More on stress and the immune system

I know, I know, I’ve said before that I haven’t experienced personally a correlation between stress and canker sores, but there’s always more to it than my own experience.  Others swear up and down that stress brings out their sores without fail.  Then there’s the wealth of knowledge out there about the effect stress plays in our immune system.

And canker sores being an auto-immune response… there may be something to this.

So here’s the thing about stress:  Like most functions in the human body, it evolved over time with a specific purpose – to keep your butt alive.

Typical cave man threat.

Once upon a time when we were grazing in the savannas and living in caves, the ability to drop everything and react to something like a lion (or bug-eyed lizard people) attacking you was essential for survival.

We’ve all heard of the fight or flight response, where a person’s body goes into survival mode in emergency situations, pumping our bodies full of adrenaline and bringing about amazing stories of people jumping 10 foot fences and lifting cars off their parents.  But it’s not just a rush of adrenaline that brings out the fight or flight response, it’s a whole host of changes in the body, starting with a redistribution of energy.

Your digestion shuts down.  Higher level brain functions shut down.  All kinds of hormonal and regulatory functions grind to a halt so your body can put every ounce of its energy toward the single important issue at hand – surviving an attack.  And included in those hormonal and regulatory functions is the immune system.

That’s essentially what stress is – your body’s reaction to challenges in our lives.

The problem is, the fight or flight response was only made to last for mere seconds or minutes in our lives, but the stress we experience today – jobs, kids, money, in-laws – are long-lasting stressors that go on and on for years.  The effect of this has been everything from heart disease to irritable bowel syndrome.  And yes, I’d say anything that is linked to the immune system would see a profound effect.

And yes, I’ll come out and say it… that includes Recurrent Aphthous Stomatitis — the auto-immune condition that brings about recurrent canker sores.

If you want to learn more about the effects stress plays on the body, and want to let off a little stress in the process, check out this great infographic/cartoon from Cracked that lays it out in wonderfully profane detail.


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