I was speaking with someone about some information she heard on Anderson Cooper. While that show was about divorce (four key errors that will indicate you are bound to divorce), Dr. Gottman mentioned something that intrigued her. That contempt (which is a form of stress) damages one’s immune system.
And, this has been known for a while. Back in 2000, with a MacArthur grant, a group of researchers at Ohio State University found that stressful situations affect our immune system. It turns out that stress disrupts the communication between various elements of our body- the nervous system, the endocrine system, and our immune system. Once the chemical messages have been blocked, these three vital systems no longer can work in concert.
It seems that glucocorticoids (stress hormones) are produced continually in low amounts when the body is subjected to long-term stress. These react upon the thymus (where lymphocytes, a critical component of the immune system, are produced) and also inhibit cytokine and interleukin productions (which affect the ability of our white blood cell functions).
So, why are we discussing that here? Because, we know that caregivers have long-term stress issues. Oh, they love the people for whom they care, but it’s still stressful. And, those folks in the sandwich generation and older that provide care for loved ones have higher than average levels of cortisol (which is produced by the adrenal glands). And, it is possible that this activity causes the adrenals to secrete fewer antibodies (which, in this case, were responding to the influenza vaccine).
In addition, some caregivers for Alzheimer’s patients (spouses) have been found to have lowered T cell activity. (To learn more about T cells in the immune system, check here. It also has a good diagram.) These lymphocytes affect cellular immunity. The problem is the caregivers affected most are those that have the least amount of additional help and the fewest number of friends. (In other words, they were isolated, which augments the stress levels.)
We also know that massages reduce our stress levels. And, data exists proving that massages are associated with more responsive immune systems. (You can find a layman’s explanation here.)
So, these are all the reasons why caregivers need to insure they have some time off. To recoup. To reduce the stess levels in their bodies. And, they need to insure that they have the time to interact with friends, which also elevates our general happiness levels. So, they can stay healthy- and care for their loved ones.
To the world, you are one person; to one person, you are the world.
More words of wisdom (one would hope) at www.adjuvancy.com/wordpress or cerebrations.biz
Roy A. Ackerman, Ph.D., E.A.
The Adjuvancy LLC
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