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Dr. Zafirides How Stress Causes Illness: It’s All About Inflammation

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Peter Zafirides, Apr 10, 2012.

  1. Peter Zafirides

    Peter Zafirides Physician

    Hi Everyone,

    I'm sorry I haven't been on the Wiki for a while. I will do my best to try to post here more often.

    I thought the group would be interested in the latest research out of Carnegie Mellon University. This study revealed the actual mechanism by which stress (emotion) causes physical illness. Here are the details of this story:


    This is yet another example of how science is beginning to understand the science behind stress and illness - Psychophysiologic Disorders.

    - Dr. Zafirides
    dabatross, Forest and Enrique like this.
  2. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    That's a fascinating study. Basically, as I understand it, it seems to be saying that the way that stress can impact diseases such as cardiovascular problems, asthma, autoimmune disorders, and even the common cold, is by preventing our body from being able to control its inflammation.

    My understanding of inflammation is that it is a series of chemical reactions that occur within our bodies that tell the local cells that they are under attack, either by an infection or by physical damage. While it can save our lives if there is a real infection or physical damage, over time chronic inflammation can hurt us because it basically tells our bodies to prepare themselves to become battlegrounds. Examples of inflammation would be the pain that we feel when we get cut or bruised, or the sensitivity of our skin when we get allergies.

    I've actually always found inflammation to be a somewhat difficult subject to understand. Did I get that about right? I'm sure I made some mistakes somewhere.
  3. Steve

    Steve New Member

    Thanks for sharing.
    For those curious, a more detailed study writeup can be found here:
    Click on "abstracts" on the left side, then it's the first link.

    I think it's worth noting the study documents the impact of stress on immune system; specifically stress increases the likelihood of catching a cold. When it refers to "inflammation", it is NOT referring to joint inflammation like that experienced in joint injury but something at a cellular level that I can't and won't try to explain.

    This certainly fits with the common wisdom/ experience that we're more likely to get sick when stressed. Taking steps to reduce stress is certainly smart.

    While the study does show a strong mind-body connection, it could also be misread to one's detriment.
    One might read the headline and conclude that anti-inflammatory meds would be helpful, but Dr. Sarno is clear they're not.

    The phenomenon being discussed in this paper is quite different from what's going with TMS. With TMS, the unconscious mind is creating pain (through oxygen deprivation) but clearly not doing any physical damage.

    Also, I wouldn't want people to hear about this study and start/continue worrying that TMS is actually going to hurt them (other than perhaps making them more susceptible to colds).
    The testimonials of thousands of recovered TMSers who are living pain free is proof of the lack of physical damage.
  4. dabatross

    dabatross Well known member

    Thanks Dr. Zafirides for posting this for sure going to read it. I think it would be great if you kept up exploring mind body syndrome and PPD in general because I think there is a lot more to it than just the distraction strategy which has been talked about in Sarno's books. I listened to some of your podcasts (I liked the Shubiner one you did) and maybe you could feature more information on your site about how other things can influence PPD/MBS like fear, anxiety, the way we pay attention (something I've brought up on this forum which is talked about in a book called Dissolving Pain), obsessiveness and MBS, etc. I personally don't think the distraction strategy applies to every single case of TMS some could be fear based or just plain obsessed with getting rid of the pain so it sticks around. I would very much appreciate if you delved more into these topics as well.

    Thank you
    veronica73 likes this.
  5. quert

    quert Guest

  6. Peter Zafirides

    Peter Zafirides Physician


    Thanks for your reply. Your points are well taken. The study I referenced looked at the change in inflammation in general due to stress. It is inflammation that is implicated in many chronic illnesses today - hypertension, diabetes and even depression. I was simply trying to illustrate how stress (emotion) has physical implications in the body. The more people understand the mind-body connection, the more they are equipped to approach TMS.

    As far as we know - the TMS phenomenon does not appear to have an inflammatory origin. Keep in mind that the oxygen deprivation theory by Dr. Sarno is simply that - a theory. There have been small studies that have inferred oxygen deprivation as a causative factor for pain, but pain is such a complex phenomenon. We know phantom-limb pain occurs, for example. There are theories as to exactly why this happens in some, but why not in others? Again, it is very complex.

    This is not to take away from Dr. Sarno's theory at all. I do like his theory based on oxygen deprivation. I have also not found anti-inflammatory meds to be all that helpful in TMS pain.

    Thanks for your comments!

    Dr. Z
  7. Peter Zafirides

    Peter Zafirides Physician

  8. Peter Zafirides

    Peter Zafirides Physician

    That's a pretty good analysis of inflammation. Inflammation can cause all types of damage - from the by-products of the inflammation and the anti-inflammatory response. No wonder it is so important in chronic illness.
  9. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Dr. Zafirides - Thanks so much for responding to everyone's questions. It is so great to hear your ideas and opinions. The mind body phenomenon has such a wide spread affect on our overall health. It's so true that having a better understanding of this mind-body connection will help people better understand PPD/TMS and their own symptoms. If anyone hasn't checked it out yet, I highly recommend spending some time looking over the articles on Dr. Z's Healthy Mind website.
  10. Steve

    Steve New Member

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply. It's great having someone with your expertise contributing to this forum!

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