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Inflammation and stress

Most of us have learned by now that stress is not good for your health. One of the reasons is that stress can aggravate the immune system causing inflammation. Long term inflammation has been shown to cause or play a role in many diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, cancer and many other chronic diseases. Stress causes the release of chemicals in our body that can lead to inflammation.  Below are summaries of research articles that show the relation between stress and inflammation.

UCLA research into stress and inflammation

Researchers from UCLA found that stress reactions can increase inflammation in the body. For those who experience chronic stress problems, this can lead to serious complications like heart disease, depression and asthma.

For the study, participants were exposed to several socially stressful situations. These included preparing and delivering an impromptu speech in front of an audience and performing mental arithmetic in front of disapproving observers. They then used mouth swabs to measure inflammation. They found that individuals who reported the most stress had the greatest inflammatory reactions.

Inflammation and stress article from American Journal of Psychiatry

A recent study has shown that there is a link between stress and an overactive inflammatory response. In a study that was published in the Sep. 1, 2006 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, individuals with major depression were shown to have an exaggerated inflammatory response to psychological stress in comparison to those who do not have depression. These findings suggest that increased inflammatory response to stress in depressed patients may be a link between depression and other diseases, brought on by an overactive inflammatory system. Stress and the inflammatory response: a review of neurogenic inflammation.

Stress and the inflammatory response:

In response to psychological or certain physiological stressors, an inflammatory process may occur through release of neuropeptides (especially substance P or other inflammatory mediators) from sensory nerves and the activation of mast cells or other inflammatory cells. Central neuropeptides, including corticotropin releasing factor and perhaps substance P as well, initiate a systemic stress mobilization response by activating the sympathetic nervous system, hypothalamic pituitary axis, and the renin angiotensin system, thus releasing stress hormones (catecholamines, corticosteroids, growth hormone, glucagon, and renin) which, together with cytokines induced by stress, initiate the acute phase response and the induction of acute phase proteins, essential mediators of inflammation. CNS norepinephrine may also induce the acute phase response by macrophage activation and cytokine release. Increase in lipids with stress may also be a factor in macrophage activation and lipopolysaccharide release which may induce cytokines from hepatic Kupffer cells, subsequent to an enhanced absorption from the gastrointestinal tract during psychological stress. The brain is capable of initiating or inhibiting the inflammatory process. The inflammatory response is contained within the psychological stress response which was a later development in human evolution. Moreover, the same neuropeptides (i.e., CRF and possibly substance P) mediate both stress and inflammation. Cytokines evoked by either a stress or inflammatory response may utilize similar somatosensory pathways to signal the brain. Repeated episodes of acute or chronic psychogenic stress may produce chronic inflammatory changes which may result in atherosclerosis in the arteries or chronic inflammatory changes in other organs as well.

Black PH. Stress and the inflammatory response: A review of neurogenic inflammation. Brain Behav Immun 2002 Dec; 16(6):622-53






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Arthritis can develop as a result of an infection. For example, bacteria that cause gonorrhea or Lyme disease can cause arthritis. Infectious arthritis can cause serious damage, but usually clears up completely with antibiotics. Scleroderma is a systemic disease that involves the skin, but may include problems with blood vessels, joints, and internal organs. Fibromyalgia syndrome is soft-tissue rheumatism that doesn't lead to joint deformity, but affects an estimated 5 million Americans, mostly women. The approximate number of cases in the United States of some common forms of arthritis. is an informational out reach of the Consumer Health Information Network. It is our goal to provide up to date information about arthritis and other inflammatory and bone conditions in a easy to understand format.

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