Cold and Flu : Short Term Stress May Actually Boost Immune System

Lee Bowman Scripps

Everyone knows stress is bad for us. Chronic stress over weeks and months hammers the immune system, among other things.

But researchers at Stanford University recently showed that short- term stress actually serves to stimulate immune system readiness.

The study, done in rats, was able to outline in detail how a massive redeployment of immune cells throughout the body was set in motion by the release of hormones from the adrenal glands in response to a stress-induced event.

Firdaus Dhabhar, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Stanford, along with colleagues at several institutions, documented how the release of three stress hormones -- norephinephrine, epinephrine and corticosterone -- at different times each activated and directed the movement of different immune cells from reservoirs in the spleen and bone marrow into the bloodstream and then to various tissues.

The report was published online in June through the journal of Psychoneuroendocrinology. An earlier study of surgical patients by Dhabhar had suggested that some who had stronger short-term stress reactions to the operation healed more quickly than those with a muted response.

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