Ian Cleary

Stress and Illness

Chronic Dwelling = Chronic Inflammation

A recent study out of the UK showed that when people were asked to think about a negative event the levels of C-reactive protein, which is a marker of tissue inflammation, rose. The levels stayed elevated for an hour but could also be normalized by changing focus.

This is an extraordinary concept and highlights just how interconnected the mind and our bodily processes are.

This research shows that your thoughts (dwelling on negative past events) will create sufficient inflammation to show up in a blood test.

So if dwelling on a problem has become chronic, then all the antibiotics, all the vitamin C, even all the rest in the world won’t change this unless you address this chronic rumination/dwelling issue. It is often one of the pieces in the puzzle of chronic illness – mentally stuck in the past or focused on the problem.

There is so much I could talk about in this study I don’t even know where to begin.

If stress, in the form our negative thought processes, can show up when testing for inflammation, then how reliable can the test be. What if someone is ruminating on the needle that is going to be used to extract the blood for the test for inflammation?

What is the impact of getting a bad diagnosis on one’s immune system?

What would happen if a current infection or inflammation gets dwelled upon. Does it create inflammation, slow the healing process, creating more rumination and more inflammation? If this is the case, then people get stuck in a vicious cycle.

How people relate to the past is one of the things I look at in my work. It’s not the only piece of the puzzle but if it’s missed then this study highlights how recovery is compromised.

It also suggests that if rumination (dwelling on a problem) is a habit, then all the antibiotics or anti-inflammatory drugs may be less effective until you change.

The take home message of course is these are the things you can do something about. If you have tried countless antibiotics or are on long term anti-inflammatory drugs, if you have reoccurring sore throats and infections, if your immune system is struggling, then perhaps you don’t need to change your medication or your diet. Perhaps even bed rest may not be effective if it encourages further rumination. It clearly isn’t the only piece in the puzzle but perhaps an important piece to be fully well.

I often say to people that recovery requires looking forward not looking back. It is often taken as a metaphor but I would say that it can also be a medical imperative.

Change your brain and you change your life.


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