Have a Cold? Blame Stress-Induced Inflammation

imageStress is a normal part of life. Negative life events, such as a death in the family or the loss of a job, and positive life events, such as the birth of a new baby or graduation, can all lead to stress. When our bodies experience chronic stress stress, our bodies begin to feel very negative effects both physically and emotionally.

Numerous studies have shown that stress increases the risk of developing diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity as well as depression, anxiety and other emotional health problems. Stress has also been linked to lowered immunity and an increase in illnesses such as the common cold and the flu. It is common knowledge that after a period of high stress, such as finals, a drawn out marital argument or a project deadline at work, many people fall sick.

New research from Carnegie Mellon University has found that reason stress makes us sick is because stress  hampers our ability to regulate inflammation in the body. Under chronic stress, cortisol, the stress hormone that is partially responsible for reducing inflammation, becomes inefficient. Our tissues become less sensitive to the effects of cortisol and inflammation is not actively reduced. Immune cells in the the body also become insensitive to cortisol’s regulatory effects and in turn persistent inflammation perpetuates the progression of many diseases.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University identified that when people experience the common cold, the symptoms that they feel are not due to the virus itself, but instead are caused by inflammation in the body. Therefore, if inflammation is already high due to stress, then the virus will exacerbate this pre-existing inflammation and you will feel severe symptoms of a cold.

Research such as this published by Carnegie Mellon University calls to light the importance of managing stress before it becomes chronic. It also makes it clear that many bouts of illnesses can be prevented by properly lowering stress before it becomes chronic. Mismanaged stress has negative and life long consequences on the mind and body.

Many stress management techniques are learned by watching our parents, thus adults have a responsibility to model healthy stress reducing habits for their children to learn. Because stress is caused not by the event itself, but by our appraisal of the event, it is not something that goes away with time. Instead, reducing stress involves changing thought patterns and unhealthy emotional habits that have become ingrained over time.

How do you reduce stress? Please leave your comment below.

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  1. Very helpful

  2. I remember before finals, I would sometimes get a cold. This article is relevant, in that it illustrates the importance of managing stress in order to prevent a cold. And for the long run, to prevent more serious health conditions.

  3. Hello, just wanted to mention, I loved this blog post. It was funny. Keep on posting!

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