By now the idea that stress is a contributor to illness and a deterrent to healing is becoming more widely accepted. While this has been clinically observed across many disciplines researchers are still discovering mechanisms for how this occurs.
A 2007 study in The Journal of Neuroscience looked at the role of social stress on the sympathetic nervous system and lymphatic system under a viral load. What this study discovered was one mechanism that shows how social stresses increase susceptibility to viral infection while simultaneously decreasing our immune system function and, therefore, ability to fight off the virus.
This study used rhesus macaques under a variety of social conditions. In primate social structures a clear “pecking order” is very important and without that there is a constant, and stressful, fight for dominance or known role in the social order. This study simulated order by allowing one group of the macaques to socialize every day in the same small group. The social hierarchy was established and stress remained at typical levels. In a second group the researchers consistently rotated the members of the group so that no social regularity was obtained. This is a stressful social environment for primates. A random selection from each of these groups received simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), a virus similar to HIV in humans. The researchers then harvested axillary neural fibers and lymph node tissue samples.
What the researchers observed was that the primates that had been in stressful social situations showed greater amount of the virus in the lymph tissue. The question remained how did that occur? Based on previous research it was already known that an increase in norepinephrine causes an increase in vascularity along sympathetic fibers when exposure is prolonged. So when the primates experienced chronic social stress their bodies produce more norepinephrine and increased the number of vessels surrounding that nerve to the end organ.
At 36 weeks there was almost no variation in the plasma viral load of the two groups but there was a tremendous difference in T-lymphocytes. CD4+ T-lymphocytes (also known as “helper” T-cells) aid in fighting against foreign infectious organisms through the use of cytokines. “However, socially stressed animals showed significantly lower CD4+ T-lymphocyte levels at 36 weeks after infection (mean, 255 ± 23 cells/mm3 in unstable conditions (stressed) vs 572 ± 75 in stable conditions (unstressed); p = 0.0006), indicating accelerated progression of SIV- induced immunopathogenesis.”
Because of the increased vascularity delivering greater amounts of the virus and a marked decrease in the immune system’s ability to fight the virus the replication of the virus in the node increased. “Social stress increased the lymph node-wide density of SIV replication by an average of 58%”.
It is noted in the research that there was not a great difference in mortality between the two groups but they suspect that is due to the nature of this specific disease. Like HIV, SIV does not typically induce death on its own, but rather, death occurs due to an ancillary opportunistic infection after the immune system has been decimated.
With stress and stress related diseases on a meteoric rise in our modern culture it is important to take note of the increasing mountain of evidence that says chronic stress is a major deterrent to experiencing health and wellness.
If we are going to live a life in this society where stress is inevitable it is important to have way to reduce the stress load already existing in the body to promote health while creating strategies of resilience in the body to promote long term well-being.
The technologies of Reorganizational Healing do precisely that. Network Spinal Analysis and Somato-Respiratory Integration and somatic technologies that help reduce stress and create resilience. The tools of Internal and External Orientation, the Triad of Change, Energetic States and Intelligences and the Sacred Seasons are all ways which a person can come to know themselves more fully and so that they may actively use the stresses in their life to create productive personal evolution through increasing their own resourcefulness.
As a human evolves it needs evolve. For much of human evolution the struggle for survival was a matter of getting sufficient nutritional input and avoiding environmental dangers. Now with these needs met in most of the first world we have new survival needs. Reorganizational Healing and Living provide a rich toolset for transforming survival into thriving.