Individuals can improve immune system function by being cognizant of risk factors and following some basics of diet and sleep
Trauma or intense stress may up your odds of lowering your immune system function or developing an autoimmune disease, a new study suggests. To improve immune system function, work on various ways of lowering stress.
Comparing more than 106,000 people who had stress disorders with more than 1 million people without them, researchers found that stress was tied to a 36% greater risk of developing 41 autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease and celiac disease.
“Patients suffering from severe emotional reactions after trauma or other life stressors should seek medical treatment due to the risk of chronicity of these symptoms and thereby further health decline, such as the increased risk of autoimmune disease,” said lead researcher Dr. Huan Song, from the University of Iceland in Reykjavik.
The body’s immune system protects from disease and infection, but autoimmune diseases turn the body’s natural protection against itself by attacking healthy cells. It’s not clear what causes autoimmune diseases, but they tend to run in families. Women, particularly black, Hispanic and Native-American women, have a higher risk for some autoimmune diseases, the researchers said, and should be especially cognizant of ways to improve immune system function.
Song added that treating stress-related disorders may help reduce the risk of developing autoimmune diseases.
“There are now several treatments, both medications and cognitive behavioral approaches, with documented effectiveness,” she said.
Improve immune system function
The effects of severe stress have been associated with a variety of health problems, one PTSD expert said.
“Many studies have linked stress conditions as well as adverse childhood events, such as trauma and neglect, to future medical problems, including immune problems,” said Mayer Bellehsen, who directs the Unified Behavioral Health Center for Military Veterans and Their Families at Northwell Health in Bay Shore, N.Y.
“It is also notable that when people received effective treatment, their risk was lessened,” he added.
He says to improve immune system function and reduce stress, individuals should be:
- Getting more sleep
- Decreasing drug or alcohol use
- Eating a healthy diet
- Using mediation or calming techniques
“Regardless of cause, this study adds to the evidence of the link between stress conditions and physical well-being, warranting further attention to the reduction of trauma and other causes of stress conditions, as well as improving treatment of these conditions,” Bellehsen said.
The report was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. For more on stress and health, visit the American Psychological Association.
SOURCES: Huan Song, M.D., Ph.D., University of Iceland, Reykjavik; Mayer Bellehsen, Ph.D., director, Unified Behavioral Health Center for Military Veterans and Their Families, Northwell Health, Bay Shore, N.Y.; June 19, 2018, Journal of the American Medical Association; HealthDay News