Most of us know from experience that stress weakens our immune system. Colds always seem to strike when we’re overworked or emotionally exhausted, as do eczema flare-ups, headaches and a myriad of other health problems.
Doctors long ago confirmed that the connection between stress and health is real, but they haven’t been able to fully explain it. Now, in a new study, researchers say they’ve identified a specific biological process linking life stressors – such as money trouble or divorce – to an illness.
In this case it’s the common cold.
Most research in this area has focused on cortisol, the so-called stress hormone released by the adrenal glands when we feel threatened or anxious. One of cortisol’s jobs is to temporarily dampen the immune system, specifically the inflammatory response, in order to free up energy to deal with threats.
The fact that cortisol suppresses inflammation presents a puzzle: People who are chronically stressed tend to have higher levels of cortisol, yet the sneezing, sniffling and coughing of the average cold are actually caused by the inflammatory response to a virus, not the virus itself.
For the full article please go here.