Daily Quote

"A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses."

Hippocrates (460BC - 377 BC)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My Story - Part 3

After I overcame the initial onset of JRA and went into remission, I stayed fairly healthy for a number of years. I had a minor flare up when I was in the 5th grade and another one when I was in the 10th grade. We treated both of those with clay poultices, proper diet and minor anti inflammatory medication.
My worst flare up started when I graduated from college. I'm not exactly sure why it happened, but I have a theory about the factors that contributed to the flare up (which hasn't really stopped). I can contribute it to the chronic stress. First, I graduated from college and started my first job in the real world, working 8-5, paying bills. That transition from college life to the real world wasn't easy. I didn't really like my job and wasn't sure about my future prospects. What should I do with my life? In what direction should I be heading? I never really thought about it up until then. Before I just did what I was supposed to do: go to school, work, study, party, enjoy the college life. I couldn't find my place when it was over. Needless to say, uncertainty created tension and stress.
Secondly, I was going through spiritual trials during that time too, attempting to understand and define my values and find my faith. And in part the cause for that was related to my first point. I have found myself, but it's still a journey, that will continue for a life time.
Lastly, I was getting serious about my relationship with my future wife; we were considering marriage. I was happy and nervous at the same time: happy because I was going to marry the woman I love and nervous because I didn't know what marriage would be like. It's a change to go from being single and not answering to anyone, and then being interdependent and in a way giving up a part of who you are.
I'm not opposed to change and try to embrace it the best I can, but I think at that time I was overwhelmed with the reality of life and all the changes and turbulence that came with it. If it was just one thing, it would have been easier to deal with, but the combination of all the factors that I described above, caused a great deal of chronic stress for me. It's gotten a great deal easier; we humans can adapt quite well to changes in our lives. But I'm still adjusting, still trying to make sense of it all and learn how to deal with stress and find direction in my life. I believe that more than anything else contributed to my JRA flare up. Granted, I'm genetically more predisposed than others to the disease, but I'm certain that a combination of those experiences became a continuing trigger for my condition. The trick is to figure out how to deal with it in the best way possible, using all methods available. Step number one, is confronting what you face, becoming aware of it, admitting it to yourself and then educating yourself...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System

"...Cytokine expression represents a relatively new and promising example of an avenue for research linking stress, immune change, and disease. For example, chronic stress may elicit prolonged secretion of cortisol, to which white blood cells mount a counterregulatory response by downregulating their cortisol receptors. This downregulation, in turn, reduces the cells’ capacity to respond to anti-inflammatory signals and allows cytokine-mediated inflammatory processes to flourish. Stress therefore might contribute to the course of diseases involving excessive nonspecific inflammation and thereby increase risk for excess morbidity and mortality..."
Suzanne C. Segerstrom and Gregory E. Miller

I've suspected for some time that short term and, even more so, chronic stress can contribute to negative immune response and flare ups in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. There still haven't been too many studies in this area, but the majority of them show a positive correlation between prolonged stress and negative immune response. Since chronic stress may "elicit prolonged secretion of cortisol", I wonder if there is a higher than average percentage of people with RA that suffer some type of kidney disease or deficiency?!