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Dept. of Joint Negotiations

Cortisol Capers

Did you know that when the body is under stress, it produces a hormone called cortisol? The hormone provides energy that might be needed in a stressful situation.It also lowers the body's immune response to infections like influenza;  inflammation and inflammation-related responses like coughing, sneezing and fevers. So, while it lowers the immune response, there's a bit of an upside because it also depresses the things we don't like about the flu, for example; the coughing, the sneezing and the fever.

But when cortisol levels stay elevated - say, under periods of prolonged stress - the body may become less sensitive to it. When researchers at Carnegie Mellon tested this idea* by exposing healthy adults to cold viruses, they found that people who'd recently been through stressful experiences were most likely to show resistance to cortisol. They were also more likely to develop colds - and they produced cytokines, immune system components that promote inflammation and heighten the severity of symptoms.

Have brief periods of stress, and a correspondingly brief jump in your cortisol levels could allow you to operate more efficiently and even depress the symptoms of infections you get because of your correspondingly lowered immune system.

Have extended periods of stress, and all that cortisol in your system will do less and less good; in fact, your body will produce another chemical that will increase and heighten the severity of all the symptoms that cortisol fought.

I just learned that. And now I'm that much closer to understanding why, when my stress level goes from Defcon Three to Defcon Two (we're never at less than Defcon Three here at Casa Kaffyr,) my body's sclerodermically wonky immune system responds by inflaming my wrists, my toes, my ankles, my fingers, the tops of my feet and the backs of my hands,  making them so hot and sore that it hurts to wash my hands or put socks on.

We had our first negotiation session today. Guess how my joints have reacted?

But right now I'm kind of gleeful, all that notwithstanding. Not about the pain, but about what I learned.

I mean, yeah, the common wisdom (an oxymoronic phrase if ever there was one) has been that stress can lead to ailments. And, yeah, there are have been numerous studies linking stress to illness (which, I suppose, means that in this case the common wisdom isn't quite so oxymoronic as it might otherwise be aaaaaand I'm rambling). But reading about this study really helps me understand my own body, and gives me a more concrete idea of why - and, more importantly for me, how -  my own stress-illness connection works.

And yes, somehow that's more worth talking about than the day of negotiations.

Oh, and I'm really, really close to finishing Chapter 17. I know I said that earlier, but I'm even closer now. Really. Maybe by the end of the weekend. I feel positively breathless.

*Findings of the study were published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This entry was originally posted at http://kaffyr.dreamwidth.org/232381.html?mode=reply, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. You can comment there or here; I watch both.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 23rd, 2012 05:34 am (UTC)
I like you!
Aug. 24th, 2012 04:47 am (UTC)
Heh; thanks! I like you, too!
Aug. 23rd, 2012 05:46 am (UTC)
Well, that explains a lot about my summer. Hope the pain and inflammation is at least manageable.
Aug. 24th, 2012 04:50 am (UTC)
Oh, I'm so sorry that your summer had both stress and pain! My bad bouts are generally only a couple of days at a time these days. In between, the pain is at a constant, but that's easy to deal with, as I'm sure you know.

Take care, and may the stress and pain lift soon, if they haven't done so yet.
Aug. 23rd, 2012 02:51 pm (UTC)
Dude...see what you can do about that. I just recommend NOT shooting people. Tis an EASY fix, but it doesn't work for the interim and only leads to MORE stress later. But there is a lot to be said for THINKING it. And porn. Lots of porn.

*Gets back to porn*
Aug. 24th, 2012 05:15 am (UTC)
So far, I've not wanted to shoot anyone. But you're right - it's like my best beloved says about how to deal with child-rearing. "It's alright to imagine dismembering them. In fact, imagine away, because it helps you blow steam off. Just don't do it.

Porn, too, can be a stress reliever. Heh. (At least if it's written by someone like you.)
Aug. 24th, 2012 05:25 am (UTC)
I think I love BB, lol! *Sends a squish for him*

Mmmm...indeed. But we will not discuss my scribbles right now. They upset me, raise my cortisol levels (and my blood pressure) and make me want to hurt things that DO NOT EXIST ON THIS PLANE. Which is even more frustrating.

I am thinking of taking up knitting, fishing or drinking, though technically, they are all the same thing...

*Squishes you adoringly*
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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