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I am often asked what are the effects of stress on the body and does it contribute to the cause of yeast infection? The answer is...yes it does, because stress can cut immune function by up to 50%. That is not something you want happening when you’re dealing with yeast infections or any other serious illness.
We all suffer from the effects of stress on a daily basis. From being overworked, underworked and bored to tears, worrying about money or family members, the lack of sleep, conflict with others, social isolation and even sitting in traffic to name a few. People, places and things that are beyond our control most often cause stress.
We all deal with the effects of stress differently and some of us can take more than others. What stresses one person out may not bother another. But what happens to the body and immune system if we cannot deal with the stress that does affect us?
The immune system is an intricate system of cells that communicate with one another to defend the body in times of need. It is also responsible for most of the body's clean up and disposal of waste functions. Macrophages for instance not only defend the body but also dispose of waste. There are also a host of cells that calm down the immune response so the immune system does not attack itself or your body.
Most of these immune system cells are classified as T-cells.
T-cells are white blood cells formed in the bone marrow that migrate to the thymic gland to mature. Upon maturity they are released into the blood stream to provide for its defense. You also have what is known as T Helper cells called CD4 cells that aid in the production of antibodies in the bone marrow; and most importantly when it comes to the effects of stress on the body, Suppressor T-cells called CD8 cells.
In a study done in 1991 by doctor Manuck, et al, it was shown that those people that are affected by high levels of stress, quite often show an increased heart rate and an increased number of CD8 cells that suppress immune function.
It has also been shown that high stress levels can increase the levels of the brain hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine. These are hormones that control blood flow through expansion and contraction of arteries. This influences the ability of the natural killer cells and T-cells to reach all the extremities in the body. Under high levels of stress, the blood flow decreases thereby reducing the immune systems ability to properly defend the body. Naliboff, 1991; Kiecolt-Glaser, 1992.
Stress effects the heart
The release of epinephrine and norepinephrine also contribute to blood platelet clogging in the cardiovascular system resulting in heart attacks, heart disease, and stroke. People that are extremely competitive in work and life overall have higher stress levels than those more laid back easy going types. It has been found that these ultra competitive types suffer from high cholesterol, high blood pressure, increased insulin response, and artery lesions from the constant oversupply of those above two hormones. McEwen & Stellar, 1993.
Stress contributes to diabetes
The chronic effects of stress on the body can play a role in diabetes by altering the insulin levels in the body. Children between the ages of 5 and 9 that have high stress levels on a regular basis, showed much higher risk of contracting diabetes later in life.
Stress can lead to asthma
Doctors Elliot & Eisdorfer in 1982 determined that stress plays a role in the interaction between IgE antibodies and antigens that cause an increase of histamine in the body. Histamine blocks airways and has been linked to asthma.
Stress effects the digestive system
The effects of stress on the body greatly influence the digestive system. Ulcers caused by excessive acid release can be caused by excessive stress. Although most ulcers are caused by h. pylori the added stress hastens its ability to form its protective biofilm shell in the stomach. Too much stomach acid can cause intestinal ulcers over a period of time as the acid burns a hole in the mucous lining. Acid reflux can lead to esophageal cancer if not brought under control.
Stress increases your susceptibility to viral infections
Because of the increased levels of CD8 cells, people that suffer from stress also have an 82% higher rate of viral infections. Ask anyone with herpes if they usually have breakouts during periods of high stress in their lives and they'll tell you yes. Most colds and flus actually occur on the weekends after a stressful week at the office.
Stress contributes to loss of sleep
Not only do the effects of stress on the body greatly reduce immune system function; being over stressed also leads to loss of sleep, which reduces melatonin production. Melatonin is another hormone that boosts immune function and helps repair the body as you sleep. Matter of fact, it has been proven that people who work nights have higher rates of prostate and breast cancer because of reduced melatonin production from a lack of sleep.
High stress can also contribute to drug and alcohol dependency, forgetfulness, low energy levels, and depression. WebMD estimates that 75 to 95% of all doctor visits are stress related.
STRESS AND HEALTH: Psychological, Behavioral, and Biological Determinants is a very good, but long, read on what stress does to you if you care to read it.
The effects of stress on the body are definitely negative. If you are under high stress you need to get it under control so your immune system can help you fight your yeast infection.
Article written by Dan and edited for accuracy by Dr. Taylor
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