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Stress and Allergy

 

Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you're having a really tough day, you sneeze a lot and your skin feels itchier? It's not a coincidence, your emotions may have been the trigger. Researchers are now finding that certain allergic disorders like hay fever, eczema and asthma are regulated, in part, by hormones and brain chemicals released into the bloodstream in response to stress. When it rains, it really does pour.(1)(2)(3)(4)

The nervous system is the interpreter of which events are "stressful" and determines how the body responds to the stress. Negative emotional responses disturb the carefully constructed equilibrium of the brain systems, putting some parts into overdrive and others into underdrive. The body produces a number of factors including hormones (e.g., cortisol) and neurotransmitters (e.g., adrenalin) which, in turn, can influence other systems in the body such as the immune system. If this imbalance goes on unchecked and becomes persistent, long-term damage and disease can result. In other words, it is the wear-and-tear from chronic overactivity or underactivity that is potentially damaging.(5)

In other words, it is the wear-and-tear from chronic overactivity or underactivity that is potentially damaging.

Acute Stress v. Chronic Stress
It is important to distinguish between acute stress and chronic stress. The body's response to a dangerous situation ("acute stress"), the so-called "fight or flight" response, helps us protect ourselves against an immediate threat. In these acute stress situations, getting your adrenalin going is a good way of protecting yourself. But if your reaction goes on too long because the stress continues day in and day out, the body's defenses may be altered and become less able to respond in helpful ways.(6) It is in situations of chronic stress that disruption of this ideal balance in stress hormones and neurotransmitters may happen.

Researchers have found that allergies often involve a complicated relationship between mobilized white blood cells, T lymphocytes, and chemicals ("cytokines") produced as a result of the activation.(7)(8)(9)(10)(11)(12) The cytokines cause other immune cells or white blood cells, e.g., mast cells and basophils, to release additional inflammatory substances that bring on an allergic response in sensitive tissues, for example, nasal and sinus passages ("rhinitis"), skin ("eczema") and airways ("asthma").(13)(14)(15)

Psychological Stress and Oxidative Stress

Another possible mechanism linking stress to allergy is through so-called oxidative stress pathways. It has been speculated that people who suffer from allergies are unable to detoxify certain oxygen molecules that arise from normal metabolism or from outside toxins such as tobacco smoke or air pollution. Psychological stress may be an additional environmental factor that worsens this oxidative toxicity and increases airway inflammation.(4)(23)

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Readers Comments
(2) Comments have been made

abdul
I never had allergy. After being stressed for a long time I've been having skin rashes,itching. Now when the stress is fading away, the allergy symptoms are fading away too.
Posted Wed, Mar. 30, 2011 at 4:49 am EDT
 
Barry
Is it possible for someone to have so much stress for a long time that they are very hyper-allergenic? Severe runny nose and sneezing.
Posted Tue, Feb. 15, 2011 at 6:50 pm EST










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