Non-communicable disease and loss of general well-being are linked directly to our choices of diet, lifestyle, communication methods, as well as, although not always as voluntary, our mental processes. The very nature of my education in this program revolves around holistic thinking, and zeroing in on one small cause of an issue is challenging. I have chosen to highlight the ill effects of distress on the immune system, the heart, and DNA.
Our brain is our connection to our environment. The way it interprets data and expresses it is the beginning of a long chain of events that can be beneficial, neutral, harmful, or disastrous. The brain and the central nervous system produce the hormones that direct our systems processes, and the immune system contains many cells that share receptor sites with hormones. Our brain affects our hormones, which in turn affects our immune system in many ways (Blaylock, 2013). Our first line of defense against tumor cells, viruses and bacteria are our Natural Killer cells, which are non-specific, meaning they can attack all pathogens. A study on the effects of stress on NK cells showed that while the number of NK cells remained the same under stress lasting more than a few hours, the cytotoxicity was notably lower (Oya, 2000). This refers to the chemical that these cells release to dissolve the cell walls of foreign cells.
Our fight or flight stress response has not adapted suddenly to our much more sedentary but stressful modern lifestyles. Our heart rate is still increased, putting more pressure on blood vessels and the heart, whether we are sitting still and angry at traffic or fleeing from a bear in the woods. The effects are particularly detrimental when one is subjected to these daily annoyances for prolonged periods of time. The breathing becomes shallow, heart rate is increased, there is more likelihood to engage in impulsive behavior, all without the cardiovascular benefits of running for your life (Keith Karren, 2010).
Lowered immunity, poor lifestyle, and sedentary lifestyle add up quickly to further issues due to illness, irritability, disillusionment, and a lower quality of life. Our DNA is hardwired into our bloodlines, but it is not completely unresponsive to our environment. Each gene sequence carries on its outer circumference something called the epigenome. It can trigger changes in the gene that it is attached to by reacting to dietary choices, viral infections, and stress. Epigenetics is an exciting new frontier in unlocking the mysteries of how everything affects us the way that it does. We now know that genes can be turned on or off, expressed or dormant, by its interaction with the epigenome (D. Vandenbergh, 2002) . Stress management techniques such as meditation, guided imagery, breathing exercises, and counseling/conditioning have been shown to reduce the incidence and duration of cancer, viral infections, and neurological disorders.
These discoveries are but a fraction of a much bigger picture whose edge does not exist. Many studies exist regarding the effects of our food choices and our perception of our reality on disease rates, lifespan, quality of life, health care costs, and more that should be blasted all over every media outlet. It is urgent, life saving information that everyone should know. Basic survival, really. Allow me only four words to convey all that I have learned and I will tell you this… everything affects everything, always. This journey into wellness requires both curiosity and detective work to fuel a pursuit of sound, scientific data that could reverse all of our negative trends in healthcare, improve the length and quality of life, and eliminate political tension over “what to do about our healthcare crisis”.
You have to pursue this information. Read my blogs, other blogs, PubMed and other scientific journals. But most importantly, stay curious, friends!
Blaylock, R. (2013). Immunology primer for neurosurgeons and neurologists part I: Basic principles of immunology. Surgical Neurology International, 4, 14.
D. Vandenbergh, C. B. (2002). Smoking status and the human dopamine transporter variable number of tandem repeats (VNTR) polymorphism. Official Journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, 333-340.
Keith Karren, N. L. (2010). Mind/body health: The effects of attitudes, emotions, and relationships – 4th edition. San Francisco: Pearson Education.
Oya, H. K. (2000). The differential effect of stress on natural killer T (NKT) and NK cell function. Clinical And Experimental Immunology , 384-90.
About Chef Brandon
Chef Brandon Schlunt is co-owner of HealthSavor, a Cincinnati Ohio based healthy, organic, gluten-free meal delivery service, created to help busy families, individuals and children eat nutritious meals easily and affordably. Chef Brandon focuses on helping his customers lose weight, lower their blood sugar and feels very honored to have earned the trust of many doctors, students, parents, athletes, and on-the-go businessmen and women all over the city. In his non-existent spare time, Chef B enjoys music, hanging with his daughter and fiance, and continuing his education in nutrition.Join The HealthSavor Newsletter Here ORDER TODAY!