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To Your Health

Stress and the Immune System

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11/01/2011 - Hello Again! After last month's article I came across something that was very interesting. As you recall, I discussed how stress would depress your immune system thus making you more susceptible to colds and flu. Well, in the journal called Autonomic & Autacoid Pharmacology, October 2009, an article was written entitled "Is Elevated Noradrenaline [Norepinephrine] an Aetiological Factor in a Number of Diseases?" This is a technical article that I will try to make easy for you, the reader, to understand. It is a theoretical study with 153 references which discusses increased sympathetic tone (we discussed this in the last article as the "the fight or flight mechanism" remember?) and release of NA (Noradrenaline) a neurotransmitter to which your body's cells respond. The researchers state that this increased tone in our body (for the sake of your learning, let's just say "stress") is an etiological factor ("causes") a broad range of diseases, including cancer, bipolar disorder, excessive body weight, hypertension, Type 1 autoimmune diabetes, Type II diabetes, glaucoma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and immune system function (sound familiar?).

There are two types of sympathetic nervous system NA(Noradrenaline). One is a "phasic", which is a transient burst of NA. The second involves sustained output of NA, which is called "tonic". This means there is a sustained presence.

From the abstract of the article:

Noradrenaline (NA) is a signaling molecule in the brain and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS)

Elevated NA is a factor in various types of cancer.

Elevated sympathetic tone (elevated NA levels) predisposes a large number of individuals to a broad range of diseases.

Psychological stress is associated with increased release of NA which may cause or exacerbate diseases. (Hmmm)

There are genetic differences in NA sympathetic tone. (important)

Different organs have different sympathetic innervation patterns and thus different sympathetic tones that can influence diseases in these organs.

Some individuals may have elevated sympathetic tone with "continuously elevated 'fight or flight' mode wherein the body is not devoting sufficient resources toward maintenance or homeostatic processes" (maintaining normal body activities -- this is sometimes referred to as "general adaptation syndrome" where this abnormal situation becomes the body's "normal")

There are multiple lines of evidence showing that elevated NA levels from the SNS and adrenaline from the adrenal glands are etiological factors (causes) in diabetes mellitus (Type II), glaucoma, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and asthma. For example: Elevated SNS tone may cause glaucoma by altering the tone of the blood vessels of the eye. SNS fibers innervate joints. Elevated SNS tone increases inflammation from a mechanism (example stress or trauma), including increased production of inflammatory agents, resulting in degeneration (osteoarthritis). SNS fibers innervate human airways and can cause chronic inflammation and asthma.

In general (let's make this easy):

Increased Sympathetic Tone

Increase Release of Noradrenaline(NA)

Insulin Immune Joint Airway Increased

Dysregulation System Inflammation Inflammation Intraocular

Dysregulation Pressure

Diabetes Autoimmune Osteoarthritis Asthma Glaucoma

Diseases Rheumatoid




What appeals to me about this article is that, when we chiropractors adjust the spine, we attempt to improve mechanical integrity but this also helps to reduce sympathetic tone by the stimulation of the nervous system. Well gotta go. Until next time, see ya!

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