Australian scientists have proved what many people have suspected for years: stress makes you sick.
Researchers at Sydney's Garvan Institute have discovered how a hormone known as neuropeptide Y (NPY), often released during times of stress, can prevent our immune systems from functioning properly. The institute's Associate Professors Fabienne Mackay and Herbert Herzog said their findings, published in today's edition of the Journal of Experimental Medicine, prove a link between the brain and the immune system.
The research paves the way for understanding and preventing stress-related colds, flu, depression and even cancer, they said.
"Until now there has mostly been circumstantial evidence of a link between the brain and the immune system, but now we have that connection," Professor Mackay said.
"During periods of stress, nerves release a lot of NPY and it gets into the bloodstream, where it inhibits the cells in the immune system that look out for and destroy pathogens [bacteria and viruses] in the body."
The research also opens the door for new opportunities for therapeutic intervention.
"This discovery will be vital in helping us develop a whole new generation of drugs that can stimulate immune defences in people who have high levels of stress," Professor Mackay said.
Under extreme periods of stress, the NPY hormone can also prevent our good TH1 cells [also known as "helper" cells] from attacking bacteria and viruses, she said.
Professor Mackay said exploiting this TH1 inhibitory mechanism to prevent immune responses getting out of control would be essential in responding to diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, type 1 diabetes and lupus.
She was quick to point out, however, that proper medication could take years to develop and there was a lot more to understand about stress and its effect on the immune system.
"In the meantime, it is important that we understand how bad stress is for all of us," Professor Mackay said.
"The best thing to do is to remove stress from our lives just by reorganising the way we live, changing our lifestyle and using things like yoga and relaxation to the best of our ability.
"That stress makes you sick is no longer a myth, it is a reality and we need to take it seriously."
If you would like to read the source and the Full Text you will find it in the Journal of Experimental Medicine 5 Dec 2005 www.jem.org titled NPY's mixed messages with the abstract at http://www.jem.org/cgi/content/abstract/202/11/1527
What Does It All Mean?
In a nutshell Stress Causes Disease! How does it do that? My understanding is that stress prevents the release of the “T Helper Cells”. How can you fix it? Learn two of the Peaceful Place methods. One is the fast 30 second method of relaxing and releasing stress so that you can release stress easily - as it happens all day long and two is - learn to meditate. If you are extremely stressed then you need to meditate first - before you learn the 30 second method.
I speak and write all the time about the value of meditation. Science has proven that the T Fighting Cells (the T Helper Cells) increase during meditation, particularly with guided imagery that uses visualisation to combat an illness in the body. Yes we can actually positively increase our immune system – today this is scientifically called psycho-neuro-immunology. So stress decreases the Helper Cells and Meditation increases them!
I recently wrote an article which was published in heartWISE volume 28. I reproduce it below because it really complements this E-Report and incidentally another E-Report that is relevant is titled Let Go Stress.
What Do I Recommend?
The meditation, which I know is particularly useful in the Festive Season, is one I made recently called Peaceful Place Meditation Number 18 – Overcoming Worry and Anxiousness.
Excess Stress is a by-product of the way we live our lives. You can learn a way to handle it in 30 seconds and be rid of its devastating effects with the CALM Kit. In addition you will be able to …
* Focus quickly
* Respond instead of React
* Set Goals correctly and Achieve them Faster
* Know about the Hidden Workings of the Mind.
Resources included in the KIT:
VIDEO 1: The Power Of Your Minds
VIDEO 2: Highlights Of The Calm Life Skills Seminar
4 AUDIO TAPES:
A Peaceful Place No. 2: ‘Guided Imagery’
Tape A Side 1 - Introduction of CALM Concepts The Calm Kit Work Book
Side 2 - The Science of the Mind
Tape B Side 1 - Discussing Alpha and Using Emotion
Side 2 - Goals, WIIFMs and Visualisation
Tape C Side 1 - 8 Steps to Achieving Goals Faster
Side 2 - 7 Steps to Accelerate Your Learning
BOOKS: Sandy’s best selling book “Piece of Mind”
The Calm Kit Work Book
How can you order? All the normal methods (by telephone call me Toll Free on 1 300 731 900), or through my website www.calm.com.au .
So, enjoy the Festive Season, and here’s to a wonderful year in 2006 and please, please stay relaxed.
All The Best
heartWISE Article Volume 28 - Stress as Part Of the Modern Working Life
We’re all aware of stress and the damage it can wreak in our lives and we all know that a certain amount of stress is part of living – to keep us motivated and moving from one goal-post to the next. High chronic stress levels have been linked to an increase in cholesterol and blood pressure which in turn can affect the heart.
Stress can predispose certain people to becoming lethargic, eat more and exercise less and perhaps even to smoke – all “enemies” of the heart. Chronic stress also exposes us to high levels of the stress hormone adrenaline. Adrenaline suppresses the immune system, raises our heart rate and increases our blood pressure.
Science Today Tells Us That Stress Is Cumulative
If we don't manage our stress levels, releasing stress as we progress through life, then the immune system is suppressed, damaging tissues and organs which can influence our risk of dying through cancer and heart disease.
The Value Of Meditation
I'm sure we all know the value of exercise as a "Stress Buster". Many people handle their stress by jogging, walking and sport. What exercise does is to secrete endorphins - the "feel good" hormones. Experts tell us that exercise alone is not enough.
I urge you to examine your life and the way stress is caused for you. Find the causes!
Even the way you talk to yourself can cause stress. Negative self talk can have a major impact on self esteem and self confidence. It can lead to depression.
I believe is that when you recognise a life challenge, then you're 50% of the way through the challenge. The next 25% is saying - Yes, I want to do something about it. The remaining 25% is doing it - which you're also doing - and that's where Peaceful Place methods help.
You should have a positive attitude and take control of your life. Meditation reduces stress without using drugs and may even slow the ageing process.
How Can I Cope with Stress?
With the Peaceful Place methods you can achieve relaxation whenever you want – in 30 seconds, respond effectively to difficult situations, take on new challenges without feeling stressed and much more.
There is no doubt that life tests us all and many of us face more challenges than others; for example grief is something that all of us will eventually face in one form or another and we need to learn coping methods.
It is important of course to have the best medical attention available - and then to have faith in our doctor. Spiritual faith is also very important for a lot of people.
Tony in Tasmania, who uses the Peaceful Place relaxation methods, wrote the following story.
I had my first heart attack at about 8.30pm one hot Tuesday evening (would you believe that it was still 30 degrees in Hobart) just after completing my regular evening workout. I was sitting down putting on my socks when the symptoms first struck. I was alone, everybody else having left the gym, and the staff were at the other end of the complex. They were too far away to hear, and I could not raise my voice loud enough to be heard outside of the change room. I knew that the next person due in there was the cleaner, and that was not till 9.00pm. It was what happened next that makes me truly indebted to you Sandy.
I went to my Peaceful Place and was able to bring down my pulse rate, control the sweating and feeling of nausea and "distanced" the pain sufficiently to allow me to get dressed and go for help. There should be no need to tell you what I did first when I was struck again some two weeks later. I'm here to tell you it works! I look forward to catching up with you again in the not too distant future, but in the meantime I know that your support is only a tape away.