Why Stress Could Lead to Physical Illness


Stress can be a daily occurrence and often underestimated for how devastating it can be to overall health. New research suggests that stress is linked to physical illness therefore dealing with stress should be as important as a healthy diet and regular exercise to stay healthy.

New Research

Researchers from the University of Michigan have discovered that stress can affect the immune system, the very thing that protects the body from infection and diseases. The new findings revealed that stress can negatively impact the cells in the body that help to fight against illness.

Furthermore, the response of “defense chemicals” that fight off bacteria and viruses are greatly affected by stress. This can lead to enhanced allergic and inflammatory reactions like irritable bowel syndrome, asthma and autoimmune disorders like lupus.

How Stress Can Lead to Physical Illness

Stress receptors called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF1) send signals to specific immune cells. These are known as mast cells and CRF1 controls how they defend the body against disease.

The mast cells are known to control the inflammatory responses and are prompted during stressful situations. During this time, mast cells become vulnerable to being controlled by CRF1 stress receptors. When this happens, CRF1 signals the mast cells to release chemical substances that lead to inflammatory and allergic reactions, autoimmune disorders and even life-threatening food allergies.

As a result, chemical substances like histamine can become life-threatening. Histamine is produced by mast cells to tackle allergens. Normally, the response to an allergen through histamine would be inflammation, itching, sneezing and a runny nose. Researchers have stated that this response could become more intense if someone has a severe allergy or is under great amounts of stress. This can lead to more severe symptoms like trouble breathing, anaphylactic shock and even death.

Prescribing Treatment for Stress

In response to the research, doctors may start prescribing stress management measures like breathing exercises and yoga. The research is an important development in understanding how stress is linked to physical illness. Additionally, understanding such a relationship means that therapies can be developed to help people suffering from stress related diseases.

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