Psychological Causes of Disease: How the Immunity Depends on Stress

The human body is a complex self-regulating system. For its balanced functioning, the mental state is as important as the physical one. Here is how psychological aspects affect our health and immunity.

The Body and Its Systems

Our body is governed by three regulatory systems: the nervous, endocrine and immune systems. They are in a close relationship.

The nervous system controls the entire body through neurotransmitters. Through the senses, the brain provides us with information about the world around us. It evaluates reality and commands the body to take further action, sometimes in a fraction of a second. It’s similar to the process when you place bets in-live, try it on 22Bet, and need to make decisions instantly.

The endocrine system, having received a command from the brain, secretes hormones that raise or lower blood pressure, increase or decrease blood flow to the brain and muscles. Hormones also affect other important changes in the body. The endocrine system reacts within minutes or hours.

The immune system secretes substances such as cytokines. Their job is to resist anything harmful and foreign that can harm the body. The immune system’s response extends over months and sometimes years.

As a result, there is a whole system of body regulation. And if the work of the brain and endocrine system is well studied, then everything is not so obvious with the immune system activity.

How the Immune System Works

Immunity is resistance to infections: viruses, bacteria, foreign material. Immunity can be divided into innate and acquired immunity.

The human immune system includes many elements: bone marrow, thymus gland, spleen, lymph nodes, lymphoid tissue. These organs produce several types of cells, which provide protection for the body and oversee the constancy of the cellular composition. Among the main ones are phagocytes, lymphocytes (produce antibodies), T-killers, etc. All cells of the immune system work like a well-coordinated team: some absorb, some label, some bind, some act chemically on foreign substances and molecules (viruses, bacteria, tumor cells).

Prolonged stress or prolonged depression have a negative effect on the functioning of immune cells: they suppress their activity and increase their susceptibility to infectious diseases.

Stress Scenario

The concept of stress was introduced by Canadian physician and biologist Hans Sellier in 1936. He found that the human body reacts biochemically the same way to joy and pain. But there is some difference: a negative emotion can be felt for a long time (then the stress becomes chronic), but a great joy passes quickly, so its effect is fleeting. It is the prolonged exposure to strong emotions that negatively affects the body.

Stress is the body’s universal reaction to a dangerous or meaningful situation in order to support its survival. Subjectively, stress is experienced as tension. Objectively, when stress is experienced, the nervous, immune, endocrine, cardiovascular, muscular and other systems are mobilized.

On a hormonal level, the body is unable to distinguish between the emotions caused by a possible attack by an animal in the wilderness and the emotions we experience when talking to a boss. Accordingly, the more situations one perceives as dangerous or meaningful to oneself, the more susceptible one is to stress. This susceptibility depends on many factors: heredity, physiological and personality traits, culture, upbringing, and environment. For example, people with sensitive psyches will react to many events with a surge of emotion.

“I Can’t Take It Anymore!”

Emotions are material. All of our feelings have physical consequences due to the effects of the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. When we are afraid, happy, angry, delighted or upset, our body cells release substances that have a direct effect on the body. For example, when scared, the adrenal glands release the fear hormone adrenaline into the blood, to which the body immediately reacts by increasing heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. The blood thickens and rushes to the muscles and the blood vessels narrow. All these changes increase the chance of survival, allowing the living organism to escape faster and thereby escape from danger.

In our reality there are not many situations that directly threaten life, but there are enough circumstances in which a person can be in constant tension: fear of the boss’s anger or dismissal, problems in personal relationships. In these cases, the brain gives a signal to the body: “Run, save yourself!” The endocrine system reacts by releasing stress hormones: cortisol, adrenaline, noradrenaline are released. Hormones, in their turn, activate the body’s reserves: all processes are transferred to a higher level of functioning. In this case a person does not run away (like in the distant past from a tiger, for example), but remains in a stressed state for days, months and even years.

As a result, there comes a moment when the worst result is inevitable: the body is exhausted, all reserves are exhausted, and mobilization of forces is no longer possible. In such conditions, a person is vulnerable and prone to many diseases: colds, exacerbation of chronic diseases, and depressions. The immune system cannot cope with illness if the body is depleted and has no resources.

Is It Possible to Get Sick From Stress?

Soul and body are elements of the same system. Any imbalance in the psyche affects the work of the whole body. Unexpressed or unprocessed negative emotions such as fear, guilt, anger, resentment, envy and others are the main cause of psychosomatic illnesses.

According to Liz Bourbeau, the world-famous author of the best-selling books on psychosomatics, long repressed resentment or hatred can lead, among other things, to the onset of cancer.

Cancer cells are known to form in the human body every day. T-killers, based in the immune system, destroy these cells, preventing them from developing into a tumor. However, it happens that the immune system doesn’t respond to the emerging cancer cells, and the tumor begins to grow. Numerous studies and surveys of people who have fallen ill with cancer have revealed a pattern: the disease most often occurs after psychological upheavals, stress, trauma (loss of a loved one, divorce), internal resentments and disappointments that the person has not lived through.

Moreover, research confirms that people diagnosed with a serious somatic disease (cancer or diabetes) have a much better chance of a positive prognosis if they don’t give up, don’t give up, don’t get depressed, but rather seek help, actively treat the disease, continue to live a full life, talk to friends and family.

Stress Prevention and Immunity Enhancement

Fortunately, there are mechanisms that help strengthen the immune system and reduce the negative impact of stress on one’s own health. These mechanisms are simple, effective and accessible to the individual.

Healthy Lifestyle

Getting closer to a more natural rhythm of sleep and wakefulness, as well as eating the right foods, does have a qualitative impact on well-being and health.

Doctors recommend:

  • Go to bed no later than 11 p.m.
  • Eat a diet with more unprocessed or minimally processed foods.
  • Maintain a normal weight within your BMI.
  • Add physical activity.
  • Get rid of unhealthy habits.
  • Practice breathing exercises.

You don’t have to do everything at once. Start small and in stages! Even 10-15 minutes of gymnastics every morning and regular enough sleep can improve your health indicators in a few weeks.

Physical Exercise

Regular physical activity is a key method of combating stress. Physical activity triggers a natural mechanism to recycle stress hormones. Moreover, exercise lasting more than 20-30 minutes starts releasing endorphins, the hormones of happiness and pleasure. It is up to you to decide what this physical activity will be for you (take your individual capabilities into account when choosing). Some people prefer walks in the fresh air, while others prefer active workouts at the gym.

Psychological Support

A professional can help you learn relaxation and self-work techniques. Working with a psychologist builds self-confidence, helps develop skills of self-support, experiencing resentment and negative emotions, eco coping with conflict situations.

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