This is such an excellent question and one that I have wondered about as well. And I am finding that it is a difficult question to answer.
Some months back I had asked Doctor Nitin Sethi, a neurologist, to answer some reader questions and someone had asked about both diet and stress as triggers for MS. Dr. Sethi had this to say:
"Stress and food do not play a direct role in worsening MS symptomatology. I do though advise my patients to attempt to reduce the stress in their lives and eat a balanced nutritious diet."
It seems difficult to find a study which says that stress is a direct cause of MS symptoms.
In an article entitled Stress and Multiple Sclerosis, author Julie Stachowiak has this to say about studies on stress and MS:
"In a 2006, Australian researchers conducted one of the first studies to seriously examine the relationship of stress and MS relapse. This study followed 101 people with MS for 2 years and asked about their stress levels and stressful events every three months. They found that the greater number of acute stressors that a person reported predicted relapse. They also found (not surprisingly) that people who were having a relapse reported more stress. Chronic stress and stress severity did not predict relapse, only the number of acute stressors."
But then I did find one study which actually said that stress can trigger MS symptoms.
A 2007 report from CBS news entitled, "Chronic stress can cause or exacerbate MS" states that:
"Researchers have demonstrated for the first time that inflammation brought on by stress leads to the worsening of the mouse equivalent of MS."
But we are talking about mice here and not humans so....I don't know how much merit one can base on such a study.
In my humble opinion I think stress can make any illness worse. But does it actually cause symptoms? I don't know.
I would love to know what others think about this. Great topic for discussion!
Ive been waiting for many years for someone to answer this but i no in my heart it sure does get my MS symptoms starting up exaserbations in stressful times are unfortunatly what seems to be expected and never wanted funny how some people say ur faking it!! who can twist there eyes in difrent ways and have painful treatments just to fake so much goes on with MS we who live it dont enjoy it at all but lets all pray for a cure mwa XX
Stress release certain chemicals into our body. MS is a disease of our immune system. Our immune systems are confused and stressed. Anything that confuses or stresses our immune system, i.e., stress, is bad for us.
My case: All or most of us are exposed to the virus that causes mononucleosis, as well as many other viruses. Why don't we all get mononucleosis? In my case, I had a very stressed childhood. When I was 16 I believe my immune system was very stressed and when I was exposed to the mono virus, I became very sick with it and missed three months of school. My mother (who is in her 80s now) has been told that some of her problems were caused by MS. So: here I am a case of MS genes + mononucleosis + stress. A very bad combination that resulted in me getting MS. Maybe if I hadn't had the stress in my early childhood, I wouldn't have gotten mononucleosis? Maybe I wouldn't have gotten MS? So, yes, I totally believe that stress can lower our immune system. Combine stress with a virus or bacteria .... and/or a genetic predisposition to a disease.... what have you got? Stress is an inevitable factor of life. Some say we could not succeed without stress. But we need to recognize bad stresses and learn how to mitigate the stresses in our life? Our mind interprets our reality. So our attitude and education/knowledge/beliefs impact what kinds of stress we get. Does life happen to us? Or can we make a difference?
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