Study Finds Chronic Stress Increases Inflammation in the Body

As patients of Klamath Falls Dental Specialist know, brushing and flossing rank as the two most important habits they can practice to protect the health of their teeth and gums. Failing to practice quality oral hygiene allows harmful bacteria to produce substances that erode away at tooth enamel and increase a patient’s risk of developing gum disease, the leading cause of adult tooth loss.

Gum disease – like every other type of infection – causes inflammation in the body. In addition to gum disease, research has shown that chronic inflammation can lead to a variety of health problems, including depression, heart disease, and even some forms of cancer. Health experts believe that if they can gain a better understanding of the causes of inflammation in the body, the can help reduce disease.

Now a new study offers to provide a better understanding of how chronic stress – a known risk factor for a number of oral and physical health problems – can cause high levels of inflammation to develop in the body.

The results of the study were published in the journal Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences.

New Answers

Researchers discovered that chronic stress alters gene activity in immune cells before they enter the bloodstream so they are prepared to fight trauma or infection, even in cases where no trauma or infection exists to fight. This leads to increased inflammation in the body.

This phenomenon was reported in both mice and in blood samples from individuals living under poor socioeconomic statuses – a leading predictor of chronic stress – found a joint study conducted by researchers at Northwestern University, the University of British Columbia, UCLA, and Ohio State University.

Researchers reported finding stress-induced alterations to the bone marrow of both mice and humans suffering from chronic stress that selects whether a cell will become inflammatory. This suggests to researchers that individuals who experience chronic stress – whether from an unreasonable boss or family hardship – may have that stress play out at gene expression level in their body’s immune system.

The Effects of Stress

As part of their experiment with mice, researchers induced chronic stress by having several male mice live together long enough that they developed a hierarchy among themselves. Researchers then introduced an aggressive male mouse into the established hierarchy for two-hour periods to create feelings of stress within the mice.

Researchers then examined the immune cells circulating in the stressed mice’s blood stream, discovering that the mice had four times the amount of immune cells in the spleen and blood when compared to non-stressed mice.

Similar results were also discovered in human participants. Researchers at UCLA examined blood samples from humans that lived under different socioeconomic statuses, as well as stressed out mice. Just as with the mice, researchers found that the human participants also had higher levels of inflammatory immune cells in the blood.

This study provides a clear demonstration how psychological issues such as stress can impact an individual’s biology. Researchers hope that has they begin to gain a better understanding of how stress can impact inflammation and a person’s oral and physical health, they can better devise ways of reducing inflammation in the body.

If you suffer from chronic stress, it becomes even more important that you maintain your daily oral hygiene habits and continue to schedule regular dental appointments at Klamath Falls Dental Specialist.