Psycho-neuro-immunology is the term given to the interconnections between the brain, the mind and the hormonal/ immune systems. These significant interconnections have bi-directional communication networks. This means that the brain and the individual's psychological resilience influence these systems in both helpful and harmful ways, impacting things such as inflammation, viral infection risk and hormonal imbalances.
Research shows that the immune cells for example have the same receptors on their membranes as brains cells. Meaning neuro-chemicals and transmitters influence the behaviour of these cells. This means that mental and emotional stress can make you more prone to getting a viral infection, may be associated with an inability to clear an infection, may increase inflammation and the subjective unpleasant feeling of pain.
Whilst many people understand the role of stress on immunity. The role of physical health impacts on a person’s brain health and psychological state of mind is less recognised and therefore less utilised. In addition, the role of psychological stress on the regulatory effect of the hormonal system is too less appreciated.
In addition to the influences on the white blood cells and lymphocytes, the brain can influence the level of cytokine released by the immune cells (cytokines are key inflammatory indicators and have been associated with diseases such as metabolic disease, heart disease and cancer). These cascades are found to play a role in the presence of sub-clinical inflammation pathways that are touted as a main source of the chronic disease epidemic.
Psycho-neuro-immunology, even though it is a relatively new area of medicine and unfortunately unknown to many regular medical doctors, it can provide insight into how we operate as a whole, rather than the over-simplification of treating a condition based on the system it presents in. For example, treating a joint condition, without looking at a person’s diet, stresses, alcohol intake or nutritional status. Because when we start looking at the whole system, if one sub-system is negatively affected, then another system will be so too. On the flip side as we work towards optimising health let’s say in metabolism, there will be a positive effect on mood, and brain health as well.
The science of psych-neuro-immunology is key to understanding the holistic aspects of the human body, and opens us up to the ability to maximise our health potential by working on multiple different systems at once and appreciating that by taking a step by step approach, building on each win, the wide spread influences across all the systems of the body will occur.