2016! Last year and this coming year will be a bit of a whirlwind for me, but
pretty incredible. I have my book, BreakFree
Medicine, set to release next month, my new website design almost completed,
my functional medicine certification exam coming up, and some other projects to
be revealed! My journey in 2015 began with leaving my practice to travel to Connecticut
to learn from top experts on the research and development of supplements. It
ended with my return back to New York to re-start my wellness consulting
practice and rejoin my beautiful family and clients. (Insert Wizard of Oz quote
was also a pretty intense year in medicine. In my December 2015 Top Holistic
Health Reads, I review the highlights in medicine from 2015, as well as the top
stories for its last month. Several articles in December discussed the fascinating
effect our emotions have on our health. This is because the immune system is
effected by stress in several different ways. According to a wonderful blog1
which reviewed some of the coolest immune system stress studies:2-3
How does stress get “into the
body” to affect the immune response? First, sympathetic fibers descend from the
brain into both primary and secondary lymph tissue. These fibers release
substances that bind to receptors on white blood cells. Second, the adrenal
hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol bind to specific receptors on
white blood cells and have regulatory effects on their distribution and
function. Finally, one’s efforts to manage the demands of stress often result
in coping strategies that have a secondary negative effect on the immune system
– such as alcohol use or changes in sleeping patterns. Thus behavior can be an
important pathway linking stress with the immune system.1
American Psychological Association also reported on the mind-body, body-mind
connection of stress to immunity:
Stressed out? Lonely or
depressed? Don’t be surprised if you come down with something. Psychologists in
the field of “psychoneuroimmunology” have shown that state of mind
affects one’s state of health.
In the early 1980s,
psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, PhD, and immunologist Ronald Glaser, PhD,
of the Ohio State University College of Medicine, were intrigued by animal
studies that linked stress and infection. From 1982 through 1992, these pioneer
researchers studied medical students. Among other things, they found that the
students’ immunity went down every year under the simple stress of the
three-day exam period. Test takers had fewer natural killer cells, which fight
tumors and viral infections. They almost stopped producing immunity-boosting
gamma interferon and infection-fighting T-cells responded only weakly to
a new study reported that those with cancer who also have depression have a
higher risk of dying than those with a more positive mood. Health Day reported:
Breast cancer patients with
depression may have a much higher risk of death than those without the mental
illness, a new study suggests. “Low mood and depression are understandable
reactions to a breast cancer diagnosis. Clinicians generally know to look out
for this, but these findings emphasize the need to ask patients with cancer
about their mood and for women to know it’s OK to ask for help,” Elizabeth
Davies, of the division of health and social care research and cancer studies
at King’s College London, said in a school news release.5
is a type of stress on the body and causes an impact on the immune system. One
study in 2006 that reviewed the effects of it on MS (multiple sclerosis) and
other diseases discussed the impact of the release of a stress-signaling
molecule (corticotropin releasing hormone, CRH):
Depressed patients show
elevated levels of corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) , and
this key peptide is involved in integrating neural neuroendocrine, as well as
immune responses to stress. Release of this peptide in the brain alters a
variety of immune processes including aspects of innate immunity, cellular
immunity, and in vivo measures of antibody production [43, 44].
Peripheral immune measures also change following lesioning of the brain (e.g.,
hypothalamus) or in response to the stimulation of certain brain regions which
ultimately impact CRH systems. The brain controls immune cells in lymphoid
tissue in the same manner it controls other visceral organs, namely by
coordinating autonomic and neuroendocrine pathways; when these pathways are
blocked by specific factors that bind to sympathetic or hormone receptors, the
effects of CRH on immune function is also blocked [45, 46].6
The American Psychological Association further
For example, a 2002 study by
Lyanne McGuire, PhD, of John Hopkins School of Medicine with Kiecolt-Glaser and
Glaser reported that even chronic, sub-clinical mild depression may suppress an
older person’s immune system. Participants in the study were in their early 70s
and caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Those with chronic mild
depression had weaker lymphocyte-T cell responses to two mitogens, which model
how the body responds to viruses and bacteria. The immune response was down
even 18 months later, and immunity declined with age. In line with the 2004
meta-analysis, it appeared that the key immune factor was duration, not
severity, of depression. And in the case of the older caregivers, their
depression and age meant a double-whammy for immunity.4
Medical News Today shocked some when it reported that “Lifestyle
behaviors and environmental factors account for around 70-90% of cancer cases,
according to new research published in the journal Nature.”7 This means that the control over our health is
much more than once believed, and our outlook may literally be one stress
factor we can control.
All About Perspective
new studies released this month also supported how our perspective can impact
Alzheimer’s risk and recovery after a heart attack.
Day reported on the connection between negative thoughts and Alzheimer’s
Young and middle-aged adults
who harbor negative thoughts about aging may face a higher risk for Alzheimer’s
disease decades later, new research suggests. The investigation compared early
attitudes on aging expressed by dementia-free adults to Alzheimer’s-related
brain changes nearly 30 years later. “What we found is that negative
perceptions on aging are definitely significantly related to [Alzheimer’s]
disease indicators,” said study lead author Becca Levy, an associate
professor at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Conn.8
second article, the connection between an optimistic attitude and heart health
Having an optimistic attitude
after a heart attack may be good for your health, Harvard researchers report. Two
weeks after a heart attack, patients who had a positive attitude were less
likely to be readmitted to the hospital. After six months, these patients were
more physically active than less optimistic patients, the study found. “In
contrast, gratitude, assessed right after the heart attack, actually had no
effect on readmissions or increasing physical activity,” said lead
researcher Dr. Jeff Huffman, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard,
The Gut Brain
if our thoughts and emotions have an effect on our bodies through stress or
other biochemical triggers, what can affect our emotions and thoughts? Why our
microbiota, or the bugs that live in our insides, of course! Many studies have reported on the impact of
our microbiome on our mood and emotions. 10-14
more intriguing this month is that talk therapy actually improved irritable
bowel syndrome, so stressful thoughts can also affect our microbiome! According
to Science Daily,15
reporting on a meta-analysis in the journal Clinical
Gastroenterology and Hepatology:16
A new meta-analysis, published
online on Dec. 22, 2015 by the journal Clinical
Gastroenterology and Hepatology, has now found that the beneficial
effects of psychological therapy also appear to last at least six to 12 months
after the therapy has concluded. The study analyzed the results of 41 clinical
trials from a number of different countries containing more than 2,200
“Our study is the first
one that has looked at long-term effects,” said senior author Lynn S.
Walker, professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
“We found that the moderate benefit that psychological therapies confer in
the short term continue over the long term. This is significant because IBS is
a chronic, intermittent condition for which there is no good medical
consider this…positive intentions for the new year can impact your health,
maybe even as much as the food you eat and your exercise routine. This is
because, if your body is in constant stress, it cannot have a functional immune
response and truly heal? A little stress is good for you, but too much is not,
so practice some calming techniques as part of your new year’s habit.
to a happy, healthy, positive new year!
1. Labrix Clinical Services. Stress
and Immune Function. Modern Health Care Practitioner Web site. October 30,
2. Hussain D. Stress, Immunity,
and Health: Research Findings and Implications. International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation. 2010; 15(1)
3. Segerstrom SC, Miller GE.
Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30
Years of Inquiry. Psychological bulletin.
4. American Psychological
Association. Stress Weakens the Immune System. American Psychological
Association Web site. February 23, 2006. http://www.apa.org/research/action/immune.aspx
5. Preidt R. Depression May Be
Tied to Lower Breast Cancer Survival. Health Day News. December 10, 2015.
6. Gold SM, Irwin MR. Depression
and immunity: inflammation and depressive symptoms in multiple sclerosis. Neurol Clin. 2006 Aug;24(3):507-19.
7. Whiteman H. Most cancer cases
’caused by lifestyle, environment – not bad luck’. Medical News Today. December
17, 2015. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/304230.php
8. Mozes A. Could Dim View on
Aging Raise Your Alzheimer’s Risk? Health Day News. December 7, 2015.
9. Reinberg S. Optimistic Outlook
May Boost Recovery After Heart Attack. Health Day News. December 8, 2015.
10. Arnold C. Gut feelings: the
future of psychiatry may be inside your stomach: The right combination of
stomach microbes could be crucial for a healthy mind. The Verge. August 21,
11. Ress JC. Obsessive-compulsive
disorder and gut microbiota dysregulation. Med Hypotheses. 2014
Feb;82(2):163-6. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2013.11.026. Epub 2013 Dec 1.
12. Neufeld, K. M., Kang, N.,
Bienenstock, J. and Foster, J. A. Reduced anxiety-like behavior and central
neurochemical change in germ-free mice. Neurogastroenterology & Motility.
2011; 23: 255-e119. doi: 10.1
13. Dash S, Clarke G, Berk M,
Jacka FN.The gut microbiome and diet in psychiatry: focus on depression. Curr
Opin Psychiatry. 2015 Jan;28(1):1-6. doi: 10.1097/YCO.0000000000000117.
14. Ahire JJ, Utamrao N, Patil HJ.
Antioxidative potential of folate producing probiotic Lactobacillus helveticus
CD6. J Food Sci Technol. 2013 Feb ;50(1):26-34. Epub 2011 Feb 14. PMID:
15. Vanderbilt University. Psychotherapies
have long-term benefit for those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome. ScienceDaily.
December 28, 2015.
16. Kelsey T. Laird, Emily E.
Tanner-Smith, et al. Short- and Long- Term Efficacy of Psychological Therapies
for Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.
2015; DOI: 10.1016/j.cgh.2015.11.020