All children differ in their biological susceptibility to life experiences in a ‘for better and for worse’ manner. Some kids are particularly sensitive to both highly stressful and highly nurturing environments. Like orchids, such children bloom if lovingly cultivated, but wilt and wither if neglected.
In contrast, adaptable resilient children who don’t get easily stressed are like little dandelions, they’ll grow and thrive anywhere.
Studies are now showing ‘orchid’ and ‘dandelion’ genes linked to particular enzymes or brain chemical receptors, if and only if combined with early childhood toxic stress, can trigger behavioural problems and mood disorders later in life. Continue reading “It’s possible we’ve underestimated the importance of childhood.”
Links between the central nervous stress system and peripheral immune cells in lymphoid organs have been detailed through 50 years of intensive research. The brain can interfere with the immune system, where chronic psychological stress inhibits many functions of the immune system. On the other hand, chronic peripheral inflammation—whether mild (during aging and psychological stress) or severe (chronic inflammatory diseases)—clearly interferes with brain function, leading to disease sequelae like fatigue but also to overt psychiatric illness. In recent years, it has been observed that psychological stress can be disease permissive, as in chronic inflammatory diseases, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, acute and chronic viral infections, sepsis, asthma, and others. We recognized that stress reactivity is programmed for a lifetime during a critical period between fetal life and early childhood, which then influences stress behavior and stress responses in adulthood. First phase II clinical studies, e.g., on cognitive behavioral therapy and mind–body therapies (e. g., mindfulness-based stress reduction), are available that show some benefits in stressful human diseases such as breast cancer and others. The field of psychoneuroimmunology has reached a firm ground and invites therapeutic approaches based on Good Clinical Practice phase III multicenter randomized controlled trials to influence stress responses and outcome in chronic illness. Continue reading “Psychoneuroimmunology—developments in stress research”