Stress, Coping, and the Immune System


Are you inflammed about your inflammation?

Normal inflammation hurts. 

For example, when you have a cut or a bruise you have swelling, redness and pain.  Silent inflammation is not painful and can be found in the internal tissues and organs.  Silent inflammation can be reversed with a change in diet.  Increased refined carbohydrate consumption and vegetable oil causes silent inflammation.  Also, if there is not enough Omega-3 consumption silent inflammation occurs. 

Managing your glycemic load is very important to reduce inflammation.  This can be achieved by eating foods that slowly distribute their sugars into your blood stream. 

Foods to introduce to your diet to decrease inflammation:

Make good fatty choices such as using olive oil, olives, macadamia nuts, almonds and avocados. Increase fish consumption and poultry as meat choices.  Increase your intake of Omega-3 fats to a level of 7.5-10 grams a day.  Remember – when you purchase fish oil capsules there are two measurements.  One is the Omega-3 and the other is Omega-6 so you want to focus on the Omega-3s. 

Foods that increase inflammation:

Reduce your consumption of trans-fats and saturated fats by cutting back on highly processed foods, red meats, and high-fat processed meats such as bacon and sausage. Cut back on refined white flours in bread and pasta (look for 100-percent whole-grains instead). Eliminate added sugars by decreasing your consumption of sugary sodas, pastries, candy, rich desserts and pre-sweetened cereals.

Another possible source of irritation comes from the nightshade family of plants, which includes potatoes, tomatoes, and eggplant. These vegetables contain a chemical alkaloid called solanine, which can trigger pain in some people.

An example diet plan:

Choose fresh foods more often and choose fewer heavily processed foods. For breakfast, try oatmeal served with fresh berries and walnuts. Snack on whole fruits, nuts, seeds, and fresh vegetables instead of cookies and candy. Eat more fish and less fatty red meat. Have a salad with lots of fresh vegetables as your meal. Stay away from deep-fried foods; bake, broil, poach or stir-fry instead. Choose dark green or brightly colored vegetables as side dishes -- they should fill half your dinner plate.

Here is the food pyramid created specifically for an anti-inflammatory diet:

In many cases, herbal anti-inflammatories provide the same kind of relief as pharmaceuticals — without the scary side effects. Here are some of the best-known herbal anti-inflammatories:

  •  Cayenne (Capsicum annuum, C. frutescens)
  •  Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
  •  Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  •  Sage (Salvia officinalis, S. lavandulaefolia)
  •  Tea (Camellia sinensis)
  •  Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
  •  Turmeric (Curcuma longa)


Vitamins and Minerals
In addition to fish oils, supplement your diet with the following antioxidant cocktail:

  • Vitamin C, 200 milligrams a day.
  • Vitamin E, 400 IU of natural mixed tocopherols (d-alpha-tocopherol with other tocopherols, or, better, a minimum of 80 milligrams of natural mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols).
  • Selenium, 200 micrograms of an organic (yeast-bound) form.
  • Mixed carotenoids, 10,000-15,000 IU daily.
  • The antioxidants can be most conveniently taken as part of a daily multivitamin/multimineral supplement that also provides at least 400 micrograms of folic acid and 2,000 IU of vitamin D. It should contain no iron (unless you are a female and having regular menstrual periods) and no preformed vitamin A (retinol). Take these supplements with your largest meal.
  • Women should take supplemental calcium, preferably as calcium citrate, 500-700 milligrams a day, depending on their dietary intake of this mineral. Men should avoid supplemental calcium.

Clean out your kitchen!

Remove any breakfast cereal, flour, crackers, cookies, breadsticks, bagels and other high glycemic foods.  It may be hard to do…but just get a trashcan and do it!  Next, remove Crisco, lard, corn oil, candy and other fats. 

What can you add to your kitchen? 

Try to stay away from canned fruits and add fresh fruits to your grocery list.  If fresh vegetables are not available you can certainly use frozen vegetables.  Add low fat cottage cheese, canned tuna, salmon and protein powder to give a love fat protein boost to your diet.  Try using extra virgin olive oil on your meats and vegetables and also on your salads.  Snacking on almonds, pine nuts and cashews can help relieve any salty cravings and have low inflammation impact. But, if you only remember one thing to decrease inflammation it is to take your fish oil! If the changes seem overwhelming just make small changes a little bit at a time and soon you will find that you have revitalized your health and your lifestyle!


YIKES! Fear and Stress...What to do???

There certainly are so many reasons to be afraid…right? Perhaps, if you are reading this, it is making me nervous at this moment because I am afraid of your critique! Or, perhaps I do not want to get on this plane, I am going to fall at this height, I am going to fail, I am going to die if I do this, or this bug is going to bite me and send me to my grave! YIKES.

So, from a stress management situation what are the more simplistic ideas that we can implement to reduce our natural flight/fight mechanism? For one it is important to understand that mental imagery plus physical responses creates fear.  In other words, what we visualize mentally has an effect upon our physical response systems.  Additionally, being aware of how we manage our physical stature can have an effect upon our mental systems.  So, when confronted with a stressful situation or a fear invoking situation consider the following:

  • If possible prior to the event imagine what it is like to be in a fearful situation and make a mental note of how your body looks.  Are you standing up straight or hunched over? Are your muscles tight or relaxed? Are you breathing deeply (not rapidly) compared to shallow breaths? 
  • You never know what the result of a situation that invokes fear or stress will be, so focus upon the best scenario in your mind.  See success clearly in your mind. (Or you killing the bug without fear and not being bitten! Silly example but true!)
  • The following statement may seem obvious but it is often overlooked as a way to eliminate fear due to stressful events: Make sure you sleep, drink lots of water, eat well, exercise and avoid stimulants.
  • Drive YOUR bus…Take responsibility for when things happen.  You are in charge of your behavior, both physically and mentally, and no one else has that control.
  • Have total responsibility for how you feel.  You must remember to present yourself with a posture and body language that communicates confidence even if you are afraid of speaking in front of a group or getting on an airplane.  Choose your perspective and keep control of your thoughts.

If you can remember that you are in charge of your environment you will realize that the things that you may consider to be out of your control are actually IN your control.  This is a psychologically found fact (Sanders & Suls, 2008). Practice imagining best case scenarios and wonderful outcomes and the things that stress you out, due to fear, will fade away.

Sanders, G.S., & Suls, J. (2008). Social Psychology of Health and Illness. Hillsdale, NJ.



Some Simple Stress Relief Ideas

Natural remedies for adrenal stress, or supporting adrenal function, that may lead to sugar cravings include Chromium, Vitamin C, Licorice, and Pantothenic Acid (B5). More…

Labeling events as either good or bad, and then trying to resolve the negative situation in to a positive situation, may lead to more stress.  Perhaps reframing the way in which you view experiences can be lead to less stress.  Read:

Some of your daily stress can be relieved by simple pressure points that you can do to yourself, such as putting pressure on the small muscle between your thumb and forfinger, massaging your earlobes, raising your shoulders towards your ears for five seconds and the dropping them down, and foot massage.  Me, I think I could use a full body massage once a day! More…

Reflexology is an interested, and ancient, massage art that many claim leads to not only a reduction of stress but also contributes to healing of severe discomforts.  I am open to anything that can help reduce stress, but I also believe that you need to have a qualified reflexologist in order to get results and manage severe illnesses and stress.  That being said, a gentle foot massage can works wonders.


Let's Help Our Kids De-Stress

It is constantly amazing to me the incredible relationship the body and the mind have on overall well-being.  I look at my children and reflect on my childhood and recognize the incredible role that parents have, with regard to influencing, the future mental health of their children.  A recent study has now concluded that “early abuse may be more damaging to developing emotion and stress systems because it happens as the brain is rapidly developing and when children are more dependent on caregivers’ protection”.  Basically, what this means is that the manner in which cortisol, the stress hormone, is released as a young child can affect stress levels in latter life. 

Additionally, exposure to high levels of stress early in life can cause health problems in adulthood.  Studies have noted a correlation between cardiac disease and early childhood stress and future studies are looking to understand the long term affect of early exposure to stress. Children whom have survived pediatric cancers also seem to be at greater risk for high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure, all of which predispose them to heart disease in adulthood.

Many of these examples of stress in children may be beyond our control, but it leads me to think that we need to introduce stress management techniques and cognitive behavioral therapies to our young people sooner rather than later. 



Inflammation gone wild!

The immune system can cause inflammation as a response to signals sent from the endocrine system as well as the nervous system. Under normal situations these signals result in responses from the immune cells traveling throughout the blood stream and responding to leukcocyte levels. However, there are situations in which the body “miss-reads” itself and the immune system overreacts with an inflammatory response.


Rheumatoid Arthritis is an example of the inflammatory response that results in negative effects such as joint swelling, stiffness, pain, and a decrease in mobility (Heijnen & Kavelaars, 2005). There is a cyclical pattern with regard to the relationship between the bone destruction and inflammation process in the arthritic joints with the patient’s symptoms of pain and immune response.

The pathogenesis of Rheumatoid Arthritis has been related to stressful events that cause inflammation in the joints resulting in pain; however, there is debate as to whether or not severe stressors or mild daily stressors are associated with the pathogenesis of this disease (Potter & Zautra, 1997).

Heijnen, C. J. & Kavelaars, A. (2005). Psychoneuroimmununology and chronic autoimmune diseases: Rheumatoid arthritis. In K. Vedhara & M. Irwin (Eds.). Human psychoneuroimmunology. NY: Oxford University Press.

Potter, P. T. & Zautra, A. J. (1997). Stressful life events’ effects on rheumatoid arthritis disease activity. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65(2), 319-323.


Don't Have Kids if You Can't Handle It!

I would like to take this opportunity to discuss the need for additionally funding to prevent a type of brain injury that often goes unnoticed due to the fact that there are often not any physical signs of injury as experienced in adults such as rotational acceleration, coup injury, or contre-coup injury (Walden University, 2008). This brain injury is referred to as Shaken Baby Syndrome. The signs and symptoms of this form of brain injury vary from the child demonstrating irritability, lethargy, vomiting, and tremors to falling into a coma or death and this brain injury is 100% preventable (Monfore, 2005).

Barlow and Minns (2000) found that head injuries in children younger than one year old (in a Scotland based study) was 24.6 per 100,000 children and that acute encephalopathy, subdural hemorrhages, skull fractures, retinal hemorrhages, and cerebral edema were present in most of the cases. Sadly, the median age of injury was 2.2 months and 78% of those who did not die due to brain injury suffered long term neurological and developmental abnormalities.

Shaken baby syndrome in the United States is equally prevalent and sadly most cases are not reported so data is not well established (Hymel, Ritzen, Reinert, & Hay, 1999). However, medical professionals or parents that suspect shaken baby syndrome can look for bruises on the head or face of children, be alert for soft spots on the head, or look for previous signs of bleeding which may be found, after the fact, in spinal fluid (Hymel, Ritzen, Reinert, & Hay, 1999). The outcome for children who survive this, and other non-accidental head injury, was explained by Barlow, Thompson, Johnson, and Minns (2004) in which 64% of the children had speech and language disorders or autism, 25% had visual deficits, and 20% had cranial nerve abnormalities and over 50% were considered to be severely mentally retarded.

Most of these injuries result from parental frustration with infants who do not stop crying and the new parents have not been educated with how to handle the child without shaking them (Barr, 2007). Simply putting down a child in a safe play pen and walking away could stop the abuse. With this basic understanding of the tragedy associated with child brain injury from shaken baby syndrome I would hope the committee will approve funding for preventative measures so that these statistics can be reduced if not eliminated in the near future.

Barlow, K., Thompson, E., Johnson, D., & Minns, R. (2004). The neurological outcome of non-accidental head injury. Pediatric Rehabilitation, 7(3), 195-203.

Barlow, K. M. & Minns, R. A. (2000). Annual incidence of shaken impact syndrome in young children. Lancet, 356(9241), 1571-2.

Barr, M. (2007). What do you say to the parent of a crying baby? NENA Outlook, 30(2), 13.

Hymel, J. C., Ritzen, A., Reinert, SE, & Hay, TC. (1999). Abusive head trauma: An analysis of missed cases. Journal of the American Medical Association, 281, 621-626.

Monfore, D. (2005). Resource guide on traumatic brain injury. Preventing School Failure, 49(4), 58-62.

Walden University . (2008, April 29). Overview of brain injury in adults. Neuropsychology PSYC-8710-01. Retrieved from Walden University Classroom:


Common Colds and Stress

There is a breadth of empirical evidence that suggests that stress can result in acute infection which can most commonly be demonstrated in infections such as the common cold, respiratory infections, or viral infections (Miller & Cohen, 2005, p. 225). This correlation would be best represented by statistical empirical evidence rather than personal experience or self-reporting techniques as often illness causes stress and stress causes illness.

Psychological stressors, such as significant life changes or an inability to manage or cope with stress, can result in a feeling of perceived “helplessness or hopelessness” as first defined by Dr. Engel. He was a medical physician that noted the lack of incorporation of the mental and social models of behavior with the biological model of behavior.

Infections and clinical illnesses as well as health practice measures are also associated with the relationships between stressful experiences and cold.jpgacute infections. For example, infections often are a result in the decreased ability for the body’s immune system to fend off further attacks on the immune system. Individuals that are not experiencing stress or clinical illnesses may have a reduced inflammatory response. When there is exposure to a potentially acute infection acute inflammation occurs which is a positive defense (Miller & Cohen, 2005, p. 13-14). Additionally, health practice measures such as preventative health care, proper dietary support, and proper intervention from physicians assist in the reduction of acute infection as a physician can reduce the stress levels on the HPA axis (Sperner-Unterweger2005).

Engel, G. (1968). A life setting conducive to illness: The giving-up—given-up complex. Annals of Internal Medicine, 69(2).

Miller, G. E. & Cohen, S. (2005). Infectious disease and psychoneuroimmununology. In K. Vedhara & M. Irwin (Eds.). Human psychoneuroimmunology. NY: Oxford University Press.

Sperner-Unterweger, B. (2005). Immunological aetiology of major psychiatric disorders: Evidence and therapeutic implications. Drugs, 65(11), 1493-1520.

All this talk about stress depresses me...

The role of the adrenal axis in depression and immunity are complex especially in terms of the relationship between the immune systems responses to external stressors and how tissues respond to the coordination of neuroendocrine functionalities (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005). 
Chronic%20Stress.jpgThe adrenal axis plays a role with depression and immunity in the sense that there is a relationship between secretions of increased levels of cortisol in conjunction with poor performing immune system responses which may result in the removal of necessary immune cells from the normal circulatory process.
Specifically the relationship between the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary axes when presented with chronic stress impair the immune system’s ability to respond to events that may cause disruption at the cellular level resulting in a reduction of T-cells (Reiche, Maria, Kaminami, Morimoto, & Nunes, 2005).

The autonomic nervous system has a role with depression and immunity in that the system is altered in a variety of ways.  One example is the increase in white blood cell counts as well as an increase in lymphocytes and neutrophils (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005).  There is a variety of research currently being conducted to assess the relationships between depressed patients, the immune system, and the relationship between the production of B and T cells that will be of great interest to health psychologists forthcoming.

Reiche, V., Maria, E., Kaminami, M., Morimoto, V., & Nunes, S. (2005). Stress and depression-induced immune dysfunction: Implications for the development and progression of cancer. International Review of Psychiatry, 17(6), 515-527.

Vedhara, K., & Irwin, M.R. (2005). Human Psychoneuroimmunology.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press.


Does stress impact my cancer?

Cancer in Western society is the second leading cause of death and approximately 1 in 4 people will die from one form or another of this disease. Given this information there is no doubt why there is a great deal of research being conducted surrounding alternative causes and treatments for the disease of cancer, which really is defined as the proliferation of cells that do not have value to the human body and they continue to divide and multiply (Walker, Green, Greenman, Walker, & Sharp, 2005).

Patients and physicians are becoming more interested in understanding psychosocial factors that may impact immune mechanisms and result in biological malfunctions. For example, if severe stress occurs there is an impact on the immunological functions which may result in a decreased ability for the body to recognize and eliminate potential cancer cells in the body (Rieger, 2001). chronic-lymphoid-leukemia.jpg

There has long been evidence that cancers, such as breast cancer in women, may progress faster or slower based upon psychosocial factors. Stress (both perceived and real) as well as family support have an impact upon endocrine and immunological processes (Van der Pompe, Antoni, Mulder, Heijnen, Goodkin, de Graeff, Garssen, & de Vries, 1994). This is supported by research that demonstrates a relationship between specific endocrine receptors that are located on lymphoid cells that provide neuronal communications with lymphoid tissues. These endocrine receptors can influence changes in the mammary epithelium (membranous tissue) which can change the progression of breast cancer (Van der Pompe et al., 1994 ).

The body defends against cancer by assessing changes in previously cells that have mutated into cancerous cells. The immune system has natural killer cells, dendritic cells, antibodies, and T lymphocytes that all work to manage the response the body has from an immunological response (Walker et al., 2005). Further, the functionality of immune cells and their ability to fight the proliferation of cancer cells is affected by stress and depression, emotional and social demands that are a side-effect of many cancer treatments, as well as those who receive psychological support throughout their cancer treatment regime.

Rieger, P. T. (2001). Did stress cause my cancer? ONS News, 16(9), 14.

Van der Pompe, G., Antoni, M. H., Mulder, C. L., Heijnen, C., Goodkin, K, de Graeff, A., Garssen, B., & de Vries, M. J. (1994). Psychoneuroimmunology and the course of breast cancer: An overview. Psycho-Onchology, 3(4), 271-288.

Walker, L. G., Green, V. L., Greenman, J., Walker, A. A., & Sharp, D. M. (2005). Psychoneuroimmununology and chronic malignant disease:Cancer. In K. Vedhara & M. Irwin (Eds.). Human psychoneuroimmunology. NY: Oxford University Press.


Age and Stress: We Need to Understand More

Walter Canon recognized that the mind and psychological stressors can have a direct effect on a person’s health and behavior (Cohen, Kessler, & Gordon, 1997). Walter Canon felt that emotions were a part of the brain and that there was not a mind body separation; rather the mind and the body worked together (Lovallo, 2004). Further, Cohen, Kessler, and Gordon (1997) felt that studies that assessed vulnerabilities people have with regard to how they cope with and manage stress may be a better indicator of the effect stress has on a person’s health and are affected by social support systems.

Research in these areas has been forwarded by the work and research often represented in the American Psychological Association by those interested in psychology and aging.  Current topics of research include neuropsychological mediators of the links among age, chronic illness, and everyday problem solving skills as well as the understanding of how age and health are affected by psychosocial stressors (Thornton, Deria, Gelb, Shapiro, & Hill, 2007).  Age related changes, such as moving to a new location, can affect an elder’s mood and quality of life (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005).  Depression has been related to a suppression of the proliferation of lymphocytes and elders with intrusive thoughts also show higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.  Very often these behaviors are associated with the level of social support a person receives in terms of how they manage immune responses to a variety of situations.  aging%20w%20stress.jpg

Now, there is further understanding of the relationship between psychological stressors and the immune system.  Specifically, older adults experience stress differently than younger adults in areas such as mood and quality of life, bereavement, cognitions, coping, or personality (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005). 

Cohen, S., Kessler, R. C., & Gordon, L. U. (1997). Measuring Stress: A Guide for Health and Social Scientists. NY: Oxford University Press.

Lovallo, W. (2004). Stress & Health: Biological and Psychological Interactions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Thornton, W. L., Deria, S., Gelb, S., Shapiro, J., & Hill, A. (2007). Neurophychological mediators of the links of age, chronic illness, and everyday problem solving. Psychology and Aging, 22(3), 470-481.

Vedhara, K., & Irwin, M.R. (2005). Human Psychoneuroimmunology.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press.


Aging Immunity: Is the Flu Shot Worth It?

The aging process is quite complicated and often results in weaknesses in the human body being exposed to a variety of illnesses or diseases.  Adults are more likely to experience chronic illnesses in the later part of life versus when they are younger (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005).  Further, the aging process impairs neuropsychosocial functioning as well as decreasing everyday problem solving skills; therefore psychologists should take an active role in educating their patients about preventative health strategies (Thorton, Deria, Gelb, Shapiro, & Hill, 2007). 

Flu%20shot%20for%20Elderly.jpgOrgan systems decline and immune functionalities may decrease so it is becoming common practice to try and prevent the onset of illness such as the “flu” in the elderly before the flu season which may be late fall throughout the winter depending on where you live. If a 70 year old patient would inquire whether or not he or she should get a “flu shot” that that age, I would tell them that I would recommend that they do receive the shot.  However, I would want to ensure that they are in good health and have not had reactions in the past to influenza inoculations. 

As patients age they experience what is call immunosenescence which is the aging of the immune system (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005).  During this process lymphocyte activities change resulting in decreased or impaired activity in the overall immune system.  Therefore, Vedhara & Irwin (2005) note that over 40% of elderly patients who receive the flu shot do not develop proficient antibodies to fight the illness so preventative steps, such as handwashing and proper nutrition, should be incorporated into a person’s lifestyle as well.

Thorton, W. L., Deria, S., Gelb, S., Shapiro, R. J., & Hill, A. (2007).    Neuropsychological mediators of the links among age, chronic illness and everyday problem solving. Psychology and Aging, 22(3), 470-481.

Vedhara, K., & Irwin, M.R. (2005). Human Psychoneuroimmunology.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press.


Can I measure my immune system?

Two systems discussed by Vedhara and Irwin (2005) that measure the effectiveness of the immune system are the “in vitro” method and “in vivo” measures. The in vitro method measures the loss of specific immunology related cells and how this reduction can leave the individual in a more susceptible state to become infected with a variety of pathogens. One example of in vitro measurements, that became a more common term with the general public in the 1980s with the outbreak of HIV and AIDS, is the white blood cell counts consisting of neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils, and basophils (AIDS.Org, 2007). These measurements, in addition to assessing additional immune cell subsets, have some advantages as they can be indicators to overall stress levels in patients. Additionally, they are helpful in determining if there are problems with blood cell production in the bone marrow, noted by lower counts, or if there are significant infections that are being concurrently fought off, noted by an increase in the measured cell count (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005). immune20sys.gif

There are also limitations in the in vitro measurement system such as the fact that although the levels of cell count can be measured, they often can not be correlated with a disease or disorder. Additionally, it is difficult to take one measurement and consider it to be an accurate reading because cell counts vary based upon factors such as time of day or migration of cells. These variables cause too much noise in terms of measuring the effectiveness of the immune system (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005).

The in vivo measures include observing delayed hypersensitivity tests, which is when the body actually harms itself using its own immune system by having an excessive release of hypersensitive anti-bodies (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005). The advantage of measuring the reactions that occur within the human body is real time experimentation can occur in a real-life situation versus that of experimentation in a laboratory or with animals.

However, there are limitations and risks with this form of measurement such as how inducing this type of reaction in a human being may have significant ethical implications for the person conducting the experiment or measurement. Causing an immune response that results in the destruction of a microbe, which results in an inflammatory response, could cause a great deal of harm to the person (O’Neill, 2005). Additionally, it is very hard to have a control group and a treatment group when you are dealing with all of the variability associated with an individual human being (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005). Hypothetically, one person in the study may be stressed out, another person may have a poor diet, another person could be in top physical fitness, or socioeconomic status, age, race or gender could impact the response.

AIDS.Org (2007). Complete blood count (cbc). Information, Education, and Action. Retrieved September 19, 2007 from the World Wide Web:

O’Neill, L. (2005). Immunity’s early-warning system. Scientific American, 292(1), 38-45.

Vedhara, K., & Irwin, M.R. (2005). Human Psychoneuroimmunology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.


Antibodies are messing with my body

Antibodies play an important role in the immune functions and although there are five major classes of antibodies, microbiologists believe that there are upwards of billions of variations of antibodies ( Paustian & Roberts, 2005). Antibodies are created by the synthesization of proteins into either light chains or heavy chains and the class that an antibody falls into is determined based upon the type of chain located in the structure of the antibody. immunoglobulin.jpg

The first type of antibody classification is Immunoglobulin A (IgA) which protects mucsosal surfaces with a fluid like secretion (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005). IgA is found in serum, mucus, saliva, tears, sweat, and milk and has also been associated with being transferred to an unborn child (passive immunity) and can also protect the child after birth for several months. This time frame can be further increased when the mother breast-feeds ( Niers, Stasse-Wolthuis, Rombouts, & Rijkers, 2007).

A second type of antibody classification is Immunoglobulin E (IgE) which triggers the release of histamines by attaching to antigens, basophils, and mast cells ( Vedhara & Irwin, 2005). IgE does not make up a very large portion of antigens but it is responsible for reactions resulting in hives, asthma, and hayfever as examples (Paustian & Roberts, 2005).

A third type of antibody classification is Immunoglobulin M (IgM) which forms antibody-antigens processed by the liver and stimulates complement-mediated lysis (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005). IgM makes up about 10% of the total antibodies and it is very important in the initial phases of an illness to stop the spreading of the pathogen ( Paustian & Roberts, 2005).

A fourth type of antibody classification is Immunoglobulin G (IgG) which allows for the consumption of pathogens such as bacteria by coating them so that macrophages and neutrophils will be able to recognize them as pathogens (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005). IgG is the largest classification of circulating antibodies ( Paustian & Roberts, 2005).

The fifth type of antibody classification is Immunoglobulin D (IgD) which is lacking in enough research to clearly understand its functions (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005). This antibody located on the surface of B-lymphocytes (Paustian & Roberts, 2005). Currently there are research studies being conducted on immature IgD antibodies to transfer them to becoming mature B cells in an effort to try and gain further understanding of the actual function IgD antibodies (Koelsch et al., 2007).

Koelsch, K., Nai-Ying, Z., Quigzhao, Z., Duty, A., Helms, C., Mathias, M. D., Jared, M., Smith, K., Capra, J., & Wilson, P. C. (2007). Mature b cells class switched to igd are autoreactive in healthy individuals. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 117(6), 1558-1565.

Niers, L., Stasse-Wolthuis, M., Rombouts, F. M., & Rijkers, G. T. (2007). Nutritional support for the infant’s immune system. Nutritional Reviews, 65(8), 347-360.

Paustian, T. & Roberts, G. (2005). Antibodies come in five classes. Through The Microscope: A Look At All Things Small, 15-18. Retrieved September 20, 2007, from the Bacteriology Department Website from the University of Wisconsin-Madison:

Vedhara, K., & Irwin, M.R. (2005). Human Psychoneuroimmunology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.


Endocrine functions and HPA...this has to do with stress?

The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis controls are one of the two major functioning systems that manage endocrine functions (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005). The endocrine system manages the release of hormones into a person’s circulatory system based upon activities that are signaled both during stressful situations as well as during times of relaxation on a cyclical basis.

The hypothalamus is located at the base of the brain and is connected to the pituitary gland (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005). Further, the hypothalamus acts in a way that it could almost be seen as the message coordinator, regarding hormone releasing functions, for the rest of the brain. When stimulated a variety of hormones are released into the blood stream such as CRH, TRH, GHRH, GnRH, ACTH, LH, TSH, and GH. Stress%20and%20brain%20functionality.jpg

The pituitary gland is divided into two sections which are the anterior pituitary and the posterior pituitary sections. The anterior pituitary manages the neurons released from the hypothalamus, carried them down the pituitary stalk, and either increases or decreases the release of the anterior pituitary hormones (Pinel 2006). The posterior pituitary receives synthesized oxytocin and vasopressin from the hypothalamus and then releases it into the circulatory system. The pituitary gland receives hormones produces by nuclei in the hypothalamus and the pituitary stalk then transfers the hormones into the anterior pituitary lobe (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005). These hormones, once introduced into the blood stream, change the behavior of their target cells by binding to their surface and acting upon receptors that are located in the cells.

The HPA axis is stimulated by the release of adrenal glucocorticoids into the blood stream in an effort to prepare the person for the stressful event (be it real or perceived). Cortisol is one of the more impactful hormones released and managed by the HPA axis (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005). This secretion works on both an “as needed” distribution as well as a cyclical distribution during the mornings and the afternoons for most individuals.

Hypercortisol which can result in anxiety and depression may be an effect of over exposure to specific stressors, and as discussed in the General Adoption Theory by Selye, may lead to illness, depression, or death so therefore it is best to not allow for stressful situations to go unmanaged (Edwards, 2000 & Lovallo, 2004). Further, there are interesting side effects to a variety of hormonal supplements with regard to the over activity of the HPA axis. For example, it has been cited that women who received supplements of oestragen during menopausal time experience suppression in HPA axis when they are exposed to both intentional and unintentional stressors (Dayas, 2000).

Dayas, C. V. (2000). Effects of chronic oestrogen replacement on stress-induced activation of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis control pathways. Journal Of Neuroendocrinology, 12(8), 784-94.

Edwards, C. (2000). That psychiatrist on the couch isn’t crazy – Interview. Insight on the News. Retrieved September 13, 2007 from Find Articles database:

Lovallo, W. (2004). Stress & Health: Biological and Psychological Interactions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Pinel, John P. J. (2006). Biopsychology with “beyond the brain and behavior” (6th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Vedhara, K., & Irwin, M.R. (2005). Human Psychoneuroimmunology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.


Fight...or flight....well...I would rather get a Starbucks...

Walter Cannon and Hans Selye are founders of the manner in which current biopsychosocial models are developed to understand the relationship between stressors and the mental and physiological effects associated with the stressors. fight%20or%20flight.gifFor example, Cannon was the person who defined the “flight or fight” mechanism that we are all familiar with currently by assessing the association of manner in which energy and inflammation were associated with blood flow and respiration (Brannon & Feist, 2004).

Homeostasis is a concept that assumes that the body naturally has a place of balance and that disease or illness, and also stress, can remove the body from its natural homeostasis. This is a theory that Hans Selye supports because of his vision of how the human body’s systems are integrated and do not act alone to cause disease (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005).

Humans are in a constant stasis in which reaction from the pituitary and hypothalamus affect the endocrine system and this results in a nervous system reaction. Psychopathology can be related to stress, nutrition, and external influences (Brannon & Feist, 2004; Preston & Johnson, 2007; & Werbach, 1999).

Stress may cause symptomologies that are at rest in the body to act up and potentially encourage psychopathologies. Selye worked to manage a concept that actually addressed the relationship between illness and stress (Brannon & Feist, 2004). His research focused the relationship between a stressor and the actual stress. I

If there is a relationship between stress and psychopathology then further research would be exciting. Of course, the research that Cannon and Selye managed creates a foundation for further questions. But they established that there are relationships between anxiety, depression, and eating disorders with psychological stressors and psychopathologies because of the interrelationship between dependencies that are related to both disorders. My interest is to take these concepts from the founders and apply them to current day situations that we all endure as well as chronic illnesses.

Brannon, L. & Feist, J. (2004). Health psychology: An introduction to behavior and health (5th Ed.). CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.

Preston , J. & Johnson, J. (2007). Clinical psychopharmacology made ridiculously simple (5th ed.). Miami, FL: Medmaster, Inc.

Vedhara, K., & Irwin, M.R. (2005). Human Psychoneuroimmunology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press

Werbach, Melvyn R. (1999). Nutritional influences on mental illness, (2nd ed.). Tarzana, CA: Third Line Press.


Innate and Adaptive Immunity

The human body has the capability to protect itself from internal and external infectious diseases by the utilization of two immunity systems which are innate immunity and adaptive immunity (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005). One way to compare the systems would be to imagine the innate immunity system as a roving military patrol unit that is constantly observing and circling the body’s system for any imbalances while the adaptive immunity system is more like a sniper that has specific targets, plans an attack, and has learned from prior experience with the targets how to assassinate them.

Specifically, the innate immunity system searches for antigens on an ongoing basis by identifying infectious organisms that have entered the body and works rapidly to destroy the organisms with the same methodology each time the innate immune system encounters the organism (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005). There is not an increase in the period of time that it takes to eliminate the infectious organism based upon frequency of encounters. Rather, there is a systematic approach that uses skin and mucous membranes, blood-born molecular enzymes, lymphocyte cells, inflammatory properties, and phagocyte cells which scan the body and eliminate the organisms. Weber (2003) uses a further analogy to compare the innate immune system to that of a dog barking at a doorbell. Regardless of how many times the dog has seen a stranger ring the doorbell the reaction is still to bark at the ringing doorbell, which is comparable to what our innate immune system does. Regardless of how many times the skin gets infected the same response time and reaction results in a similar type of pimple reaction.


Adaptive immunity systems have a more rapid immune response as they specifically target the area which needs attention (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005). An immune response is released upon finding an exposure to an antigen that is familiar and this is the foundation for why immunizations are given to children prior to exposure to life threatening diseases such as polio (Vedhara & Irwin, 2005). It seems unclear if there has been a determining factor as to why there is an ability of T-cells to gain memory in the adaptive immunity process; however there is clear evidence that the process does occur and the time frame for a response by the immune system decreases upon re-exposure as well (Maris, Joshy, Baltimore, & Mantovani, 2000).

Maris, C. H., Joshy, J., Baltimore, D., & Mantovani, A. (2000). Investigating t-cell memory. Nature, 407(6800), 40

Vedhara, K., & Irwin, M.R. (2005). Human Psychoneuroimmunology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press

Weber, R. (2003). Our innate immune system: Barking at the doorbell. Dematology Nursing, 15(5), 471


Immune System Booster Diet

Immune System Booster Diet

There are a variety of chronic illnesses that could benefit from an immune system booster diet.  Here are suggestions:

Best beverages

  • ACAI juice (pronounced ah-sigh-ee)
  • Pomegranate juice
  • Blueberry juice

Now, these juices are quite strong and high in carbohydrates so I recommend diluting them in either ice water or soda water.

Drink lots of green tea ( You can find brands that are iced and artificially sweetened or just make it in your coffee pot and drink it hot with honey.

Start drinking about one shot glass full of Aloe Complete (Vitamin Cottage) as it helps to heal on the cellular level and protects the cell membranes.


Take a multivitamin everyday. Additional, take a calcium and magnesium supplement as it relaxes nerve and muscle cells 500mg a day.

Take Vitamin E as it is a fat-based antioxidant which protects the chain reactions of damage caused when a free-radical (CLL white cells) enters the brain. Further, you want to consume foods high in the following anti-oxidants:

  • Beta-carotene (Carrots, sweet potatoes, dried apricots, squash
  • Vitamin C (Broccoli, peppers, berries, tomatoes, citrus fruit)
  • Selenium (Oysters, seeds, tuna, mushrooms)
  • Lipoic acid (Red meat, yams, beets, spinach)

Further, you should supplement your diet with Vitamin C 500mg, B-Complex Vitamin, Beta Carotene 10,000 IU, and get EfaGold Mega EFA Blend 3/6/9 which is a fish, flax, borage, olive oil balance.

And, for a snack, you should make a mix of RAW flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds (1/3rd part each) and sprinkle them on your cereals, soups, vegetables, etc. to supplement your omega 3’s.


Threats and stressors

Baumeister, Faber, and Wallace as cited by Snyder (1999) explained that there is an idea of the self, and this self does not have unlimited emotional resources.  Stress consumes the self’s volitional resources via ego-depletion and restoration.  When a person is dealing with stress the concept of self-regulation, or self-awareness, there is an associated response, often by an internal personal analysis, and there are efforts by the person, who is under stress, to change who they are (or a behavior) and they experience a stressful emotional response (Snyder, 1999).  The self, as defined by Baumeister, Bratslavsky, and Muraven (1998) explained that there is a natural desire to have control over choices, decisions, and plans of action and when this energy is depleted there is a reaction that is maladaptive and detrimental to performance.


The body reflexively responds to a threat-based stressor by determining whether or not they are in control of their ability to respond to it and, if they are in control of their response, the body responds more severely from a physical standpoint than how a person who has not control may respond based upon animal testing experiments (Lovallo, 2004).  Snyder (1999) states that this is because of a person’s need to exert control over “the self” is so intense and that if a person has an internal conflict about the issue the result is hopelessness. Hopelessness, according to Engel and the biopsychosocial model, results in poor health (Brannon & Feist, 2004). Further a body reflexively responds less, according to Snyder (1999), to stresses that are uncontrollable. The body recovers after the activation of self-regulation mechanisms where in the body must have rest, sleep, and avoides ego-depletion activities (Snyder, 1999).

Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., & Muraven, M. (1998). Ego depletion: Is the active self a limited resource? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(5). 1252-1265

Brannon, L. & Feist, J. (2004). Health psychology: An introduction to behavior and health (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson.

Lovallo, W. (2004). Stress & Health: Biological and Psychological Interactions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications
Snyder, C. R. (1999). Coping: The psychology of what works. Oxford University Press


Appraisal Model of Stress

The body is influenced by the mind’s ability to manage stress and the appraisal model of stress takes a biopsychological look at how a person processes a perceived psychological stressor and how they respond to the stress (Lovallo, 2004). The primary appraisal process begins with the evaluation of an environmental event that contradicts a person’s primary beliefs and commitments and they are interpreted as either a threat or challenge, or as being a benign or irrelevant event in which they are ignored (Lovallo, 2004). A secondary appraisal is considered to be reflective on how a person manages the primary appraisal such as perceiving the situation to be irrelevant, benign-positive, or stressful (Cohen, Kessler, & Gordon, 1997). For example, a high school student could graduate with a 3.5 GPA and be perfectly pleased and consider their failure to get straight A’s to be a benign event. However, to a student that is relying on achieving a 4.0 GPA for scholarships or entrance into certain universities this event could be a horrible challenge for them and then their secondary appraisal system would kick in resulting in changes in coping behaviors, behavioral responses, psychological responses, and eventually biological responses would modified (Lovallo, 2004).

Appraisl%20Model.jpgStress and how the mind influences the body’s response has been at the forefront of cognitive psychology. The primary and secondary appraisals have been developed with the understanding that primary beliefs and commitments and how a person responds to a stress is influenced by many complex variables so no one person will ever respond the same way (Lazarus, 1985). The autonomic nervous system plays an important role in the body’s response to stress. When the body starts to deviate from homeostasis because of a stressor, a biological response of emotions and stress reactions begins to occur starting with the hypothalamus sending outputs to the brainstem which releases autonomic and endocrine responses in addition to a variety of other responses such as skeletal motor and stress responses (Lovallo, 2004). Epinephrine and norepinephrine are types of monoamine neurotransmitters that are released in response to stress that result in a response of either excitation or inhibition and they do not produce both responses at the same time (Pinel, 2006). Cortisone additionally plays a role in stress response as this hormone, produced in the adrenal cortex, increases in the quantity of secretion depending upon the amount of stress (Cohen, Kessler, & Gordon, 1997). Further, cortisone will prepare a person to either partake in the fight or flight response.

Cohen, S., Kessler, R. C., & Gordon, L. U. (1997). Measuring Stress: A Guide for Health and Social Scientists. NY: Oxford University Press

Pinel, John P. J. (2006). Biopsychology with “beyond the brain and behavior” (6th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Lazarus, R. S. (1985). Stress and adaptational outcomes: The problem of confounded measures. The American Psychologist, 40(7), 770-85

Lovallo, W. (2004). Stress & Health: Biological and Psychological Interactions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications


How does our mind manage change?

From a high level view the manner in which organisms regulate function is influenced by the hypothalamus and, based upon the system, either the brainstem controls the system and sends autonomic messages or the endocrine controls the system and sends messages to the appropriate organ, system, or reflex (Lovallo, 2004). This regulation theory is based upon the theory proposed by Cannon (1935) as cited by Lovallo (2004) in which the theory of homeostatis is required by the human body. The theory suggests that variation from a set point triggers a variety of complex responses that result in organs, through the brainstem systems and the endocrine systems, involuntarily try to return to the stable, or set-point of operation (Brannon & Feist, 2004).

Sympathetic_Nervous_System_L.jpgThe sympathetic nervous system plays a great role in managing functions associated with environmental changes, which are often stressors (Lovallo, 2004). In this system the nerves interact with the postganglionic fibers and also influence the genetailia, large intestine, digestive system and bladder (Lovallo, 2004). The sympathetic nervous system is in charge of preparing the body for emergencies and it can function autonomously regardless of a person’s consciousness or their intellectually functioning (Pohjavaara, Telaranta, & Väisänen, 2003).

When there is an environmental change this system is able to regulate its functions because there is so much sympathy, or synchronicity, between the organs and the sympathetic nervous system. When stress occurs in the sympathetic system adjustments, such as managing flight-or-flight responses are put in place so that the body can respond to an environmental change; yet equally this system releases sweat and increases the activation of the vital functioning organs such as cardiac muscles in a state of environmental change to help us maintain our homeostasis (Lovallo, 2004). However, there are instances in which the system can be overloaded and anxiety disorders or panic attacks that may be the uncontrollable result that the sympathetic system, in conjunction with the parasympathetic system, because of environmental changes that cause a “flight or fight” response (Pohjavaara, Telaranta, & Väisänen, 2003).

Brannon, L. & Feist, J. (2004). Health psychology: An introduction to behavior and health (5th Ed.). CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.

Lovallo, W. (2004). Stress & Health: Biological and Psychological Interactions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

Pohjavaara, P, Telaranta, & T, Väisänen, E. (2003). The role of the sympathetic nervous system in anxiety: Is it possible to relieve anxiety with endoscopic sympathetic block? Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, 57(1), 55-60