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About Autoimmune Conditions and Stress

It's well understood that stress can impact our health. Not all stress is bad, though. Eustress, or positive stress, is beneficial. Think rollercoaster rides, first dates, or exercise classes. Eustress can contribute to motivation and confidence. 

Distress, on the other hand, is troublesome. Distress can be caused by negative life events and be long-term or short-term. Distress is associated with frustration, lack of motivation, and feeling overwhelmed. Left unchecked, this type of stress can be bad news for your health. 

Many studies outline the connection between stress and health issues, including autoimmune conditions. Stress can be viewed as a threat to the body leading to a physiological response. Because of stress, immune system responses can go down while inflammation levels rise. 

Can stress cause autoimmune disease? 

You might know that stress is associated with health conditions like heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and depression. But, can stress cause autoimmune disease? 

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a prior diagnosis of a stress-related disorder is significantly associated with an increased risk of autoimmune disease. The study also found that these individuals were more likely to have multiple autoimmune diseases

While stress-related disorders are more severe than stress, stress is still often related to autoimmunity. Studies have shown that up to 80% of patients experienced heightened emotional stress ahead of autoimmune diagnosis. Plus, stress-related hormones are believed to lead to dysregulation within the immune system. 

Psychological stress is reported to be a risk factor for autoimmune diseases, including Graves’ disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Different types of stress and the length of time that stress is present might also affect the presentation of inflammatory autoimmune disease. 

There is no one known cause for autoimmunity. It is widely accepted that stress is a risk factor for developing an autoimmune disease. 

Can stress trigger autoimmune disease symptoms?

Your immune system is especially sensitive to chronic stress. At Mymee, we have matched more than 90 unique triggers with 150 unique symptoms. Stress is among the most common triggers that we identify for our clients across conditions. 

Stress can cause an inflammatory response within the body which, over time, can lead to chronic conditions. Similarly, physical symptoms of stress often overlap with symptoms of autoimmunity. Stress symptoms can include: 

  • Digestive issues
  • Headaches
  • Heart racing
  • Fatigue
  • Aches and pains 
  • Anxiety

How to manage stress as an autoimmune disease trigger:

If you've identified that stress causes autoimmune condition symptoms for you, stress management becomes critical. Thankfully, there are natural and accessible ways to find calm and mindfulness. Stress can often be managed with:

Meditation

Meditation is used for relaxation and typically includes focused attention, purposeful breathing, a quiet setting, and clearing of the mind. Meditation may help with autoimmunity symptoms like headaches, digestive issues, and more. 

Breathing Exercises

Deep breathing and focused breathing can cause a relaxation response. Your brain receives deep breathing as a message to calm down. From there, your body follows suit. The physical effects can be immediate, like lowered heart rate and blood pressure.

Physical Excercise (at Your Comfort Level)

Physical activity can increase endorphins, a natural chemical that acts as a pain killer when released. Plus, even a low-intensity exercise can decrease fatigue and tension, improve sleep, and more.

Talk Therapy

Talk therapy can decrease mental health symptoms and even help with certain medical conditions. Quality of life for people with multiple sclerosis, diabetes, back pain, and other disorders can be improved with counseling. 

If you’re still unsure if stress is a trigger behind your symptom flare-ups, Mymee can help. Our certified health coaches work one-on-one with Mymee clients to identify their unique symptom triggers. Plus, they’ll create a tailored plan to address them. So, if stress is an issue for your autoimmune disease symptoms, they’ll work with you on strategies to better manage difficult life events. 

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