The close relationship between Stress and Inflammation

In my previous blog I discussed how we can self manage chronic pain. Many would agree that one of the main causes for chronic pain stems from inflammation. But interestingly enough, scientific research in recent times has shown a strong link between stress and inflammation. I’m sure you would agree that the words inflammation, anti inflammatory, stress and anxiety are expressions used a lot in modern day society. So it is no surprise that these two key words, stress and inflammation are very much linked together; creating many physiological and psychological issues for people.

Scientists have started researching the role the immune system has on the body and how inflammation is a protective mechanism. Scientists are starting to delve deeper into the field of neuroimmunology. They are beginning to see a link between the mind and body and how we are able to keep inflammation in check. By researching and finding ways to manage inflammation can really help millions of people globally. They can self manage inflammation. This will help prevent further assaults on their body from modern day society, which can damage their physical and mental health further.

Charles Serhan, an immunologist at Harvard Medical School has recently said, “There’s no question, inflammation is everything. In the post-genomic era, understanding inflammation is the next frontier.”

So how does inflammation occur?

Inflammation is part of the immune response. It is the first line of defence, without inflammation our body would be taken over by numerous foreign agents. Our body is amazing! We have many protective barriers throughout the body to block the passage of foreign agents entering. But every now and again an injury or infection will occur when these protective barriers are breached. When this happens a familiar sight can be seen - redness, swelling, heat and pain. How do these signs/symptoms create a protective and healing mechanism to the body? Let’s consider the processes.

REDNESS occurs as a result of the secretion of cytokines from damaged cells. This actions creates a surge of blood flow to the affected area. It creates an alarm bell action to notify the rest of the body that there has been a breach of the security walls, as it were. This allows the rest of the immune system to gather its arsenal to fight the intruder.

HEAT occurs due to the large amount of blood flow. This creates a warm area as the blood vessels dilate. Obviously if the blood vessels dilate, they are closer to the skin’s surface and the heat can be felt.

SWELLING occurs as a results of the blood vessels allowing fluid and white blood cells to leak out and flood the tissue. In order for this to occur, blood vessels have to become more permeable. This permeability allows cells to attack and eat the foreign agents. I have often used the analogy of the immune action at this stage to the ‘Pac Man’ computer game. If you can recall, Pac Man travels around and gobbles up other components in the game. This is very similar to the immune response when swelling occurs. After this ‘Pac Man’ stage, the swelling also helps to clear up debris.

So technically speaking when we see how the inflammatory process works, it is a brilliant mechanism to deal with acute inflammation. But unfortunately in today’s society we are bombarded with many stressful triggers which knock the natural state of balance or homeostasis upside down. Poor diet, obesity, stress and pollution are just a few of the triggers which keep the human body in a cycle of anxiety and fear, ready to deal with the next onslaught. This is not a healthy mindset or environment to live in. This type of life creates a constant background inflammation, plus we begin holding our bodies in a very constricted posture to cope with modern day trials and ailments. The longer the body is exposed to inflammation, the greater damage and problems occur on the body.

Let’s consider the common head cold for instance. We may have experienced a head cold which just seems to linger longer than usual. At the same time we developed the head cold we may have had a lot of stress and pressure. This heightened level of stress continued to keep the inflammatory response switched on for longer than needed.

A recent study has shown how that nearly 300 people who suffered with stress and other stress related brain activity had high levels of C-reactive protein. This is a marker for inflammation which is also linked to cardiovascular disease. Why would this be the case? The research showed that due to the inflammatory response being high, there was an increase in white blood cell circulation. This led to fatty plaques building up on the walls of the arteries, leading to a greater risk of the formation of blood clots, heart attack or stroke.

In Somatics, we know how dangerous stress is on the body and so we use skills acquired from the modality to reduce stress responses on the SOMA (mind and body). The modality works at reversing habitually tight muscles which can occur from living in a subconscious mindset, doing the same activities day in day out, mindlessly. This habitual behaviour can also include what we think day in and day out. Are we negative? Are we critical? Are we easily offended or hyper sensitive? Are your thought patterns holding you back or causing you to feel deeply unhappy and unworthy? As with any habit, it takes focus and willingness to change these old habits. But thanks to neuroplasticity (discussed in my previous blogs), we can change the wiring of our brain to move, think, speak and live a more efficient, productive and positive way of life…at any age.

So have you reached a point when you may ask yourself, “why did I get so old so quickly? Why am I living in a cycle of stress?” These questions pop up to many people over their lifetime. But the key point to take from this self analysis is that we can work with our mind and body to help reduce stress which has been linked with inflammation.

From what has been discussed in previous blogs and on the Mindfulness with Total Somatics online program, we can educate and empower our self with skills and knowledge to take back control of our health and well being. We can use Somatics to relax the muscle tension which in turn will reduce the level of inflammation in our body. A research team led by Lisbeth Berrueta at the Harvard Medical School experimented with rats to see the effects of exercise on their body. They studied rats with inflammation in their back. In the research they ensured the rats lengthened and relaxed their back muscles twice a day. When they did this the muscles released Resolvins. Resolvins are chemicals that are part of the immune system. They help to mop up any remaining cytokines and other debris (remember my analogy earlier of “Pac Man”). So when resolvins were released in the muscles of rats, it allowed them to regain movement and heal quickly.

So we know that when we pandiculate muscles in Somatics, we are retraining the brain to work more efficiently and release long held muscle tension. But additional to the positive effects of pandiculation (contract, release and relaxation of muscles), we see from Harvard Medical School that when we lengthen our muscles as part of a pandiculation, the chemicals Resolvins are released to improve overall muscle health and reduce inflammation.

That is why Mindfulness with Total Somatics works well. In the comfort of your own home you can learn Somatics and mindfulness skills. This will educate and empower you to take back control of your health and reduce inflammation and pain. When we take back control of your health and well being, you are able to enjoy a better quality of life.

Join me today at and experience the amazing results Somatics can have on you.

Take care, Heidi Hadley xx

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