by Kevin DiDonato, MS, CSCS, CES
Stress has been shown to create havoc in your body.
When this system is activated, blood is transferred away from vital organs to your skeletal muscle to allow for a greater amount of nutrients to reach your muscles.
This allows your body to fight the perceived threat or flee the scene.
However, stress does not have to be an immediate stress, it can also be chronic stress.
In fact, our lives can be filled with stress, which can still activate your fight or flight response.
Not only does it allow for nutrient to be used very quickly, but chronic stress can also lead to increased cortisol levels, which may lead to weight gain.
Now, a new study published in the journal PNAS, could, for the first time, show just how stress impacts your health and increases inflammation.
Let me explain…
Stress and Inflammation
It has been shown that stress can lead to glucocorticoid receptor resistance (GCR), which may reduce your body’s ability to stop the inflammatory response.
Since most chronic diseases have been shown to start from inflammation, researchers hypothesized that exposure to chronic stress could impair your body’s response to inflammation.
The researchers conducted two studies.
In the first study, they recruited 276 subjects and assessed for stressful life events, GCR, age, BMI, antibodies already present in response to the challenge virus, gender, race, education level, and virus type.
After assessment, they exposed the subjects to one of two rhinoviruses and followed them for five days.
During those five days, they took nasal swabs and were looking for symptoms associated with exposure to the challenge virus and GCR.
They noted that the subjects that were subjected to long-term exposure to threatening situations (stress), showed an increase in GCR.
They also showed that subjects with higher GCR had a greater risk for developing a cold when exposed to a certain virus.
In the second study, they assessed 79 subjects for the same criteria as the first group.
They exposed them to one of the two viruses and followed them for five days. This time, however, they were looking for inflammatory molecules IL-1Beta, TNF-alpha, and IL-6.
The researchers showed that increased GCR resulted in increases in the number of pro-inflammatory cytokines produced in the infected subjects.
Through their research, they determined that prolonged exposure to stress results in glucocorticoid resistance, and that resistance could interfere with regulation of the inflammatory system of your body.
The researchers did note that with inflammation being at the center of many chronic diseases, that this model could help researchers, doctors, and others to better understand the role stress plays in our lives.
This research is new and exciting, but further research is needed to better understand the role stress plays and potential treatment options for reducing stress and lowering the inflammatory response associated with chronic stress exposure.
Stress and Your Health
Everyone knows and understands how stress can negatively impact your health.
It has the ability to increase cortisol level, increase your risk for strokes to heart attacks, and now may increase inflammation.
According to the latest research, stress may lead to glucocorticoid resistance which could lead to your the inability to regulate inflammation, which may increase your risk for the development of chronic diseases.
Reducing your stress, eating a well-balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables, and practicing deep breathing exercises may reduce your stress which could potentially reduce inflammation and lower your overall health risks.