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Stress and immunity – What You Should Know and Do

Stress and immunity – What You Should Know and Do

How exactly does stress from the mind end up affecting the immune system?

“Some kinds of stress — very short-term, that last only a matter of minutes — actually redistribute cells in the bloodstream in a way that could be helpful,” says Suzanne Segerstrom, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky who has conducted studies on stress and the immune system. “But once stress starts to last a matter of days, there are changes in the immune system that aren’t so helpful. And the longer that stress lasts, the more potentially harmful those changes are.”

The fight-or-flight response (short-term stress) goes something like this: When a villager in Africa sees a lion charging at him, for example, the brain sends a signal to the adrenal gland to create hormones called cortisol and adrenaline, which have many different effects on the body, from increasing heart rate and breathing to dilating blood vessels so that blood can flow quickly to the muscles in the legs. Besides helping him run away, this type of acute stress also boosts the immune response for three to five days (presumably to help him heal after the lion takes a swipe at him).

When humans experience stress, our bodies react the same way that animals’ bodies do. Once the lion is gone, a zebra or gazelle’s stress level will return to normal, but humans have more trouble getting back to our routines after a stressful event, whether it’s a car accident or a divorce. We’ll think about it, dream about it, and worry about it for a long time, and that sets us up for long-term problems, says Robert M. Sapolsky, a Stanford University stress expert and author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.

Over time, continually activating the stress response may interfere with the immune system. How this affects your disease risk, Sapolsky suggests, depends partly on your risk factors and your lifestyle, including your degree of social support.

Was Grandma right?

immunity-boost-MINIAs we have seen, many studies show that stress can impact different facets of the immune system. Some suggest that stress slows recovery from illness or makes us more likely to catch colds. But can stress actually make us sick, or shorten our lifespans? Our immune systems are so complicated, and a person’s immune response affected by so many factors, it’s understandably a difficult area of study. In addition, it’s hard to find stressed-out volunteers willing to expose themselves to viruses to see if they’ll get sick or not.

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In the meantime, there is enough evidence to convince us that we should find healthy ways to keep our stress levels down, which is advice we got from our grandmothers: Eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep. Start boosting your immunity with this easy guide.  In addition, we now have ample evidence that methods of avoiding or decreasing stress promote cardiovascular health and wellness. Breathing techniques, meditation, yoga, socialization, Qi-gong and Tai-Chi are just a few of the methods that have been proven to enhance quantity of life by managing stress. Try alternative therapies such as Reiki to help you restore calmness into your life.  Create a positive energy space with this unique Healing Lavender Spray and be in harmony with the art of zen living.

“Stress is inevitable,” Spiegel says. “The trick is to learn to manage it, to find some aspect of our stress and do something about it. Don’t think in terms of ‘all or nothing’ but in terms of ‘more or less.’ ”

References

Full Article from Consumer Health Today

Immunity Boosting Guide

Mind Body Green

Interview with David Spiegel, MD, Stanford University

Interview with Suzanne Segerstrom, PhD, University of Kentucky

Suzanne C. Segerstrom et al. “Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry.” Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 130, No. 4, 2004.

Ronald Glaser et al. “Stress-induced immune dysfunction: implications for health,” Nature Reviews: Immunology, Vol. 5, March 2005.

Robert M. Sapolsky. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Third Edition. Owl Books, New York, NY. 2004.

Sephton SE, et al. “Diurnal Cortisol Rhythm as a Predictor of Breast Cancer Survival,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI), Vol 92; No. 12. June 21, 2000.

Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser et al. “Chronic stress and age-related increases in the proinflammatory cytokine IL-6,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Vol. 100; No. 15. July 22, 2003.

Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser et al. “Hostile Marital Interactions, Proinflammatory Cytokine Production, and Wound Healing.” Archives of General Psychology, Vol. 62, Dec. 2005.

Ronald Glaser et al. “Chronic stress modulates the immune response to a pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine,” Psychosomatic Medicine, 62:804-807 (2000).

Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser et al. “Chronic stress alters the immune response to influenza virus vaccine in older adults,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Vol. 93. April 1996.

Julie M. Turner-Cobb et al. “Social Support and Salivary Cortisol in Women With Metastatic Breast Cancer,” Psychosomatic Medicine, 62:337-345 (2000).

Bruce S. McEwen. “Protective and Damaging Effects of Stress Mediators.” The New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 338:171-179.

S. Cohen, D.A. Tyrrell, and A.P. Smith. “Psychological stress and susceptibility to the common cold.” The New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 325:606-612

Tim Lee, PhD and Angela McGibbon, MD. Immunology Bookcase: Immunology for Medical Students. Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada.

The Mayo Clinic. Stress: Constant stress puts your health at risk. September 11, 2010.

Graham JE, et al. Hostility and pain are related to inflammation in older adults. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. 2006 Jul;20(4):389-400.

Alzheimers Association. Fact sheet: Anti-inflammatory therapy.

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Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) & Cancer in British Columbia

love540Integrative medical practices are uniquely focused on every element of a patient’s life from emotional well-being and stress management to nutrition and mind-body connection.

Complementary and alternative medicine is “a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine.” The term “Complementary and Alternative Medicine” is frequently referred to as “CAM”. (NCCAM definition)

Complementary treatments are used in combination with conventional medicine. Alternative treatments are used instead of conventional medicine.

For more on defining CAM, please see NCCAM, http://www.nccam.nih.gov


 

Types of Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Biologics and Natural health products “Biologics” describes food and nutrition as a form of managing your health. This includes changes in diet and special diets and foods, as well as natural health products (NHPs). NHPs are defined as vitamins and minerals, herbal remedies, homeopathic medicines, probiotics, and other products like amino acids and essential fatty acids.

Mind-body practices include meditation and prayer, relaxation therapies, visualization, and creative activities, such as art and music therapy.

Manipulative and body-based practices include therapies such as spinal manipulation and forms of massage.

Energy therapies involve the use of energy fields such as therapeutic touch, reiki, and acupuncture.

Whole Medical Systems are based on distinct theories about treatment and practice and include multiple products and/or practices. Examples are traditional Chinese medicine and naturopathy.


 

Why People Use CAM

People living with cancer give many reasons for using CAM. Some of these reasons include:

•    Easing cancer symptoms or the side effects of conventional treatments

•    Dealing with the stress of cancer and its treatment

•    Restoring a sense of hope

•    Strengthening the body’s ability to heal

•    Offering a sense of control over their cancer experience

•    Seeing the treatments as natural and less toxic than medical treatments.


CAM Use in British Columbia (BC)

Surveys have shown that many people living with cancer in Canada use CAM. These surveys also show that CAM use in BC is higher than in any other province.

A recent survey of 412 people conducted by CAMEO at the BC Cancer Agency in November 2008 showed that:

•    49% have used CAM during their cancer experience

•    42% discussed CAM with their oncology health professional, but only 23% received enough information.


 

CAM Associations & Societies

These are the primary associations and societies for CAM more commonly used in by patients with cancer. They all have practice standards, codes of conduct and ethics, and disciplinary procedures.

Inclusion of the list below is for reference only and does not imply endorsement (therapies or members) by CAMEO or the BCCA.

Please see the list below in choosing to work with your health care practitioner.

 

HERBALISTS & NATURAL HEALTH PRODUCTS

MINDFULNESS BASED STRESS  REDUCTION FACILITATORS


B.C.’s Medical Services Plan provides $23 a visit to a maximum of ten visits a year only to low-income patients who use any of the following services: acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, naturopathy, physical therapy and non-surgical podiatry.

Costs above this amount are the responsibility of the individuals receiving care. To find out if you qualify for MSP Premium Assistance Program visit: http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/msp/infoben/benefits.html

Original Sources cited:

Vancouver Sun Article on Alternative Care

BC Cancer Agency – Informational Guide for CAM