The Link between Religion and Health: Psychoneuroimmunology and the Faith Factor

By Harold G. Koenig; Harvey Jay Cohen | Go to book overview

10
Psychological Stress and
Autoimmune Disease
HAROLD G. KOENIG & HARVEY JAY COHEN

Because chemicals produced by immune cells signal the brain, and the brain in turn sends chemical signals to regulate the immune system, the two systems are able to signal each other continuously and rapidly in response to external or internal threats to homeostasis. Just as the brain can send hormonal and nervous system signals that suppress immune functioning in response to stress, disruption of the regulatory influence of the brain on the immune system can lead to increased immune activity and, if directed against the body's own tissues and organs, greater susceptibility to inflammatory and autoimmune disease (Sternberg & Gold, 1997). For instance, animals whose brain-immune communications have been disrupted experimentally are at much greater risk for adverse outcomes from inflammatory disease. Reestablishment of those communications can reduce inflammation and moderate immune activity.

This chapter examines autoimmune disorders that are associated with excessive immune activity and inflammation and discusses research that links the onset and course of autoimmune conditions with psychosocial stress. The use of religion by patients to cope with autoimmune disorders such as psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus also is explored, as are the effects of religious-spiritual interventions on the disease course. Throughout most of this book thus far, the effects of psychological stress and emotional distress have been discussed in terms of their ability to weaken or suppress immune function. There is another effect, however, that stress can have on the immune system that appears to be the exact opposite. Psychosocial stress may interfere with the ability of the body to regulate immune functioning, resulting in the excessive or

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The Link between Religion and Health: Psychoneuroimmunology and the Faith Factor
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Foreword *
  • Contents ix
  • Contributors xi
  • The Link Between Religion and Health *
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - The Connection Between Psychoneuroimmunology and Religion 11
  • References *
  • 2 - The Development and History of Psychoneuroimmunology 31
  • Note *
  • References *
  • 3 - Understanding How Stress Affects the Physical Body 43
  • References 60
  • 4 - Stress, Natural Killer Cells, and Cancer 69
  • Note *
  • References *
  • 5 - Psychosocial Interventions and Prognosis in Cancer 84
  • Note *
  • References *
  • 6 - Psychosocial Stress, Social Networks, and Susceptibility to Infection 101
  • References 117
  • 7 - Psychosocial Factors, Immunity, and Wound Healing 124
  • References *
  • 8 - Psychosocial Factors, Spirituality/ Religiousness, and Immune Function in Hiv/aids Patients 139
  • Note *
  • References *
  • 9 - Hostility, Neuroendocrine Changes, and Health Outcomes 160
  • References *
  • 10 - Psychological Stress and Autoimmune Disease 174
  • References *
  • 11 - Immune, Neuroendocrine, and Religious Measures 197
  • References *
  • 12 - Psychoneuroimmunology and Eastern Religious Traditions 250
  • References *
  • 13 - Psychoneuroimmunology and Western Religious Traditions 262
  • References *
  • 14 - Psychoneuroimmunology and Religion: Implications for Society and Culture 275
  • References *
  • 15 - Avenues for Future Research 286
  • Conclusions 295
  • Index 297
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