Below is an excerpt of an article that recently came to me from Metagenics Institute where I obtain my supplements. It is particularly relevant for us in the TFT world as it is addressing stress, the topic of our upcoming webinar. The studies show the deleterious effects of stress on our systems and that meditation and acupuncture (using the same meridian system as TFT) are beneficial.
What is stress?
An integrated definition of stress states that it is a constellation of events, starting with a stimulus (stressor) that precipitates a reaction in the brain (stress perception) and results in the activation of the physiological fight-or-flight systems in the body (stress response).1
Stress is a fact of life. We all face stressors of some sort in our day-to-day lives; whether psychological, physiological, or physical. We have evolved with stress, and many of us have learned techniques to manage various stressors, so it makes sense to explore the biological ways in which stress impacts our health.
Research has shown that varying degrees and durations of stress affect each of us differently, and short-term stress (lasting from minutes to a few hours) may actually benefit our immune health; in contrast, weeks, months, or years of stress can be detrimental to our health.2
Many of us are familiar with the “fight-or-flight” response—you may envision an emergency situation like being chased by a lion or needing to react quickly to another dangerous situation. You may even feel your heart racing just thinking about such a scenario. This is the effect of the sympathetic nervous system: stimulus (lion) plus reaction in brain (stress perception), creating a fight-or-flight response in your body (stress response).
In a perceived threatening scenario, where the sympathetic nervous system response is stimulated, norepinephrine and epinephrine potentiate increased arousal, alertness, focus, and core temperature. At the same time, pain thresholds, cardiovascular output, respiratory rate, and blood flow to the brain and skeletal muscles also increase.5
Interestingly, a review of the science suggests that acute stress activates the immune system. Immune activation may be critical for responding to the immediate demands of a stressful situation, especially if the situation results in wounding or infection.
While short-term stress can be an immune stimulator, the same is not true of long-term physiological stress.1 Long-term stress suppresses, or dysregulates, innate and adaptive immune responses.
Just as we all have differing genetic and biochemical composition, we also have varying responses to stressors. There are significant individual differences in stress perception, processing, appraisal, and coping.6 Sometimes there may be a crossover between the mind and body, as in the fight-or-flight response. The stimulus may be stressful mentally and require physical action.
But what about psychological stress that poses no pressing physical danger? Perhaps a stressful work project requiring a few long days and nights? Or the droning on of work, relationship, or other emotional woes? There are many lifestyle factors that may come into play when individuals experience long-standing mental stress. Financial and social support factors have been studied, as well as nutritional intake, sleep quality, and lifestyle decisions (exercise frequency, alcohol consumption, drug use, etc.).5 All of these factors play indirect roles in stress-related immunosuppression; however, many direct effects on immunity have also been demonstrated.5-7
Lifestyle approaches for stress management
While the side effects of stress are far-reaching, (shown in detail in the full article) there are some lifestyle-related activities that can help quell the effects of life’s worries. One method, supported by considerable evidence, is the practice of mindfulness and meditation. Meditation represents a mental training framework for cultivating the state of mindful awareness in daily life.
Regular aerobic exercise, acupuncture, breathing exercises, and progressive muscular relaxation also help individuals to manage stress.27
More studies are needed to explore the physiological benefits of mindfulness and other stress-management techniques, but there is hope for finding a preferred tactic to support all personality types and stressors.
Join us on our Live Video classes and discover how TFT can help you overcome stress:
- Dhabhar FS et al. Acute stress enhances while chronic stress suppresses immune function in vivo: a potential role for leukocyte trafficking. Brain Behav Immun. 1997;11:286–306.
- Dhabhar FS. Effects of stress on immune function: the good, the bad, and the beautiful. Immunol Res. 2014;58(2-3):193-210.
- Ken I et al. Nosocomial infections. Contin Educ Anaesth Crit Care Pain. 2005;5:14–17.
- Janeway CA Jr et al. Immunobiology: The Immune System in Health and Disease: Principles of Innate and Adaptive Immunity. 5th ed, New York: Garland Science; 2001.
- Vitlic A et al. Stress, ageing and their influence on functional, cellular and molecular aspects of the immune system. Age (Dordr). 2014;36(3):9631.
- Gunnar M et al. The neurobiology of stress and development. Annu Rev Psychol. 2007;58:145–173.
- Kang DH et al. Th1 and Th2 cytokine responses to academic stress. Res Nurs Health. 2001;24(4):245–257.
- Del Prete GF et al. High potential to tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) production of thyroid infiltrating T lymphocytes in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: a peculiar feature of destructive thyroid autoimmunity. Autoimmunity. 1989;4:267-276.
- Dolhain RJ et al. Shift toward T lymphocytes with a T helper 1 cytokine secretion profile in the joints of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis & Rheumatism. 1996;39:1961-1969.
- Ackerman V et al. Detection of cytokines and their cell sources in bronchial biopsy specimens from asthmatic patients. Relationship to atopic status, symptoms, and level of airway hyperresponsiveness. Chest. 1994;105:687-696.
- Marucha PT et al. Mucosal wound healing is impaired by examination stress. Psychosom Med. 1998;60(3):362–365.
- Nowak M. The evolution of viruses—competition between horizontal and vertical transmission of mobile genes. J Theor Biol. 1991;150(3):339–347.
- Kiecolt-Glaser JK et al. Marital quality, marital disruption, and immune function. Psychosom Med. 1987;49(1):13–34.
- Kiecolt-Glaser JK et al. Marital discord and immunity in males. Psychosom Med. 1988;50(3):213–229.
- Kiecolt-Glaser JK et al. Marital conflict in older adults: endocrinological and immunological correlates. Psychosom Med. 1997;59(4):339–349.
- Pariante CM et al. Chronic caregiving stress alters peripheral blood immune parameters: the role of age and severity of stress. Psychother Psychosom. 1997;66(4):199–207.
- McEwen BS. Protective and damaging effects of stress mediators. N Engl J Med. 1998;338(3):171–179.
- Phillips AC et al. Cardiovascular and cortisol reactions to acute psychological stress and adiposity: cross-sectional and prospective associations in the Dutch famine birth cohort study. Psychosom Med. 2012;74(7):699–710.
- Sedova L et al. Diet-induced obesity delays cardiovascular recovery from stress in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Obes Res. 2004;12(12):1951–1958.
- Segerstrom SC et al. Psychological stress and the human immune system: a meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psychol Bull. 2004;130:601–630.
- Mawdsley JE et al. Psychological stress in IBD: new insights into pathogenic and therapeutic implications. Gut. 2005;54:1481–1491.
- Montoro J et al. Stress and allergy. J Investig Allergol Clin Immunol. 2009;19(Suppl.1):40–47.
- Arndt J et al. Stress and atopic dermatitis. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2008;8:312–317.
- Mårild K et al. Psychological stress and coeliac disease in childhood: a cohort study. BMC Gastroenterol. 2010;10:106.
- Drummond PD et al. Increased psychosocial stress and decreased mucosal immunity in children with recurrent upper respiratory tract infections. J Psychosom Res. 1997;43(3):271–278.
- Black DS et al. Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2016;1373(1):13-24.
- Harvard Health Publishing. Exercising to relax. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax. Published July 13, 2018. Accessed November 23, 2018.
Whitney Crouch, RDN, CLT