How can H. pylori affect you?

She had been vomiting everyday for 1 to 2 weeks every few months for 5 years with no other symptoms.  Her medical doctor suggested it was due to stress and suggested a prescription for antidepressant medication.  She decided to not take the drug.

When I saw her a few months later, she said she did not feel like she had been under stress nor did she report having been depressed.

When I first saw her I thought her symptoms seem to coincide with some type of a parasite life cycle.  Although this was my original thought upon meeting with her, I knew I needed to run some tests to understand her condition more fully.  So we ran some blood work, saliva, and stool tests.

Her Saliva testing indicated that she had low secretory IgA, which could indicate a parasitic infection of the gut.

Her CBC and chem screen values where all within normal limits.  However, her white blood cell count was at the low end of the reference range.  From a functional medicine standpoint, this could be indicative of a chronic infection somewhere in the body.  As an infection is being fought for long periods of time, the bodies immune system has a more difficult time keeping up with it and the white blood cell count can fall.  This is in contrast to an acute infection in which the white blood cell count could be elevated.

Her stool test was positive for H. pylori.

I then referred her to a medical doctor who prescribed her a regime of antibiotics and other medication to treat the H. pylori infection.  Following her antibiotic therapy we retested her for H. pylori and found her to be negative for the organism.

She continued to be a regular chiropractic patient for over 10 years. She reported the vomiting never returned following her treatment for H. pylori.

When looking at what could happen if this infection had gone on untreated in this young woman, I think we should consider the following post, ‘Eradicating H. Pylori lowers Risks for Stomach Cancer’, from Roji Menon, MD.  See her blog here:  http://rojimenon.com/2014/05/28/eradicating-h-pylori-lowers-risk-for-stomach-cancer/

 

Eradicating Helicobacter pylori in asymptomatic, healthy adults
reduces the incidence of subsequent gastric cancer.

Researchers identified six randomized, controlled trials that assessed
the effect of eradication therapy on stomach cancer incidence 2 or
more years later in adults who tested positive for H. pylori but had
no symptoms and were healthy. A variety of eradication therapies were
 used. Control groups received placebo or no therapy.

The authors conclude: “It seems likely that the benefit of searching
for and eradicating H. pylori in healthy asymptomatic individuals will
outweigh any potential harms, especially in populations at high risk
of gastric cancer. However, results from further trials in different
populations are urgently needed.”

You can also consider my last post: Is this the cause of your ulcer?

As always, please contact your health care provider if you have any questions regarding your health.

Please continue to educate yourself on your health because your health affects everything you do and everyone you know.

Yours in Health,

Sean Ripp, D.C.

Is this the cause of your ulcer?

And, if you have it, you may not know it.

Currently H. pylori is recognized as being associated with the cause of ulcers of the stomach, in the beginning of the upper intestine, and esophagus.  Even though H. pylori was discovered in 1982.  It wasn’t until Robin Warren and Barry Marshall won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2005 that showed H. pylori to be the cause of ulcers.  It is found in 90 percent of peptic ulcers.

Symptoms.

Symptoms are usually associated with problems such as weight loss, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, heartburn, bad breath, diarrhea, bloating, burping, nausea, black stools, and vomiting.  Or there may be no symptoms at all.  Or there may be no ulcer present.

Please, consult your health care provider regarding any health concerns you may have.

What can H. pylori cause if not addressed?

Not only has the presence of H. pylori been associated with the cause of most peptic ulcers, it has been associated with an increase in risk of stomach cancer.  In addition, some practitioners have associated H. pylori with malabsorption of key nutrients leading to anemia, fatigue and other conditions.

Unfortunately, this organism is becoming more common.  And as I already mentioned, this organism may or may not be associated with symptoms.

Testing.

The practitioners that I have worked with have reported to me that the most accurate form of testing is the stool test, even more so than the breath test and blood test.  The MayoClinic suggests that the blood test is the least accurate and that the stool and breath test are the most accurate.

I have always used the stool test as I can also test for other gut parasites at the same time.

Treatment.

Treatment involves the use of antibiotics to kill the organism.  It can be difficult to treat the organism as it buries itself deep within the stomach wall.  In combination with antibiotics, your doctor may prescribe a proton pump inhibitor as well as histamine receptor blockers (2).  It is important to discuss any noticed side effects with your doctor when taking the medication. You should be retested following treatment to make sure the infection is no longer found.

How does it spread?

The most common way for this organism to be transmitted is from person to person via mouth-to-mouth and fecal matter-to-oral.  So if you are tested and found to be positive for H. pylori then your family members should be tested as well.  This organism can be difficult to kill especially if the infection is long standing.  The treatment itself can be physically rough.  It is suggested to follow up with a health practitioner who is experienced in the treatment of this infection.

Since this post involves the topic of ulcers, I feel it is important to recognize directions from the National Digestive Diseases 
Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC) that is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  The NDDIC recognizes the following symptoms associated with peptic ulcers as a Medical Emergency and a person who has any of the following symptoms should call a doctor right away(4):

  • sharp, sudden, persistent, and severe stomach pain(4)
  • bloody or black stools(4)
  • bloody vomit or vomit that looks like coffee grounds(4)

I hope this information is useful in your persuit to understanding your health.  As always, I advise you to continue to learn as much as possible about your health as it affects everything you do and everyone you know.

Yours In Health,

Sean Ripp, D.C.

 

1) http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/h-pylori/basics/tests-diagnosis/CON-20030903

2) http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/176938-overview#aw2aab6b2b3aa

3) http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/hpylori/#9

4) http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/hpylori/hpylori_508.pdf

 

Why… Why… Why?

The patient reported on her first visit having leg symptoms of an achy nature that has been persistent for more than a year. She could not recall a specific event that initially seemed to cause the problem, nor could she recall anything that aggravated the leg symptoms. She advised me she experiences the leg achiness daily and it’sbeginning to affect her ability to work. She indicated have been seen by her medical doctor with no relief of her achiness. She reported being referred for a neurological consult for further evaluation. She relayed that the neurologist was unable to find a reason for her symptoms. She indicated that she had heard chiropractic care could help with her problem and made an appointment with my clinic.

I relayed to the patient that I believed chiropractic manipulation should be the first step in her care to help alleviate any nerve irritation that may be causing or contributing to her leg problems. In addition, we began soft tissue work on the leg musculature to help relax tight muscles and alleviate any trigger points that could be causing the symptoms. After explaining to the patient my treatment plan, she agreed to it and we began care. In her case, I wanted to see some type of improvement in her symptoms within the initial two-week period. Although she indicated her back and neck had more mobility after a few weeks of care, she reported having no relief of her leg achiness. I began to think what else could we do to help her. I asked myself what could be the underlying cause of her symptoms. Using the philosophy of functional medicine I reviewed her file. Based on her case and financial situation I asked her to do one thing and go on a gluten free diet then return a few times over the next six weeks to see how she was doing.

I am going to take a moment to mention a method of approaching health and disease referred to as functional medicine. The focus of functional medicine is to look for the root cause of symptoms by looking at the way key body systems function. Finding imbalances in key body systems and then working towards correcting them is at the center of functional medicine. Although this way of approaching medicine is growing in popularity, it is currently considered an alternative approach to allopathic care. Naturopaths, chiropractors and some medical doctors use functional medicine to look for the root cause of symptoms. They often use different types of laboratory work to look for the underlying cause of problems.   It can be a powerful tool to help patients since treatment often involves healthy lifestyle changes as well as other remedies to bring systems back into balance.

Ok, back to our patient.

I remember not hearing from her for about three months. She returned to my office indicating that her leg achiness was 100% gone. She reported that the only thing different she did since her last visit was the gluten free diet plan I had asked her to strictly adhere too. She reported the diet change was tough at first, but became easier as she began to progressively feel better.

I wanted to tell this story to help illustrate a direct cause effect relationship may be missed if we do not continue looking for a reason behind symptoms. Sometimes it can be one thing that drives symptoms. Of course, it is not always this easy. Finding the underlying problem will most likely take patience on the part of the patient and the doctor. I could have stopped trying to figure out the problem after manipulation failed this patient. However, it is as one of my mentors, Dr. William Timmons, N.D. always used to say, “you always have to ask why?….why?….why?… to get to the underlying cause”. Dr. Timmons did not like to treat the symptom by masking over it with various herbs and other modalities. He would instead strive to look for the cause. Then he would treat the cause not the symptom. As practitioners we must always ask ourselves why is the patient experiencing these problems. Functional medicine is one approach to health that helps practitioners find answers by asking why… why… why? This time, it was intolerance to gluten.  To see how gluten intolerance could be associated with symptoms such as leg achiness, read my post; Could this one thing be making you sick?

As always, you should consult with your health care professional for any health concerns. Because your health affects everything you do and everyone you know, I encourage my readers continue to educate themselves as much as possible on their own well-being.

Yours in Health,

Sean Ripp, D.C.

Nowhere to live? Nothing to eat?

“Out of work?  Nowhere to live?  Nowhere to go?  Nothing to eat? “

The above was found in the text of an article on the front page of The New York Times March 17, 2014.  The quote above was made to reference an online ad that continues, “Come to Fukushima.”  The title of the article is “Fukushima Cleaned Up by Poor and Unskilled”.

The article goes on to say that TEPCO hires contractors to carry out the hiring for the Fukushima plant.  It indicated that the contractors exploit the “destitute” “willing to carry out the hazardous decommissioning at the site.”  The article continues, “Regulators, contractors and more than 20 current and former workers interviewed in recent months say that the deteriorating labor conditions are a prime cause of a string of large leaks of contaminated water and other embarrassing errors that have already damaged the environment and, in some cases, put workers in danger.  In the worst-case scenario, experts fear, struggling workers could trigger a bigger spill or another radiological release.”

This blog was not started to write about nuclear threats to the environment and us, however, the potential negative health aspects from radioactive exposure could be severe and widespread and should not be ignored.  If you recall, the TEPCO Fukushima power plant was struck by an earthquake and tsunami that caused three reactors to meltdown in March of 2011.  As I discussed earlier in the posts, ‘Should we worry about Fukushima?’ and ‘Fukushima water to hit US west coast?’, radioactive ocean water could reach the west coast as late as this summer.

While the World Health Organization acknowledges cancer rates will probably increase in Japan as a result of the meltdown, we still cannot understand to what extent long term leaking of radioactive water into the ocean will have on our health and planet.  For now, we need to understand the perspective of people like Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.  Buesseler has been following the effects of the meltdown since the beginning and concedes more research is needed.

What has become increasingly clear, is how TEPCO operates.  It is headlines such as the New York Times article quoted above that do not give me much confidence in the decommissioning process managed by TEPCO.  Some have called for an international involvement of specialists from all over the world as an answer to the problem.

Some monitoring of ocean water is being done in California and Oregon.  Washington State is not currently monitoring ocean water at all.  This is interesting as the initial radioactive water from Fukushima is expected to reach the Washington coast as late as this summer and as early as this April.

I think it is good that people educate themselves on this topic.  We can follow the monitoring that is already being done in Oregon and California and keep track of the work being done by Ken Buesseler.  He is currently involved in crowd sourcing to fund monitoring sites along the Pacific coast by volunteers.  His project is called – “How Radioactive Is Our Ocean?”.

Yours in Health,

Sean Ripp, D.C.

 

Fukushima radioactive water to hit US west coast?

This is a follow-up to the post, Should we worry about Fukushima?

 

There has been concern over the far-reaching and long-term effects of radioactive water leaking into the Pacific Ocean since a tsunami and earthquake struck Japan in March 2011.  The two disasters combined, caused  a meltdown of 3 nuclear reactors at the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) plant.  As I stated in my post, there needs to be more research to understand the effects of the meltdown.

In a resent article from USA Today it was indicated that Ken Buesseler stated, “I’m not trying to be an alarmist.”, “We can make predictions, we can do models. But unless you have results, how will we know it’s safe?”

Ken Bruesseler is a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He has been following and monitoring Pacific Ocean radiation levels since Fukishima’s meltdown. He originally predicted the radiation in the ocean would hit the US west coast in three years.

The USA Today article made reference to a new report by stating that a “report presented last week at a conference of the American Geophysical Union’s Ocean Sciences Section showed that some Cesium 134 has already has arrived in Canada, in the Gulf of Alaska area.” Then the article goes on to say that Cesium 134 has a half-life of 2 years.

I recall that the concern over the contaminated run off was the isotopes Cesium 137 and Strontium 90.  Cesium 137 is known to cause cancer and has a half-life of 30 years. Strontium 90 is linked to bone cancer and leukemia and has a half-life of 28.8 years.

As reported in the USA Today article, “no federal agency currently samples Pacific Coast seawater for radiation,” Bruesseler said.  He and other scientists want more research.

California and Oregon currently does some testing for radioactive isotopes in the Pacific.  Currently the testing in both states revealed minimal detectable activity.

As the contaminated water is suspected to reach Seattle as late as this summer, and travel south, it will be interesting to see how the levels change as the run off water from TEPCO reaches the US coast.

Meanwhile Bruesseler is using crowd-sourced money and volunteers to monitor radioactivity within the ocean along the Pacific coast. His project is titled – “How Radioactive Is Our Ocean?”.

Yours in Health,

Sean Ripp, D.C.

Source:  http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/03/09/scientists-test-west-coast-for-fukushima-radiation/6213849/

Should we worry about Fukushima?

CNN reported on February 20, 2014, “The leak of an estimated 100 metric tons of highly contaminated water was discovered late Wednesday, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said in a statement”(1).   A BBC report indicated, “the water from Wednesday’s leak was radioactive, with a reading of 230 million becquerels per litre of radioactive isotopes”(2).   The report goes on to say that the World Health Organization “advises against drinking water with radioactivity levels higher than 10 becquerels per litre”(2).

CNN indicated that TEPCO reported the contaminated water did not go into the Pacific Ocean.   Indeed, there has been much concern over the far-reaching and long term affects of radiation in the Ocean since the meltdown of 3 reactors caused by an earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March of 2011.

In 2013 RT published an article on August 7th that stated “For the past two years, TEPCO has claimed that it managed to siphon off the excess water into specially-constructed storage tanks.  However, the company was forced to admit late last month that radioactive water was still escaping into the Pacific Ocean”(4).  In the same article when referencing the amount of contaminated water leaking into the ocean, Yushi Yoneyama, an official with the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, which regulates TEPCO was quoted as saying, “We think that the volume of water is about 300 tons a day”(4).   The RT article reported that TEPCO confirmed the leak but would not reveal the extent.

So, what progress has TEPCO made since the August 2013 article.

Apparently the contaminated ground water is still leaking into the ocean at a considerable rate.  An article written by The Guardian December 3, 2013 indicated, “TEPCO estimates that around 300 tonnes of contaminated groundwater still flow into the Pacific each day”(5).

Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, has been following and monitoring Pacific Ocean radiation levels since Fukishima’s meltdown.  He believes the initial release of radiation following the meltdown will reach the US west coast in three years.

It is good to note, that in addition to the ongoing contaminated water leaking into the Pacific, there was an initial amount of radiation released into the ocean following the Fukushima meltdown.  As an article written August 7, 2013 by National Geographic explains “the level of radioactive contamination that the plant was spewing in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, estimated to be from 5,000 to 15,000 terabecquerels, according to Buesseler.  For a comparison, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima released 89 terabecquerels of cesium-137 when it exploded”(7).

The World Health Organization acknowledges that while the cancer rates in Japan will probably increase as a result of radiation released from the Fukishima meltdown, it is unclear as to what extent long-term exposure of contaminated water leaking into the ocean will cause.

The National Geographic article goes on to say, “As Buesseler’s research has shown, tests of local fish in the Fukushima area still show high enough levels of radiation that the Japanese government won’t allow them to be caught and sold for human consumption”(7).

While reviewing the literature on radiation from Fukushima, it appears the main concerns are cesium and strontium 90(Sr-90).   Exposure to cesium 137 increases cancer risk.  Internal exposure to Sr-90 is linked to bone cancer, cancer of the soft tissue near the bone, and leukemia(9).  The National Geographic article references Buelleler as saying “Cesium is like salt—it goes in and out of your body quickly,” he explains.  “Strontium gets into your bones.”

The fact that Strontium goes into the bones means it bio-accumulates.  This means, that as fish are eaten by bigger fish, strontium 90 will accumulate in ocean life.   As people eat the fish it could end up in us as well.

It seems, that as the contaminated water leaches through the soil at Fukushima into the ocean, cesium is filtered by the soil.   Strontium is not.   This means, that as the contaminated water reaches the ocean, more bioaccumulation in organisms, including humans could occur.

Are we seeing the early results of Fukushima as millions of star fish literally melt and break apart on the US west coast from Alaska to California?

Are we seeing the effects on seals as they turn up dead, sick, with open wounds, internal ulcers, and hair-loss?

Are we seeing the effects as recent observations show the considerable decrease in salmon populations returning to spawn?

Are we seeing the effects on herring as they are found bleeding from their eyes and other various parts in fisherman nets and on beaches?

In addition to these relatively recent events, A November 22, 2013 National Geographic article referenced a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which indicated, “In March 2012, less than one percent of the seafloor beneath Station M was covered in dead sea salps.   By July 1, more than 98 percent of the bottom of the ocean was covered by decomposing organisms”(11).

Are these recent events coincidence? It is hard to say.

I am aware that both long and short term effects have been quickly minimized by some, and that the anomalies in the ocean have been written off as non-coincidental with respect to Fukushima.   What I do not understand is how some believe they can be certain of the effects it will have on the present and future, with little research on the issue.   I believe that more research is needed before we dismiss the consequences that this may have on the delicate balance of our ecosystem, and our own well-being, not only the local, but global.

Yours in Health,

Sean Ripp, D.C.

 

 

 

  1. http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/19/world/asia/japan-fukushima-daiichi-water-leak/index.html
  2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-26254140
  3. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/japans-nuclear-regulator-raps-fukushima-operator-over-radiation-readings/
  4. http://rt.com/news/japan-fukushima-nuclear-disaster-164/
  5. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/dec/03/fukushima-daiichi-tsunami-nuclear-cleanup-japan
  6. http://www.whoi.edu/profile/kbuesseler/
  7. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2013/08/130807-fukushima-radioactive-water-leak/
  8. http://www.epa.gov/radiation/radionuclides/cesium.html
  9. http://www.epa.gov/rpdweb00/radionuclides/strontium.html
  10. http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/12/fukushima-radiation-something-else-causing-mass-die-wildlife-pacific-ocean.html
  11. http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/11/22/sea-snot-explosions-feed-deep-sea-creatures/

Can stress decrease your lifespan?

 

 

Introduction

It is hard to dispute that stress is generally believed to have a negative affect on health.  But, were did this idea originate.  Although many different healing philosophies throughout time hinted at this idea, modern mainstream medicine, until recently, has been hesitant to embrace the connection.  It wasn’t until recently that this idea has been brought to the forefront of allopathic medicine.  This is important as we each face ever-increasing demands placed on us.  It is no wonder why we have become over stressed and over worked in modern society.  Recent studies have brought illumination to the mechanisms involved, and to what degree stress affects our health.  Although, we are perhaps at the beginning of understanding this area, we can use what is currently at the forefront to help bring relief for those who are suffering from the effects of stress.

 

History of mental and physical health

To understand the present perspective of stress, and how it is linked to health, we should take a look at the past to see how conditions of the mind and body were viewed.

 

There has been reference to emotional distress and its treatment since ancient times.  Indeed, there has been recorded history of its treatment since ancient Egypt.  During this time, for example, one way emotional distress was treated was by “the scribe of the house of life”(1).  In which “The Pirankh or house of life was used as a kind of retreat”.  Where, “the ill were prepared for their therapeutic dreams.  Isolation, silence and dim light were the means to put the patient in a state of receptivity with the intention of unraveling the unknown. This was akin to hypnotherapy and was probably known to the Egyptians before the Greeks’ therapeutic temples”(1).

 

In ancient India, Hindu scriptures made reference to depression and anxiety(2).  Ayurvedic Medicine, which is the traditional medicine to India and has its origins that predate the first millennium, believes that conditions of the mind and body are the result of imbalances of the Dosha’s.  The three Dosha’s are the characteristics that use dynamics in nature to describe ones constitution.  It is still believed, in Ayurveda Medicine, that balancing these Dosha’s through therapies and lifestyle changes, is paramount for mental and physical well-being.

 

In ancient Greece, Hippocrates, suggested that imbalances of the “humors,” or four fluid types, leads to disease of the mind and body.  It is interesting that Galen, an ancient Greek physician, who is credited for his understanding of medicine and anatomy, is quoted saying with reference to the physician, “He cures most successfully in whom the people have the most confidence.”  Indicating that he believed in the effect that the mind could have over health.

 

The Humoral Theory persisted through ancient Rome and into the Middle Ages.  This physical approach to medicine during the middle ages was sometimes combined with the evil spirit approach that meshed with faith issues surrounding Christianity.  It seems that the type of treatments involved dealt with flushing out the evil spirits from the body.  The spiritual and physical approach to stress manifesting as anxiety, anger, aggression, sadness, depression, and obsessions, were adopted during the Persian, Arabic, and Muslim Empire(6).

 

In the early 1600’s, René Descartes suggested, that the mind was a nonmaterial thing, and that the body was a material thing.  He proposed they both worked together for the benefit of the person. Towards the end of the 17th century, the philosophy of healing moved away from addressing the spiritual element.

 

Modern progression of understanding stress and longevity

During the 20th century, a shift in thinking by the medical establishment was under way.  In the 1930’s the term stress, was increasingly linked to mental disorders(6).  However, the dominant thought was that conditions of the brain and its behavior were somewhat isolated from the rest of the body.  This isolation approach to conditions of the mind inspired treatments ranging from drug therapy, psychotherapy, shock therapy, and o lobotomies, which were performed as late as the 1970’s.

 

One of the first modern pioneers that suggested the possibility between stress and physiology, was Walter Cannon.  In 1915 he recognized physiological changes in the body during the ‘fight or flight’ response such as increase glucose availability.  He also noticed that when animals where under emotional stress their stomach movements ceased(8,9).

 

During the 20th century, Hans Seyle proposed the theory of ‘General Adaptation Syndrome’.  He was one of the most prominentdoctors to realize the relationship between stress and the body.  He suggested emotional as well as other stresses on the body he termed “stressor,” could lead to disease.

 

Recent revelations on stress and longevity

In 1964, psychiatrist George Solomon, noticed that people with rheumatoid arthritis got worse when they were depressed. He began to investigate the impact emotions had on inflammation and the immune system in general(9).  He coined the term “Psychoimmunology”. Later to be termed “psychoneuroimmunology” by Robert Ader in 1975.

 

Robert Ader performed one of the first studies to show “that the nervous system could affect the immune system”(9).  “To condition the rats, he used a combination of saccharine-laced water and the drug Cytoxan which induces nausea and suppresses the immune system. Ader was surprised to discover that after conditioning, just feeding the rats saccharine-laced water was sufficient to suppress the immune system of the rats. In other words, a signal via the nervous system (taste) was affecting immune function”(9).  Even though this was a study on rats, the change in thinking that the workings of the brain could affect physiology, was revolutionary thinking.

 

The study of Psychoneuroimmunology, or PNI, has opened the door to the medical community, that a relationship exists between well-being and stress.  The study of PNI in essence, legitimatizes the relationship between emotional stress and health by attempting to explain scientifically the physiological relationship between the mind and body.

 

The idea that cognitive manifestations effect different body systems is evolving to an area of ever increasing interest as more research is being done.  PNI understands psychosocial factors, such as stress, bereavement, or divorce, and how it can change or deplete immune performance and alter neuroendocrine function. Through the study of PNI, it has been found that emotional stress has been implicated in dysfunction of the immune system.  It is through this dysfunction of the immune system that changes in blood vessel walls can lead to coronary artery disease, stroke, or congestive heart failure. In addition, it is thought that the immune system gone awry can lead to osteoporosis, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, periodontal disease, and cancers such as multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia.  There is also evidence that chronic stress dampens the immune response that could lead to prolonged infection. For instance, it was noted in military cadets that displayed high motivation predicted a greater susceptibility to Eptstein-Barr virus infection(16).  In addition, it was found that medical students who reported greater test associated anxiety did not produce adequate antibodies to the hepatitis B vaccine(16).  Additionally, the effects of stress can be related to seemingly unrelated health outcomes.  For example,  “Psychological factors have also been implicated in the onset and exacerbation of various skin disorders, including allergic inflammatory process in atopic dermatitis”(13).  In another example, “among dental students, healing of an oral punch biopsy wound took 40% longer during exams than during summer vacation”(16).  Also, longer postoperative hospital stays are associated with immune system dysfunction(16).  It is clear from these examples that stress has an impact on health.  The question that arises is what is the nature of the harmful stress that causes these problems.

 

Although immune changes appear in situations of acute stress it is believed that chronic stress carries the most adverse affects.  For example “In a study in which volunteers were inoculated with several different strains of cold viruses, stressors that lasted a month or more were the best predictors of developing colds” and it is noted that in the case of caregivers “Immune dysregulation can persist several years or more after caregiving ends” additionally “Marital discord, a persistent interpersonal stressor, has been associated with poorer immune function”(16).  Along with the chronicity of the stress, the severity of a stressful event may have long lasting effects on the immune system as well.  “Immune dysregulation can persist several years or more after caregiving ends” and “Immunological changes have been documented for weeks or months after such natural disasters as earthquakes and hurricanes”(16).

 

Also gaining more momentum is the idea of the effect of emotional stress on the hormonal system.  This is understood through what is recognized as the chronic stress response.  In this response, what is known as a stressor, induces the hypothalamus to release chemical messengers in the body through the HPA Axis.  This then results in the release of the stress hormone, cortisol, from the adrenal glands.  The ‘stressor’ can be emotional in nature such as anger, fear, anxiety, worry, depression, guilt, and mental strain.  It is important to note that physiological stress such as loss of sleep, infection, trauma, pain, toxin exposure, indigestion, etc. can also elicit cortisol production. The release of cortisol is a healthy response to a short-lived stressor such as, a bear chasing a person in the woods.  In this scenario, cortisol would increase glucose in the blood for fuel for the body and mind to help the individual escape from the bear.  The problem occurs when the stress is chronic.  Cortisol is a catabolic hormone.  This means that it tears down the body tissues.  In a state of chronic stress the increase in cortisol secretion for long periods of time can lead to muscle wasting, increase in blood sugar levels, osteoporosis, immune suppression, and fat accumulation around the waist.  With prolonged exposure to stress the adrenal glands can become fatigued leading to the possibility of adrenal exhaustion.  It should be noted that some of the results of impaired adrenal function are stress inducers themselves such as disease, depression, irritability, feelings of frustration, and nervousness thus feeding back into the stress response loop.  It can be suggested that the negative result of the stress response could facilitate an ongoing adrenal dysregulation compounding the negative health affects.

In 2009, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2009, was jointly awarded to Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak, for the discovery in the early 1980’s of “how chromosomes are protected 
by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase”.  As Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn indicates in a CBS 2009 interview with Scott Pelley:  “If you think of a strand of DNA as a shoelace, the telomere is the plastic tip on the end. It protects the DNA from damage. Telomeres naturally get thinner as we age, and the thinner they get, the thinner the protection.”  Telomeres are involved when the DNA replicates itself and this replication is the bases of how our cells reproduce to create more cells.  When the ability of cells to reproduce is compromised then we get signs of aging.  Indeed, in another study in 2009 co-authored by Dr. Blackburn, it was indicated the not only does the telomere “shorten with chronological age”, the length of the telomere “predicts risk factors for cardiovascular disease independent of age, and is shortened in people with age related diseases, including atherosclerosis and diabetes”(21).  When referring to a study Dr. Blackburn co-authored that looked at telomere length of mothers who cared for their chronically ill child, Dr. Blackburn continues in the interview by saying, “We were astounded that they were absolutely, consistently showing that the shorter the telomeres were, the worse stress people had had. … That said, that these cells … aged much faster than they should have been aging if they had not had that stress. Dr. Blackburn goes on to say, “It was as though there had been in excess of 10 years of extra aging in these individuals’ blood cells. … And that’s actually an underestimate. That’s a very conservative estimate.”

 

Perception of stress

Now that we understand stress and the relationship to longevity more thoroughly through these different mechanisms, it is important to now take a look at what type of stress has harmful affects on our health.  In addition, to the severity and chronicity of stress there is growing evidence to suggest that perceived stress correlates directly to the health of an individual.  It also appears that the type of perception matters when it comes to how stress affects the body.  A person may feel a type of stress that is a “threat” if they feel that it is harmful to them and cannot be overcome.   A stress that is perceived as a “challenge” is the perception that a stress can be overcome.  The perception of a threat is associated with cellular aging and is considered harmful vs. the perception of a challenge(21).  It is critical to mention that the perception of stress is correlated with the feeling of control over the stressor(21).  The greater the feeling of control over the stressor the greater the perception of the stress being a challenge instead of perceived as a threat(21).  Therefore, a feeling of being empowered to handle stress throughout the day appears to reduce the harmful affects of stress.

 

What can we do?

Escaping stress is nearly impossible in today’s world.  We may be able to limit our exposure to stress; however, it is unlikely that we can eliminate it altogether.  It is believed that modalities, that help make a cognitive shift within an individual to feel empowered and improve self-image, can help reduce the risk of stress related aging and disease.

 

The goal of this report was to present some of the most up to date ways found to address the aging effects of stress.  This list cannot be considered exhaustive when searching for what works for everyone.  These are just some of the techniques found in the new research that appear to improve health by the alleviation of stress.

 

Mindfulness meditation is a focus on the moment. It helps situations that are stressful to be perceived as less threatening, while at the same time, help the person let go of the feeling that they need to be in control(21).  Research has demonstrated that mindfulness mediation may reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and chronic pain(25).

 

Transcendental meditation helps the mind “settle inward beyond thought to experience the source of thought – pure awareness”(26).  It is highly studied in universities and medical schools for its positive health affects.  In addition, it seems to attract celebrities such as Jerry Seinfeld and Hugh Jackman.

 

Cognitive Behavioral Management (CBSM) is a technique that includes meditation and can be effective at shifting the perception of stress from threatening to a challenge. It  also has been shown to lower cortisol reactivity in response to a stressor(21).

 

Hypnosis can reduce interleukin 6 (IL-6).  High IL-6 in the blood stream is linked to psychological stress and is part of the physiological stress response.  IL-6 is a Proinflammatory cytokine, which means it is a major communicator in the inflammation pathway.  A higher than normal IL-6 has been associated with an elevated mortality rate from cardiovascular disease(16).  Elevated blood IL-6 levels predict future disability in older adults(16).  IL-6 was found to be decreased following a 12 week hypnosis listening program(25).  In addition, positive cognitive changes where found as the participants’ appraisal of a threat was minimized(25).  Further, the participants reported to have a significant decrease in the use of negative appraisal coping (such as, self-deprecating statements, perfectionism, and catastrophic and pessimistic thinking)(26).

 

Exercise is also an important part of the arsenal to combat the effects of stress.  Exercise increases self-confidence and promotes a sense of control over stresses in life.  Among the many benefits of exercise it also promotes a good nights sleep.  It is also important for people to remember to follow their health professionals’ advice regarding an exercise program to minimize the effects of stress.

 

It is important to maintain healthy habits.  Negative behavioral changes in people that are under stress for prolonged periods of time may manifest.  They may present as shifts in lifestyle that may affect longevity such as loss of sleep, increased smoking, increased alcohol consumption, deterioration of health regimes such as exercise or eating well, and poor adherence to medical prescriptions.

 

Summary

It is the goal of this report to help people understand how stress affects individual health and also the type of stress that causes health issues.  The role stress plays in our longevity can no longer be overlooked.  It is important to take steps to address stress in our lives.  The techniques found to be effective in this report allow the individual the ability to attack stress at the root cause rather than attempt to micromanage thousands of different stressful scenarios and circumstances that are forever changing within our lives.  Instead, it appears that by addressing how stress is perceived will have the most profound impact in reducing the consequences of stress.  Although, stress is nearly impossible to remove from our lives, this report illuminates some of the avenues available to help take control over stress for optimal health.

 

Please continue to educate yourselves in this area, because your health affects everything you do, and everyone you know.

 

Yours in Health,

 

Sean Ripp, D.C.

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

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