable improvements. I will also share some of the effective coping strategies I used that helped decrease these symptoms.
At first when I started my previous employment I found it extremely stressful as well as going through some major life changes (engagement, moved to another state (just across the border but the 2 states are completely different in the ways they do things) marriage, helping my husband with his new restaurant business, financially strained (living on one income from a job where I felt insecure)). I first just felt the emotional things people expect with stress. These included feeling nervous and anxious about the job and life circumstances, depressed (I came home several times in tears about the job), insecure and regreting I had taken that job. However I have an old fashion work ethic and felt God had me there for a reason and would overcome the problems.
However as the problems with the job and daily life stress continued I began to notice symptoms I never had before. I began feeling a mistrust of people and noticed I looked at people with anger and saw only the bad side of people. I began to loose interest and hope. Basically I experienced what would be considered adjustment disorder with depressed mood. (That's not too good for a mental health counselor having this disorder but I did keep the symptoms to myself). I became suspicous of people and didn't trust anyone at work. This actually didn't begin to improve until I got angry one day and typed up how I would exceed my director's expectations.
During this time I also noticed physical symptoms as well. I developed migraine type headaches. These headaches came every Sunday night (as well as other times during the week). They included excruciating pain (throbbing, stabbing, dull, sharp, etc). The pain was varied with each headache and included nausea (severe at times), sounds and light always made the pain worse, movement triggered more pain and nausea. I noticed the pain also went down my neck and into my shoulders. This pain did not go away with sleep and would last up to 12 hours or longer and only went away when I had taken enough aspirin or tylenol to kill the pain (usually 4-6 over a period of time). Prior to this the only headaches I experienced was an occasional stress headache (mild compared to this and did not include the other symptoms) and when I didn't eat dinner until late (when I was a child but would go away after I ate dinner). The other symptom I noticed was what I later learned to be irritable bowel syndrome. (sudden urge to go, occasional accidents, rumbling intestines, sometimes constipation)(I blame my husband for this. He had it from the restaurant business. We called it "the runs".) This problem decreased dramatically after he got rid of the business.
Actually the stress did seem to decrease as things at work improved. I adjusted to living and working in the new state. The restaurant business began to increase and improve. However I noticed a sense of nervousness as if the "fight or flight response" was triggered. (Parasympathetic and sympathic nervous system apparently were effected.) I went to my family MD who said it was stress. I knew it wasn't stress now because the stress had decreased. The symptoms didn't go away so I went to another doctor who diagnosed it as hypothyroidism. After starting the meds, this symptom as well as others (tremmors, dry skin, loosing hair, sagging eyelids, etc) eventually went away as the condition was treated.
The headaches did gradually decrease in frequency and in severity. However I noticed a gradual increasing problem with what I considered my nervous system. I noticed a decline in memory (working memory basically quit working), I couldn't concentrate or comprehend what I read. I was very easily distracted. (I did learn to use this to relate to the ADHD kids and families I worked with. This actually helped with some hard to reach folks.) I couldn't process information well or hold anything in my brain. (I later learned there was a significant decline in my cognitive abilities or IQ tests are not valid and can fluxuate by 20 points.) I noticed a level of anxiety and as if the nervous system was shooting a low voltage of electricity that normally isn't there. (Our bodies do have electrical impulses. That's how they measure EKGs & EEGs). However when I started taking T3 (Cytomel) these symptoms began to disappear and the electrical impulse sensations ceased. I also began to have more problems being sleepy during the day. This was not caused by sleep problems at night. I sleep like a rock (even though I may have alpha waves in my delta sleep. I learned about this at a twin study I was at. They did a sleep study along with other tests. I was in the group they considered the normal group or control group. My sister was in the identified group or sick group.)
The memory problems did improve to the point I didn't feel like I had to go on disability. (Fortunately by this time I had mastered my duties at work and was exceeding all work expectations so when my work declined from mistakes it was just down to the point where everyone else was. Only my fellow coworkers who knew my level of perfectionism noticed the decline but my supervisor said "everyone makes mistakes" and it wasn't brought to my attention until the symptoms started to improve.) I basically handled this period of symptoms by 2 defense mechanism Denial and Humor. I was not about to tell anyone, not even my husband to the extent of the problems. I definitely did not tell anyone at work anything due to the fact of the mistrust feelings they had instilled in me.
During this time I also had problems with dizziness which tended to come and go. It was different from the hypotension symptoms I always had since I was a small child (feeling light headed or vison going dark after getting up). This problem I noticed sometimes when I'ld be working out in the yard (spreading pine needles or cutting the grass) when I'ld start to feel faint. I later learned to blame this on neurally mediated hypotension (NMH) which I simply treat by increasing salt a little and drink a little more water. This eliminated the symptoms associated with NMH. The remaining dizziness I just associate with an intermittant inner ear problem which I basically ignore. (I asked various doctors over the past few years about the dizziness which they couldn't find a specific cause. I only found out about the NMH by accident at the twin study.) These symptoms seem to come and go. I haven't really noticed a corelation between the dizziness and stress but have noticed when my blood pressure is running lower I have more dizziness than when it's higher.
The last major symptom I have noticed that really coinsides with stress is feeling tired (drained or fatigue) and what I call body complaints (achiness, feeling like I'm fighting a virus or flu bug). A lot of my former coworkers had the same complaints (if not all of them). This occured whenever I worked extra long hours, was around a lot of grumbling coworkers, or just around any negative environment. I sometimes get these symptoms during PMS which has seemed to improve the past few months. The only way I know how to avoid these symptoms is to minimize stress by putting limits on what others demand of me (work), not staying around a bunch of negative talk, staying warm (being cold to the bones cause this problem too), and setting a realistic pace for myself. I sometimes have to slow my pace. I also try to maintain a positive attitude and look for the positive in everything. This decreases stress for me.
I also try to eat a well balanced diet (I'm allergic to sweets and "junk food") and have started exercising. One thing I learned at the twin study is how disgustingly out of shape the average person is. This highly motivated me to exercise which has helped me cope with the stress from my former job. As far as the cognitive problems I also began taking a dietary supplement, Mind Set, which has added more vitamins and minerals needed by the brain to function better. Each week I still notice improvements in many areas. However distractability, information processing, concentration & recalling information remained a problem. Sometimes it was a significant problem especially when under stress or tired. I've since then started taking Adderall to help treat these symptoms. It helps however due to family circumstances the stress level has temporarily increased. (My twin sister has gone through a very stressful event and I am helping to move her closer to family. By the middle of February 2002 this situation I expect my sister to be pretty much settled in near family.)
All these symptoms I consider triggered, caused by or worsened by stress. I'm not sure why my body reacts to stress like this. I have my theories (pollution, ozone layer, "bad genes", stressful events) but I have found that stress has increased these symptoms and limiting stress has decreased these symptoms.
I have had several people email me about problems with similar type symptoms not listed in medical texts as hypothyroidism symptoms. I added this page to offer some thought as to how stress can make symptoms worse. I do hope you can learn to decrease stress in your life too. Prayer is a very important thing as well as having a foundation in your life. Having significant unresolved major life issues make problems worse. If this is a problem please consider getting counseling to help you learn how to cope with those issues.
A new take on psychoneuroimmunology
Monitor on Psychology, Volume 32, No. 11 December 2001
Research pointing to a circuit linking the immune system and brain connects illness, stress, mood and thought in a whole new way.
BY BETH AZAR
Even though doctors have all but rejected the idea that going out in the winter with wet hair causes colds, many mothers still insist it's a recipe for illness. Those moms may soon have data on their side from some new research linking stress and the immune system.
The research indicates that stress--maybe even the stress of being cold--appears to tap into the same immune systemnervous system loop that triggers symptoms of the common cold, according to Steven Maier, PhD, who gave the Neal Miller Lecture at APA's 2001 Annual Convention.
For more than a decade, researchers have known that behavioral and psychological events can influence the immune system. But now new research shows that the immune system sends signals to the brain "that potently alter neural activity and thereby alter everything that flows from neural activity, mainly behavior, thought and mood," said Maier, professor of psychology at the University of Colorado.
"In a real, true sense, stress makes you physically sick," explained Maier. "In addition, many of the changes over time in mood and cognition from day to day are driven by events in the immune system of which we are unaware."
Read the complete article at http://www.apa.org/monitor/anewtake.html
Got Guts? You May Have Too Much Cortisol. Stress hormone makes fat build up around organs By Patricia Lynden HealthScout Reporter
"FRIDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthScout) -- Fret, smoke, drink, be a couch potato. What'll happen? You'll get fat -- but not only in the obvious places. You'll also get fat in your viscera -- around your internal organs. And that's dangerous.
Visceral fat, which shows up in your waistline whether you're fat or thin, is a sign that your lifestyle is getting out of hand.
It means that cortisol, the so-called stress hormone circulating in your body, has gone into over production, and that you are at increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes, among other diseases, says a new study published in the September/October issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.
"The only thing that can decrease visceral fat is exercise," says lead study author Elissa Epel, a post doctoral scholar at the University of California-San Francisco's health psychology program.
Epel theorizes that nothing else works because, as we evolved over the eons, cortisol became the hormone that protected us during stress or danger, giving us the physical energy and strength to flee.
"During severe stress, cortisol increases dramatically. It causes blood sugar to go into the muscles so you can run from the danger. Immunity can also be increased during acute stress," Epel says. And, about 20 minutes after a high-stress episode, she says the cortisol suppresses immunity, preventing an autoimmune disorder.
"But these days we don't need to run, and our stress is psychological. And we tend to be exposed to more cortisol that we're not using or burning off with physical activity like running from danger. So we sit with it," says Epel.
Too much cortisol makes you vulnerable to infection and major disease, and can also cause the brain's hippocampus areas to atrophy, impairing memory and the ability to learn, she says.
Not everyone agrees with her theory. "I don't buy that exercise by virtue of lowering cortisol will decrease visceral fat," says endocrinologist Dr. Jeffrey I. Mechanick, an associate clinical professor of medicine at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. "At least it hasn't been proven."
But he does agree that visceral fat puts people at increased risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
And he does agree that exercise, combined with a healthy, reducing diet, will reduce visceral fat.
"That would be your first approach," says Mechanick. If that doesn't work, visceral fat should be dealt with by a physician, perhaps with drugs.
Epel says the signs are in the waistline: "It's not that 'pinch-an-inch' fat that you can feel. It's actually underneath the stomach muscle" and only a CT scan or an MRI can tell for sure if you've got visceral fat, though a bulging stomach is a good indication that it's there.
While getting rid of visceral fat with exercise is simple, Epel says it may not be easy: "We're talking about lifestyle changes."
What To Do
Exercise must be regular, daily and aerobic, says Epel. Sit ups to flatten the abdominal muscles won't work, she says. If you're not sure how to get started, talk to your doctor or a fitness expert.
She says sleep deprivation is another big source of stress that increases cortisol output and causes visceral fat."
Want to decrease stress in your life and those around you?
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
1 John 4:7-12
Stress Reduction Support Your Employees - It's Good for the Heart By Alison McCook "NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - New research suggests that workers who feel supported by their supervisors have lower blood pressure during work hours than others, particularly during periods of stress.
"The data suggest that when employees feel that supervisors care about them, they are less stressed on the job," study author Dr. Elizabeth Brondolo of St. Johns University in New York told Reuters Health."
Job Stress: How To Keep Your Cool "Why do some people get more stressed than others?
WILLY WIENER, PhD: I think certain people have ways of thinking about things that give rise to stress - rules, rigid scripts that they have running in their head. For example, if you believe everything must be on time all the time, then when something is ten minutes late, you're liable to be stressed out, angry, and depressed about it. If your attitude is, "Well, I strive for that all the time, but sometimes it doesn't happen and that's okay," you're going to be much more relaxed in the face of that kind of event. The key question to ask yourself is, "Is my response well-adapted to the situation?" To be on time for board meetings is quite adaptive. You'll be well received in your place of work if you're on time, and perhaps not so if you're late. At the same time if someone is late for a movie and you make a big deal of it, you can taint the whole evening and that's not adaptive."
Read the article to get more tips.