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Stress Linked to Asthma and Allergies

New research confirms what many have learned the hard way. Mental stress can reduce the effectiveness of the immune system influencing how we cope with allergies and asthma.

The investigation, performed on Russian medical students as they prepared for a stressful examination may provide an explanation for the increasing incidence of asthma and allergies.

The new study from Karolinska Institute backs up what many people have suspected: that there are important links between mental stress and the complex physical inflammation reactions characteristic of allergies.

In order to understand the link between stress and allergy, the scientists have examined how a major medical exam at Karolinska Institute affects feelings of stress, stress hormone levels, the immune system and lung function amongst students with and without allergies. The extensive tests were made on two occasions, first with the students during a calm period of study with no exam in sight, and then shortly before a major exam. Twenty two students with hayfever and/or asthma and 19 healthy students took part.

For the first time on record, scientists were able to show that a group of cells that are central to the human immune system known as regulatory T cells appear to increase sharply in number in response to mental stress. A regulatory T cell is a kind of white blood cell that controls the activity of a number of other types of immune cell. This increase was observed in both groups of students.

The study also showed that blood concentrations of a group of inflammation products called cytokines had changed and shifted against a pattern associated with allergic inflammation in the allergic students, but remained normal in the healthy students.

According to Mats Lekander, who is leading the research group, the two discoveries might very well be linked.

“There is much to suggest that the regulatory T cells are dysfunctional in people with allergies,” he says. “When people become stressed, they increase in number and normally have an anti-inflammatory effect. If this system does not work in people with allergies, it could explain the changed cytokine balance that we have observed in them.”

Source: Karolinska Institute

Stress Linked to Asthma and Allergies

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). Stress Linked to Asthma and Allergies. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 20, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2006/08/21/stress-linked-to-asthma-and-allergies/203.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
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