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Posted on 03-18-2014
Chronic stress causes harmful long-term changes in brain; exercise to avoid stress, stay happy and healthy
Adapted from NaturalNews.com, posted 12 Feb 2014, with an addendum following by Dr. Amy
http://newscenter.berkeley.edu)Chronic stress generates long-term changes in the brain that may make people more prone to mental problems, such as anxiety and mood disorders, according to researchers from the University of California, Berkeley.
Doctors have already known that people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other stress-related problems have brain abnormalities like differences in the amount of gray matter versus white matter. But this new work helps scientists as they try to discover how those changes are made.
Daniela Kaufer, UC Berkeley associate professor of integrative biology, and her colleagues found through a series of experiments that chronic stress causes the body to produce fewer neurons and an excess of myelin, white matter, "which disrupts the delicate balance and timing of communication within the brain," according to UC Berkeley's press release.
The researchers focused only on one part of the brain called the hippocampus, which plays a role in various emotional disorders and regulates memory and emotions, but their results could have wide-reaching implications for conditions such as schizophrenia, autism, depression, suicide and PTSD.
Kaufer's findings could explain how stress is related to some changes in brain connectivity, for example, in people with PTSD. "You can imagine that if your amygdala and hippocampus are better connected, that could mean that your fear responses are much quicker, which is something you see in stress survivors," she said. Other connections, such as to the prefrontal cortex, which moderates responses, might not be as strong, so the ability to shut down responses is impaired, leading people to have much larger responses than they normally should.
The decreased number of neurons could also explain how chronic stress affects learning and memory.
Kaufer is continuing her research on the effects of stress on the brain, as well as different therapies to treat that stress, including exercise and antidepressants. Some natural methods to help mitigate chronic stress include finding times to laugh, gardening, enjoying time outside and exercising, which can include biking, walking, hiking, rock climbing or anything else that's fun or takes your mind off of stress. Yoga and meditation are great ways to deal with stress too.
The study is titled "Stress and glucocorticoids promote oligodendrogenesis in the adult hippocampus" and was published in Molecular Psychiatry.
Note from Dr. A:
We all have stress: chemical, physical, and emotional stressors affect us every day, every week. We do the best we can to reduce or eliminate stress wherever possible, but it’s nearly impossible to live a stress-free existence. (and that would be boring anyways, right??) It is, however, very important for our health to try to work towards handling stress well. We’ve known for a while that stress impacts your health in general; this article goes a step further, and suggests that stress can actually reprogram your brain.
That’s why it’s so important to have multiple ways to decrease the stress your body experiences. And this is one of the reasons that your regular chiropractic care is so important for your health: subluxation (neurostructural dysfunction) causes stress in your body, and each time you get adjusted, we decrease your stress load a bit. Many people have felt this change, this shift after an adjustment – actually, it’s a running joke with many of my patients, right? =)
One of my favorite things to watch is the subtle change that happens with many of our new people when they start corrective care. Many times people can’t pinpoint it, but they just feel better – in general. What’s this change a sign of? Well, when we reduce stress with every adjustment, we allow your body to rest better, recover better, sleep better. And getting adjusted reprograms the brain in the OPPOSITE way described in this article – by reducing stress, your body is in an environment where it can actually restore or strengthen brain connections, or even form new ones.
Are you stressed out? Give us a call to set up a complimentary consultation, where we can sit down and talk with you about what's going on and how we can help. You only have one body, make sure you're doing all you can to preserve its health.
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