The Let Down Effect -- Why You
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May 11, 2018
By Susan Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist







It's a familiar scenario. You have been under the gun at
work, working under incredible time pressures or you have
been going through a prolonged stressful time at home,
you're moving into a new home, you're starting a new job in
a new city. The stress is relentless but somehow, you make it
through.  The house closes, the child graduates, the
marriage survives, the mission is accomplished and you look
forward to celebrating. But the celebrations have to wait
because, now that the crisis has passed, you get sick.

A cold or flu symptoms linger, you feel rundown. Why did
you get sick only
after the crisis passed? How did your body
hold on during the worst of it, only to breakdown now that
the worst is over?


The Let Down Effect

Scientists call this "the letdown effect". When you are under
stress of any kind, physical or emotional, the stress triggers
an inflammatory response.

The reasons for the inflammatory response are evolutionary.
In prehistoric times, a human running from a saber toothed
tiger might suffer a cut on the feet or elsewhere. The body's
inflammatory response triggers release pf glucocortoids such
as cortisone and other hormones inlcuding catecholamines
(like norepinephrine) and adrenaline. These hormones get
you ready to flee and they temporarily block the sensation of
pain.

The temporary blockage of pain would allow you to keep
running to reach a place of safety. Once safe, your ancestor,
sweating and panting from the escape, would slowly relax
and experience relief.  Only then would the inflammatory
response subside enough for this early human to notice the
bleeding gash on his foot.

Stress Hormones Affect Your Immune System

The sudden release of cortisone, norepinephrine and
adrenaline affect your immune system. Scientists say that
stress causes "dysregulation" of your immune system. Many
studies have documented the disruption of the immune
system by stress.

A 2015 study from the University of Kentucky led by Dr.
Jennifer Morey looked at the havoc wreaked on the immune
system by psychological stress.

Acute stress activates cytokines to prepare the body for fight
or flight. This causes a temporary inflammation that clears th
body of pathogens, bacterial or viral. But chronic stress,
which can mean stress lasting for days or longer,
dysregulates the immune system. Chronic stress does this to
your body.

Chronic stress activates latent viruses. This is why you get
cold sores when you are under stress. The stress activates
the herpes simplex virus. This is also why you can develop
shingles when you are under severe stress, because the
stress reactivates the same herpes virus that causes chicken
pox.

The body loses "immunological control" over the viruses.
Thus, being under stress summons up viruses that have
been dormant, and these viruses make you feel ill after the
crisis passes.

Chronic Stress Releases Higher Levels of Cytokines Than
Acute Stress.
 The Kentucky team observed that chronic
stress causes a much higher releases of inflammatory
cytokines. This higher flood of cytokines increase your risk
for diseases such as atherosclerosis and frailty.  

The wear and tear on the immune system increases. Other
studies have found that stress activates flare-ups of
auto-immune diseases such as
scleroderma, Sjogren's
disease
and lupus.


Early Life Adversity Makes You More Vulnerable to Sickness
Caused by Stress




























Life isn't fair. None of us has control over whether we will be
hit by early life adversity. Abuse, death of a parent and
abandonment are examples of childhood stresses. Bullying
experienced during childhood also raises your risk of
immune system dysregulation well into early adulthood,
according to a 2014 study led by Dr. W.E. Copeland of  Duke
University Medical Center.

Early life stresses put you at higher risk for becoming sick
following stress later in life, according to a 2010 study from
Butler Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island.

Apparently, the body overreacts by producing larger
amounts of inflammatory cytokines, once you have endured
early childhood adversity such as moderate to severe
childhood mistreatment.

Stepping back, a truth emerges. Early life stresses can
damage your immune system for life.

If you have experienced mistreatment as a child, you are
much more likely to get sick as an adult following a stressful
period.

With this knowledge, you may be able to better prepare and
protect your body against the expected surge in cytokines.

Here are some strategies.

Exercising Regularly Helps to Regulate Your Immune System


Regular exercise actually boosts your immune system,
studies have found.

One such study was reported in 2010 from Appalachia State
University. That study followed 1002 adults for 12 weeks,
comparing their exercise habits versus the amount of colds
they got during the winter months. The researchers found a
strong connection between the amount of regular exercise
you get and your risk for suffering a cold. Those who
exercised the most --- at least 5 days a week --- experienced
43% fewer colds than those who exercised only at most one
day per week.

No one knows exactly how exercise boosts your immune
system but the scientists theorize that every single bout of
exercise increases your levels of white blood cells and
immunoglobulin in your blood stream.

Your Vitamin D Status Is Directly Linked to the Strength of
Your Immune System

All of the cells active in the immune response ---
macrophages, neutrophils, dendritic cells, and T lymphocytes
--- have Vitamin D receptors.

Vitamin D is thought to have "profound effects on many
aspects of immune system function, including regulation of
the cytokine environment", according to a 2012 study led by
the University of Wyoming at Laramie.

Vitamin D levels and inflammatory markers have an inverse
relationship. The more Vitamin D you have in your system,
the less inflammatory markers from your immune system,
according to a 2015  study led by the Vitamin D Council
based in San Luis Obispo, California and Boston University
Medical Center.

But if you have a low Vitamin D status, taking Vitamin D
supplements will not produce a quick fix. A 2014  study from
Brigham and Women's Hospital of 328 African-Americans
found that "short term" supplementation to correct their low
Vitamin D status simply didn't work.

To improve your Vitamin D status, you should aim to get
more exposure to the sun. At Least 15 to 20 minutes of
direct sunlight daily is needed for those with less
pigmentation and more minutes for those with darker
pigmentation. You should also add Vitamin D rich foods such
as salmon, sardines and to your diet.

Eating Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables Boost Your Immune
System

Many studies have connected the dots between eating high
levels of fruits and vegetables and the health of your immune
system. Fruits and vegetables lower your levels of systemic
inflammation.


Aim to eat a wide variety of fruits of many colors,
purple,
orange, red, yellow and green. Aim for 5 or more servings of
fruits and vegetables daily. Over time, your immune system
will experience lower levels of inflammatory hormones even
during periods of stress.







































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Index of Articles on
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