Harmony Between Our Emotions And Immunity

  • 3 mins read
  • Wellbeing
  • Mindfulness
  • Dr. Jatin Bhide

We humans have come a long way from being cavemen. We’re not just talking about gadgets and tools here. Sure, a lighter is better than flintstones. But we’ve evolved in more ways than that. One such aspect of our evolution is our feelings and emotions. We’ve developed something called ‘affective consciousness’. Simply put, this refers to our ability to perceive, tolerate, feel, and express. Not only emotions but our immune systems have come a long way too.

Can you guess what emotions and the immune system have in common? When in control, they’re both protective, and when in disarray, they’re both disruptive! Find that hard to digest? Well, it’s true. Immunity and emotional state are strongly interconnected. This has boosted a field of study called affective immunology. Read on to know more about this correlation.

Laughter is the best medicine
This quote is probably as old as time itself. But it does have some scientific explanation behind it. A study has shown that people watching funny videos have a surge in IgA levels, a protein important for immune function. No such changes were seen in those watching informative videos. So, the next time you feel guilty about binging on those sitcoms, remember laughter’s good for your immunity.

Turn that frown upside down
We all have had bad days and are sad sometimes. But being sad has negative implications on your health and immunity. Not to mention, it can also bring down the mood of those around us. Levels of certain inflammatory biomarkers are significantly higher when one is sad or angry. High levels of these substances can affect our natural healing processes and also lead to other complications.

Important to note: If you feel sad frequently or for long periods, you might be suffering from depression and must visit a doctor.

You’re not you when you’re hungry
Well, we all get a little crabby when we’re hungry. You’ll be pleased to know that it’s not entirely your fault. The hunger hormone called ‘ghrelin’ can affect your mood and immune system. It reduces inflammation and can boost your immune response. Being snacky comes with its merits.

Role reversal
So far, we’ve learned about the impact of positive and negative emotions on our immune system. But is the reverse true as well?
Studies show that compromised immune systems can hamper our mental and emotional states and lead to mental disorders. This has been a common observation in patients with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection.
Now you must be wondering, can a healthy immune system make us smarter and healthier? There is some indirect evidence correlating massage therapy and cells of the immune system in patients with HIV infection, suggesting that an improved immune system could lead to better emotional states. However, this aspect needs further investigation.

Now we have a clear idea as to how our emotional state and immune systems are closely intertwined. One takes care of the other and vice versa. This explains the popular saying, “Happiness and healthiness go hand in hand.”

References:

1.Brod S, et al. ‘As above, so below’ examining the interplay between emotion and the immune system. Immunology. 2014;143(3):311-8.
2.LeDoux JE. Evolution of human emotion: a view through fear. Prog Brain Res. 2012;195:431-42.
3.D’Acquisto F. Affective immunology: where emotions and the immune response converge. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2017;19(1):9-19.
4.Barak Y. The immune system and happiness. Autoimmun Rev. 2006;5(8):523-7.

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