Autoimmune diseases and your brain

February 27, 2012

Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Health

An autoimmune disorder is a condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue.

by Stephanie Reese, Ph.D. — 

An autoimmune disorder is a condition that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue. Normally the immune system’s army of white blood cells helps protect the body from harmful substances, called antigens — bacteria, viruses, toxins and cancer cells. The immune system produces antibodies that destroy these harmful substances.

However, in patients with autoimmune disorders, the immune system cannot tell the difference between healthy body tissue and antigens. The result is an immune response that destroys normal body tissues.

For many years, scientists thought the immune system worked alone, disconnected from the rest of the body. But research has found that the brain and the immune system have an intimate relationship. The brain communicates directly with the immune system to send out commands that control the inflammatory response to an infection. However, it is a two-way communication.

This communication depends on two languages. The first is the neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals that neurons use to communicate with each other. The second language is immunotransmitters, or cytokines, which have the ability to allow cells to turn one another off and on to control or influence their behavior in regard to the immune system.

The hypothalamus, which is part of the limbic system of the brain, is the overseer of these crucial biochemical communications. In addition to controlling the production and release of insulin, thyroid, stress, growth and sex hormones, this small organ also connects emotions to physical responses.

Anger, depression and anxiety are all mediated by this chemical communication. These responses originate in the hypothalamus, and by way of the neurotransmitters and immunotransmitters; they flow to and from the immune system. This allows the brain to have an effect on the activity level of the white blood cells, lymph nodes and other immune organs, while brain metabolism is in turn affected by information from the immune system.

Stress, therefore, can affect immune dysfunction. Depression, anxiety and anger can all affect it. New research shows that the immune system sends signals to the brain that can alter neural activity and thereby alter everything that flows from it (such as neurotransmitters), affecting behavior, thought and mood. In other words, stress can make you sick.

Neurotherapy can relieve the symptoms that exacerbate stress, depression, anxiety and other factors that can trigger the immune response. As your brain struggles for balance, it will rewire itself as you go through simple exercises. It learns to shift from slow to fast states smoothly and easily, and stay in each as long as is needed.

As the brain practices using neurotherapy, it grows stronger, in the same way that an exercised muscle grows stronger. Neurotherapy allows your body to calm down the symptoms of autoimmune disorders so that it can recover.


Stephanie Reese, Ph.D., is co-founder of BrainAdvantage, which uses effective and scientifically based technologies to enhance total brain performance. 480-240-2600 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 2, Apr/May 2010.

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