Immune system has an on/off switch ‘in the mind’ …?

September 8, 2012 at 9:08 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | 2 Comments
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According to this article in the New Scientist (6 September 2012) the “the immune system has an on-off switch controlled by the mind”. On reading the article, one feels that this isn’t actually as daft as it sounds at first. The point is that, “the immune system is costly to run – so costly that a strong and sustained response could dangerously drain an animal’s energy reserves.”

Hmm, does that start to explain the fatigue felt by so many RA patients and dismissed by so many doctors? Given that RA is apparently caused by an  over-active immune system, then surely a strong and sustained over the top response must be pretty fatiguing?

Anyway, back to the article … given that the immune response is energy sapping, the theory is that the immune system will only bother kicking in to fight a mild infection if it feels the reserves it will drain can be re-stocked. Apparently Siberian hamsters will fight a mild infection in the summer, when food supplies are plentiful, but won’t do much to fight it in winter conditions.

This leads to the idea that the mind has an ability to play up/down the immune response depending on whether it feels there is help available … and that leads to an explanation of why the placebo effect works. If you think you’re taking a drug to help fight an infection, say, that makes it worthwhile to put up a fight and bring in the immune system, the theory goes.

The theory has now been supported by some computer modelling, which is all explained in the article but which I won’t go into here.

It leads to some interesting questions, to my mind, about autoimmune diseases.

Being a little flippant here, does this mean that all sufferers of autoimmune diseases are optimists who are so confident that help will always be at hand, that we bring our immune systems in on the flimsiest pretexts?

Is the reason autoimmune diseases seem to have become so much more prevalent in the last few decades (so I’m told) because we’re all generally  pretty healthy (until we’re not) and so the body/mind doesn’t have to question whether there are resources available?

And finally, if there’s an on/off switch in my mind, then why can’t I just turn the damn thing off and get on with life?

Psychology of Flares

June 15, 2009 at 1:03 pm | Posted in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) | Leave a comment
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I had a really good week last week – out three evenings during the week (OK, not exactly boogieing the night away, but still out and having fun), an exhibition and a carnival at the weekend, and some gorgeous walks in the local wood and heath with hubby.

I can’t say it was a pain-free week unfortunately, but it wasn’t TOO bad. I did worry, of course, that was overdoing it, and perhaps I did … I feel fairly rubbish this morning … but then again it’s Monday morning and I’m back at work, so that’s normal, isn’t it?

So while I absolutely KNOW that flares are a thing that happens and they are not ‘just in your head, dear’, I do wonder if I’ve kind of talked it up by thinking I was overdoing it and worrying that I’d have one.

Not that I’m sure I’m having one now – but you see, I’m still worrying about it … very silly really; why can’t I just get on with my life and put the worry to one side?

Maybe it’s because I’m for once NOT particularly stressed at work, not stressed about Tiny cat etc. etc., stopped stressing about someone I used to consider a friend and don’t anymore … I’ve run out of other things to get wound up about and I have to stress about my RA!

Hmm, I’m not really managing to say what I want to say here, but I’ll post anyway and perhaps someone can make sense of my ramblings. If so, please comment as I could od with some sense right now!

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