Episode 44: Stress and Disease: The Immune and Nervous Systems

Autoimmune disorders are often mysterious conditions in which the body’s immune system “misfires” and begins to attack its own tissues. There are scores of autoimmune diseases out there. Some of the most well-known include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and type 1 diabetes.

I included Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue in this category as well because research indicates their root cause is a nervous system dis-regulation  or “misfire” specifically in the HPA-axis (which we talked about in our last stress and disease episode), causing widespread, unexplained pain and sensitivity along with a variety of other symptoms.

Yoga therapy uses the Pancamaya Model of healing and can assist healing at multiple layers of a potions being and to outline clinical division making and rationale of the proposed treatment plan. Can you imagine having a disease that causes widespread pain throughout your body, all conventional tests come back normal, and yet your entire life is being affected by this pain? Fibromyalgia is a disease that knows no gender, culture or age and affects of 10 million Americans a year, with a higher occurrence in women, according to the National Fibromyalgia Association. The individual patient on average spends $1,000 out of pocket per month above their health care program, while it costs the United States health care system upwards of $14 billion a year and overall national productivity loss of two percent. What do you do when you are so ill it is affecting every area of your life? You appear healthy on the outside and you may be told you are making it all up.

While we are just beginning to untangle Fibromyalgia and its truths, one thing seems to be clear, it affects the central nervous system, and its symptoms can come on slowly or quickly. Fibromyalgia on PubMed shows over 9,000+ research studies have been done to date. Some of them are showing there is a difference in physiological abnormalities such as increased levels of Substance P in the spinal cord, decreased levels of blood flow to the thalamus, HPA axis hypofuction, low levels of serotonin and tryptophan and abnormalities in cytokines function.

As a practicing mind-body practioner for a over a decade Kim received her Masters of Science in Yoga Therapy and has experienced first-hand the struggles her clients have with Fibromyalgia  and how mind-body modalities of movement including yoga therapy can enhance their quality of life.

The primary Doha which is present in fibromyalgia is a Vata disease. Ayurveda views fibromyalgia as having two leading causes. First, there is a disturbance in the nervous system function called Vata and second is an accumulation of toxins and blockages called ama through the physiology. Once these imbalances reach critical levels, the nervous system becomes less stable and aggravating impurities and is a breeding ground for fibromyalgia to be created. Indicating that there is a lack of trust int he universe and at a young age this could have been imprinted with thoughts such as I am not enough, safety and security issues.

Many of these diseases/ dysfunctions are exacerbated by stress, and some research even indicates a strong correlation between childhood trauma or prolonged stress and autoimmune/nervous system dysfunctions.

As we’ve covered in previous episodes, stress is any adverse event the takes the body out of homeostasis. Stress is often associated with various mental disorders and physical diseases, possibly through hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dis-regulation, epigenetic modification, or the inflammatory response.

How yoga/yoga therapy helps: Physical exercise - increase joint mobility, builds strength, heart health, regularly increasing heart rate, endorphins, good hormones, helps maintain a healthy weight and body function Breath work - learning to breathe properly, knowing how and why breath-is important. Noticing when breath can help. Helps to manage pain.  Self introspection - stepping away from the outside world and turning inward. Doing self work to grow intellectually, spiritually, etc. Meditation/focus - contemplation and concentration again takes the mind off the outside world and brings it in. Increases discernment, ability to make better choices and drop maladaptive behaviors.

Helps find peace with those things that cannot be changed. - bliss

Finally, stress and a sense of control - stress is an unavoidable consequence in life but the management of stress come down to learning to correct faulty perceptions, discern between things that can/cannot be controlled and learn healthy ways to recognize and manage stress when it inevitably occurs.  We tend to think of all stress as bad, but healthy levels of positive stress -eustress- can help us find our flow. To much negative stress can dis-regulate the HPA axis, increase inflammation and poor autoimmune response

Remember stress doesn’t necessarily cause disease it is all in how we handle the emotions amid stress that determine the outcomes. Yoga can lead to a more positive health outcome because it is an effective tool in teaching us to be the observer of our thoughts, feelings and improving the mind-body connection. Yoga is about learning how to accept what your body allows you to do at any given moment and understanding that’s the reality. The think that’s so interesting to Kim is that her yoga practice enables her to pay more attention to the things she does have control over. Yoga can build hope even though yoga cannot cure the disease, doing it can lesson your symptoms and enhance your sense of well-bing, encouraging faith and maybe even optimism, sense of empowerment. Tapa is dedication day discipline that fuels your yoga practice, cruces with yoga is the work you do. Yoga is what you do for yourself. As much as your yoga therapist gives you, you must also practice to give yourself. The yoga Sutras talks a lot about the need to balance effort and ease.

Self care is vital. The effects of chronic stress can be experienced in many ways and if we don't do something to counteract it, we will bring about unnecessary suffering.  Tonya suspect the conclusion to each of these episodes to be very similar; however, she hope the content in regard to stress and disease is educational and insightful - the WHY we find value in our practice and its ability to help EVERYONE.

Show Resources:

Immune-inflammatory pathways and clinical changes in fibromyalgia patients treated with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR): A randomized, controlled clinical trial: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2019.02.030

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Quotes: “Controlling the breath is the precursor in controlling everything about your life- The physical body, the emotions and the spirit.” Sam Dworkis

Let’s go into where in your body you feel that despair and that sadness, and let’s breathe into that, and release. as much of it as we can.” Ana Forest

Tonya DrewComment