stress and inflammation management

Stress and stimulants (such as caffeine) increases blood glucose levels that in turn increase inflammation. As such, excess blood glucose can make inflammation more chronic

  • Insulin released to allow cellular uptake of glucose from the blood for use in dealing with stress has an anti-inflammatory effect by reducing blood glucose
  • If cells are resistant to the effects of insulin, blood glucose levels will remain elevated causing inflammation and levels of insulin in the blood will remain high
  • Insulin itself has inflammatory effects in converting Omega 6 fatty acids for use in forming inflammatory compounds
  • Increased insulin levels resulting from either chronically elevated blood glucose levels due to stress, stimulants or insulin resistance is inflammatory

Chronic stress also leads to imbalances in other hormones, such as the thyroid hormones by negatively effecting the function of the Thyroid gland. Optimal Thyroid function is needed to ensure uptake of Omega 3 oils into cell membranes and altering the function of those cells for anti-inflammatory effects. Through this pathway, chronic stress has effects in promoting inflammation.

In addition, long term stress also raises IL-6 levels and IL-6 promotes inflammation

So let’s bring down those stress levels and in doing so lower painful inflammation! Below are some key factors involved in reducing stress as well as key strategies.

Key Factors involved in reducing stress

  • Ensure liver breakdown of stress hormones through liver support
  • Thyroid support includes ensuring reduced stress and ensuring adequate and judicious intake of mineral Iodine (excess or insufficient intake of Iodine inhibits thyroid function)
  • Reduce intake of stimulants such as nicoteen and caffeine
    • Stimulants increase the stress response and also place an extra burden of toxic substances needed to be broken down by the liver
    • Stimulants also inhibit stress hormone breakdown (in the case of caffeine and its effect on adrenalin breakdown)
    • Caffeine intake increases the risk and incidence of inflammation in Rheumatoid Arthritis patients

Key benefits and strategies for using exercise in stress and inflammation management

  • Exercise improves mood, increases metabolic rate and increases energy levels
  • Exercise assists in managing stress and processing stress hormones
  • Exercise benefits the immune system through down-regulating IL-6, increasing motility of lymph fluids and clearing of immune (and metabolic) wastes
  • Exercise is also key for strengthening joints and bones and improving joint motility in arthritis and osteoporosis treatment
    • Water exercises are most beneficial due to lack of joint stress
    • Tai Chi and Yoga can be extremely beneficial especially with regards to calming the nervous system and down-regulating stress responses.

Alternative strategies for stress and pain / inflammation management

  • Mind body therapy can help with stress management: for example journal writing about stressful events in order to clear them, in addition to journaling positive emotions
  • Meditation and mindfulness training is beneficial for pain and stress management
  • Meditative practices such as guided imagery, hypnosis, relaxation and positive mental attitude are beneficial is promoting homeostasis
  • Laughter can help by promoting positive emotions that enhance homeostasis
  • Additional strategies include being creative, finding meaning in life, trying new things, having positive relationships and the possible use of psychotherapy
  • Acupuncture and Laser Therapy both have low risks and high success rates in alleviating pain and swelling.

Adapted from:

Rakel, D. (2007). Integrative Medicine. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders

Holford, P. (2009). Say no to Arthritis. London, UK: Paitkus

Murray, M. (2001). Total body tune-up. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Press

Kiecolt-Glaser, J.K., Preacher, K.J., MacCallum, R.C., Atkinson, C.A., Malarkey, W.B., Glaser, R. (2003). Chronic stress and age-related increases in the proinflammatory cytokine IL-6. Proceedings of the national academy of sciences, 100 (15).

Straub, R. H. and Cutolo, M. (2001). Involvement of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal/gonadal axis and the peripheral nervous system in rheumatoid arthritis: Viewpoint based on a systemic pathogenetic role. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 44: pp. 493–507. doi: 10.1002/1529-0131(200103)44:3<493::AID-ANR95>3.0.CO;2-U

Ernest H S Choy, & Gabriel S Panayi. (2001). Cytokine pathways and joint inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis. The New England Journal of Medicine, 344(12), 907-16. Retrieved May 18, 2012, from ProQuest Health and Medical Complete. (Document ID: 69894911).

Kharrazian, D. (2009). Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal: A Revolutionary Breakthrough In Understanding Hashimoto’s Disease and Hypothyroidism. New York, N.Y.: Morgan James Publishing

M Heliovaara, K Aho, P Knekt, O Impivaara, & et al. (2000). Coffee consumption, rheumatoid factor, and the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, 59(8), 631-5. Retrieved May 18, 2012, from ProQuest Health and Medical Complete. (Document ID: 57941890).


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