Can Stress Contribute To Recurrent Infections?

Many years ago, a middle aged lady presented in the clinic with a history of recurrent urinary tract infection that was ongoing for many years. Her doctor had put her on an ongoing low dose of an antimicrobial medication. All investigations and evidence could not pin point any particular cause of the recurrence of infections.
Chronic stress is a known culprit in many infections. It is particularly relevant when no other obvious cause is apparent. It is usually not recognized by the person suffering. The reason for it is that as stress gets built up in the body, the body continues to adjust itself. With this adjustment more and more stress piles up, unless you are meditating regularly. With the increase in body stress, the immune system becomes weak. This causes the body to be vulnerable to successful attempts by the disease causing organisms inside and outside our body to thrive.
A research report was published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine in 1993. It was authored by Herbert & Cohen. It was one of the earlier findings that chronic stress resulted in decreased immunity. (1). Another article was published in Brain, Behavior and Immunity in 1997. This research was done by Dhabar and McEwen. They stated that acute stress or stress that lasts for a short period, strengthens the immune system. Chronic stress on the other hand, weakens the immune system.(2).

In my own work with stress, I have seen people having recurrent respiratory infections, tooth abscesses, digestive tract infections, among others.
Chronic stress can usually come from the way a person has been brought up. Because the immune system is not under voluntary control, a person may not be able to realize that their immune system is compromised. The rational mind can successfully suppress emotional stress by being creative and by avoiding the sources of stress. This suppression and avoidance, however, leads to a build up of tension that hits the immune system. Recurrent infections then become the norm for the body.

What is the solution? In the above mentioned case of recurrent urinary tract infections, a few months’ of treatment was taken in which the chronic emotional tension was “processed”. The person stopped having frequent attacks of infection.
Another person with Chronic Asthma stopped the use of inhalers after 40 years when he got treatment for his physical and psychological stress. Though Asthma is not necessarily caused by infections, there is still an inflammatory response of the immune system in it.
Stress plays an important but not commonly recognized role in causation and in suppression of the immune system. Once the long term impact of stress is “worked through”, the immune system kicks in.

1.Stress and immunity in humans: A meta-analytic review. Herbert T., Cohen S. Psychosomatic Medicine. 1993. Mendeley.
2. Acute stess enhances while chronic stress suppresses cell mediated immunity. Dhabhar F., McEwen B. Brain, Behavior and Immunity. 1997. Mendeley.