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Study Shows How Stress Triggers Immune System
Date:1/23/2012

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Shedding some light on why stress might be bad for you, a new study finds that parts of your immune system ramp up when you get into personal conflicts with others.

It's not clear how this effect of stress may make you sick, but the activated parts of the immune system -- which cause inflammation in the body -- have been linked to conditions such as diabetes and cancer.

"The message is that the flotsam and jetsam of life predict changes in your underlying biology in ways that cumulatively could have a bad effect on health," said study co-author Shelley Taylor, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles. "What this tells me is that people should be investing in socially supportive relationships, and they should not court relationships that lead to a great deal of conflict."

It's well-known that stress causes several reactions in the body. "Stress activates the immune system in preparation for fighting infection and healing wounds," explained Dr. Andrew Miller, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta. "This is not a bad thing, especially in the context of a situation where a fight and wounding may ensue. However, if the immune system is constantly activated, this can contribute to a multitude of chronic health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and neuropsychiatric disorders."

In the new study, researchers sought to determine whether the stress of personal conflicts and competitive sports would trigger the release of molecules known as cytokines, which are linked to inflammation.

The researchers paid 122 young adults (53 men and 69 women) to take part in the study. The participants filled out diaries about their activities over eight days, focusing on their interactions with others and whether these were positive or n
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