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Can Heavy Stress Hurt Your Immune System?

If you haven’t had the chance to follow the blogs of WebMD, we highly recommend doing so. The famed medical site has a ton of helpful information related to health and wellness. One recent topic that they covered seemed extra poignant to us, primarily because it is something that we have seen firsthand.  According to their scientific data, intense stress can increase a person’s odds of developing an autoimmune disease.

Using research that included over 100,000 case studies, doctors from the site determined that people who face stress on a daily basis have a 35 percent greater risk of contracting issues like rheumatoid arthritispsoriasisCrohn’s disease and celiac disease than those who do not. Even more interesting, was the fact that the likelihood increases among women, particularly those who are African-American, Hispanic or Native-American.

“Patients suffering from severe life stressors should seek medical treatment due to the risk of chronicity of these symptoms and thereby further health decline, such as the increased risk of autoimmune disease,” lead researcher Dr. Huan Song wrote on the site. “This study adds to the evidence of the link between stress conditions and physical well-being, warranting further attention to the reduction of trauma and other causes of stress conditions, as well as improving treatment of these conditions.”

Indeed, trauma was brought up as a major trigger point as well. The research concluded that there was still no definitive reason as to why they increase the immune system risks, but there are several theories. One has to do with the fact that people dealing with these conditions tend to sleep less, which can have physical repercussions on the body. There are also strong associations between stress and substance abuse, which has been proven to do damage to people’s nervous systems.

The good news is, Dr. Song and others believe that these traits can be reversible. The key factor, though, is treatment. Examples used were support groups, certain anti-depressants (particularly for people dealing with PTSD) and ongoing therapy to cope with life’s stressors.

“There are now several treatments, both medications and cognitive behavioral approaches, with documented effectiveness,” she concluded. “It is notable that when people received effective treatment, their risk for autoimmune disorders was lessened.”

At inneractions, we too believe that treatment is essential to reduce theses risks. We offer Stress Management sessions at our facility and welcome anyone impacted by trauma or severe life challenges to reach out and get the help they deserve.