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Stress and autoimmune diseases

Stress in a station

There are around 80 types of autoimmune diseases; pathologies that are caused by the immune system attacking the body's own cells and tissues. But what triggers this attack? Although there is no single cause, external factors such as diet and stress may contribute to the onset of autoimmune diseases.

Stress is one of the most common epidemics of our time. Both physical factors - extreme temperatures, lack of sleep, overexertion or bad posture - and emotional and mental factors can cause stress. Caring for a sick relative, unemployment and the challenges at work or the social demands of a lifestyle all contribute to this state which, on many occasions, is considered to be a voluntary condition that can be easily resolved. But the truth is that stress is a pathology that can be serious.

Stress can arise naturally in order to cope with certain situations, in fact it is a mechanism that is triggered immediately when we face dangerous situations. The problem arises when we experience situations in everyday life, not as negative episodes that we can cope with, but rather as insurmountable and long-lasting dangerous situations.

What symptoms does stress cause in our body? We find physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, fatigue, bowel and sleep problems. Mood and behaviour are also affected with symptoms of depression and anxiety, lack of motivation, irritability, alcohol abuse or irregular eating habits, social withdrawal or a sedentary lifestyle.

Further, stress has been linked to premature ageing and to the onset of autoimmune diseases. Telomeres are strands of DNA that progressively shorten with cell division and their length determines our biological age. When telomeres are too short in relation to our chronological age, we are experiencing premature ageing. And the Stress is one of the factors influencing this rapid shortening.

The wrong" operation of the immune system has also been linked to stress.. In a study in mice, it was found that when subjected to increased stress, the mice released higher levels of glucocorticoids, which caused the immune system to malfunction.

When the stress system is activated, it affects the nervous, immune and endocrine systems. As published by the Ibero-American Society for Scientific Information (SSI), there is a link between stress and reduced immune function with decreased lymphocyte proliferative response to mitogens, decreased IgM and decreased humoral response to immunisation.

Although the direct mechanism by which stress contributes to the development of an autoimmune disease is not known, it is certain that Clinical practice tells us that a large proportion of patients with an autoimmune disease have experienced some form of stress. or have lived in this state in the medium or long term.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association took three control groups with a population of more than 120,000 people as a reference: those under stress and other anxiety disorders, their siblings without stress and a population group without anxiety-related disorders. Over ten years they counted diagnoses of autoimmune diseases and found that people under stress have a 36 per cent higher risk of developing this type of diseaseThis figure rises to 46 per cent for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Genetic, emotional and environmental factors combine to give rise to autoimmune diseases. but it may be triggered by a viral infection, hormonal factors or peaks of stress, among others. Scientific studies have not found a cause for this type of disease, which is highly prevalent: it affects 4 percent of the female population and 2.7 percent of the male population in Spain. Moreover, in 8 percent of cases, patients have two types of autoimmune diseases.

At At Biosalud Day Hospital we develop treatments that address the cause of the disease, not so much the symptoms.. While it is important to understand and reduce the manifestations of the disease in order to improve the quality of life of patients, if we only focus on these symptoms, we cannot achieve sustainable recovery over time.

The Biological Medicine is based on principles that consider all factors influencing healthIt uses the necessary therapies to activate the body's own healing forces, both physical and emotional, and uses the necessary therapies to activate the body's own healing forces.

In autoimmune diseases, although it is difficult to act on genetic factors, it is possible to act on lifestyle and environmental factors that have contributed to the onset of the disease. What we aim to achieve with our personalised treatments is to restore the immune system's tolerance to normality so that it does not see the body's own tissues as foreign. For this reason, we do not advocate treatments with immunosuppressants, which weaken the immune system to lower the level of the disease, causing it to reduce its capacity to defend the organism against any other aggression.

Mariano Bueno

Dr. Mariano Bueno and his team

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