How certain types of stress makes you sick

written by Meena Azzollini

Young woman having asthma attack or choking

Credit:123RF

Stresses in our lives can cause havoc with our minds – making us anxious, upset and distressed. But certain types of stress also plays an underlying role in our health often showing up as allergic reactions, irritable bowel syndrome or asthma.

During stressful situations, mast-cells become highly activated leading to these mast-cell associated diseases.

When the body is experiencing extreme stress, the CRF1 tells the mast cells to release chemical substances that can lead to inflammatory and allergic diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, life-threatening food allergies and autoimmune disorders such as lupus.

One chemical substance called histamine is known to help the body get rid of invading allergens, dust, pollen, or protein from certain foods like peanuts and shellfish. The histamine will cause an allergic reaction and in normal circumstances, the body will get rid of the allergens.

But in some cases the patient may have severe allergy or is highly stressed, then the stress response is even greater with more severe symptoms such as troubled breathing, anaphylactic shock and even death.

But what is the biological mechanism behind this activation of mast cells and resulting disease pathology during a stressful situation?

For this study, researchers investigated the role of corticotropin-releasing factor receptor subtype 1 (CRF1) in mast cell activation and the onset of associated disease.

The researchers compared histamine responses in two sets of mice. One group of mice was considered “normal “with CRF1 receptors in their mast cells and the other group had no CRF1 cells in their mast cells.

The mice experienced two types of stress conditions – psychological stress condition and allergic stress condition. In both types of stresses, the immune system becomes overworked.

While the “normal” mice exposed to stress showed high histamine and disease levels, the mice without CRF1 receptors had low levels of histamine and disease and seemed to be protected from other types of stresses.

The CRF1 deficient mice exposed to allergic stress showed a 54 percent reduction in disease, while those exposed to psychological stress showed a 63 percent decrease.

This shows that CRF1 receptors in the mast cells are critically associated with some diseases brought on by stress.

When the body is experiencing extreme stress, the CRF1 tells the mast cells to release chemical substances that can lead to inflammatory and allergic diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, asthma, life-threatening food allergies and autoimmune disorders such as lupus.

This study helps decode how stress responses are initiating everyday disorders like asthma and other debilitating diseases and could change the way we treat these diseases.

Perhaps, this study will provide the pathway needed to understand how stress disrupts the mind-body connection and help improvise therapies to improve the quality of life for people suffering from everyday stress and stress-related symptoms.

Source: Journal of Leukocyte Biology


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Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!