The Stress Response, Immunity and Upper Cervical Chiropractic
Few people have heard of the field of study called Psychoneuroimmunology and it is understandable why. Studying the connection between the mind, emotions, the central nervous system, and the immune system is difficult considering each individual field tends to use their own jargon. But understanding their connection opens up a whole new view of how our body functions when both healthy and unhealthy.
The foundation for psychoneuroimmunology was first set by Walter Cannon. He was an American neurologist and physiologist who studied and taught at Harvard for over 40 years. He coined the term homeostasis, referring to the body’s ability to maintain balance in response to changes in the external and internal environment. Essentially, homeostasis is your body’s resilience to stress.
The body responds to stress in many different ways. However, every response is directed by the sympathetic nervous system. While many people have never heard of the SNS, most people have heard of the fight or flight response.
This term was also coined by Cannon while he was studying the adrenal glands. In response to stress, the adrenal glands release hormones that increase heart rate and blood pressure for a physical response (hence fight or flight), and also dilate the pupils and increase the alertness of the brain. At the same time, actions like digestion and immune function are decreased, as they are not critical to an immediate danger.
While these actions are imperative for short term survival, sustained or chronic stress can damage the body.
Following in Cannon’s footsteps, Dr. Hans Selye spent much of his career researching what he coined the General Adaptation Syndrome. By exposing laboratory rats to various types of stressors, including both physical and psychological, he consistently saw the same physiological response:
- Enlargement of the adrenal cortex
- Atrophy of the thymus, spleen, and lymphatic system (Immune system)
- Gastrointestinal ulcers
Let’s repeat those findings in a way that is much easier to understand: Regardless of whether you experience chronic physical or emotional stress, your body will respond the same way.
Many people still think of the immune system and the nervous system as separate, but psychoneuroimmunology has proven that wrong long ago.
In 1985, David Felten, MD, PhD, discovered that the immune cells of the thymus, spleen, and lymph nodes are literally covered in nerves. He also discovered that while interrupting hormone input to these cells reduced immune function slightly, cutting the nerves to these cells completely shut down immune function!
This is one of the many reasons upper cervical chiropractic is focused on optimizing the function of your nervous system.
Upper cervical chiropractic works by removing any interference between the brain and the rest of the body, including the immune system.
By utilizing tools like infrared thermography at every visit, we can track and see exactly how your nervous system is responding to care.
We have come so far in our understanding of how the body works and yet we are still just scratching the surface. However, we do know that the nervous system controls and coordinates every cell in our body. That is why an upper cervical chiropractor’s sole focus is making sure your nervous system is functioning at 100%.
In 1910, before any of this research was done, D.D. Palmer, the founder of chiropractic wrote:
“The Chiropractor looks upon the body as more than a machine; a union of consciousness and unconsciousness; Innate’s ability to transfer impulses to all parts of the body—the coordination of sensation and volition: a personified immaterial spirit and body linked together by the soul—a life directed by intelligence uniting the immaterial with the material.”