The Links Between Allergies and Anxiety

The reason I did a search on allergies and anxiety is that recently I went on a family vacation to Lake George NY.  While I was there, my Ohio river valley allergies absolutely vanished! And lo and behold so did the massive amounts of anxiety I had been experiencing! Now I admit, my son was with us on this vacation, so part of the reason my anxiety disappeared was that I knew he was with me and safe and sound. But I feel it was more than that, I thought perhaps my allergies were making me anxious. Allergies happen because our immune system reacts against something otherwise benign like pollen. If our immune system didn’t think pollen or mold or other environmental substances  were pathogens and if our immune system didn’t mount a full on attack against these things, we would not have allergies! Simple. 

Since I also knew the immune system is implicated in the development and perpetuation of mental illness, well it only made sense that allergies and anxiety may well be related! 

After I came back home to Louisville, my allergies returned with a vengeance and so did my anxiety! 

So I did a search about it and found many publications relating the two. One such article is below. I’ve bolded what was most important to me. 

I have also made an appointment with my allergist, I intend to get injections of my allergens in minute doses in an attempt to rid my self of these annoying and perhaps anxiety producing allergies. 

I will report back on my anxiety levels when I have completed the injections. 

http://www.ei-resource.org/articles/mental-and-emotional-problem-articles/the-links-between-allergies-and-anxiety/
The Links Between Allergies and Anxiety
Last Updated on Monday, 09 May 2016 02:04

by Ryan Rivera

October 2011
Beyond starting with the letter “A,” most people do not equate allergies with anxiety when looking at the causes of both disorders. Allergies are an environmental health problem, caused by an immune system that reacts poorly to the environment. Anxiety is a mental health problem, caused by inadequate coping strategies, stress, and genetics. But these two disorders have a fairly strong link, both directly and indirectly, and those that suffer from both may need to address each of those issues if they hope to successfully treat it.
Indirect Ways That Allergies Contribute to Anxiety
Many of the ways that allergies affect anxiety are indirect – meaning that the allergies are not physically causing the anxiety, but are contributing to it considerably. These include:
Fear of Allergic Reaction – Those that experience severe allergic reactions to things like peanut butter or bee stings may experience stress and anxiety every day, concerned over whether or not they’ll be able to stay safe in the environment. Life threatening allergies can be a frightening thing, and if you are already suffering from any mild anxiety, that fear can easily make your anxiety much worse.
Sleep Problems – When your allergies keep you awake at night, getting a full night’s sleep can be difficult. Unfortunately, experiencing the symptoms of anxiety is very common when you are struggling to get a full night’s rest. Over time this can become a vicious cycle, since anxiety can then cause sleep issues, and sleep issues can cause your allergies to worsen.

Oversensitivity to Body Changes – While panic attacks are a mental health problem, they are often triggered by concerns over physical health. Those that suffer from panic attacks become oversensitive to their own body’s physical reactions, causing them to experience panic. When you have allergies, you experience physical symptoms often, and those that are prone to panic attacks may easily respond negatively to those changes.

Even indirectly, it’s clear that allergies and anxiety are linked. Research has also found that anxiety itself can have a direct effect on allergies.

How Anxiety May Affect Allergies
Research at Ohio State University has shown that anxiety is also a factor in experiencing allergy symptoms. Several studies have shown that even a small amount of stress can not only increase the intensity of an allergy attack, but also cause the allergy attack itself to last longer and fade less quickly.
The reason for this is that stress and anxiety can affect the status of your immune system. Since allergies themselves are already caused by an inadequate immune system response, the additional stress on your immune system only makes it work less efficiently, resulting in more serious allergy symptoms than if you did not have stress.
How Allergies May Affect Anxiety
The physical effects are not necessarily one sided either. While you already read the ways that allergies can indirectly affect anxiety symptoms, early research is showing that allergies themselves may actually trigger an increase in anxiety.
Research in the British Journal of Dermatology found that patients that suffered from skin allergies experienced greater levels of anxiety. Studies have also shown that a compromised immune system can cause physical stress, and research has indicated in the past that experiencing physical anxiety symptoms may increase the likelihood of experiencing stress and worry – both of which are mental health symptoms, rather than physical symptoms.
While research in both of these areas is fairly new and still subjected to intense medical scrutiny, there is early evidence that anxiety can cause allergies to worsen, and vice versa.
What Does This Mean For Future Research and Treatment?
The next steps in research are going to need to focus on direct causes – looking at how the immune system interacts with anxiety and vice versa in order to discover where or what the direct link is that causes the two diseases to essentially feed off each other, assuming such a link exists.
Nevertheless, the early evidence does indicate that there is a medical link between both disorders, and beyond that there are several indirect links that cause anxiety to fuel allergies and vice versa, so that in the event that research finds them to be independent, each can still exacerbate the symptoms of the other, causing those that experience both to live with the vicious cycle.

One thing is clear, however. For those that experience both anxiety and allergies, treating only one may not be adequate enough to reduce the symptoms. Allergy treatments are going to be less effective for those whose symptoms are exacerbated by anxiety, and anxiety treatments are going to struggle to work if the individual is simultaneously dealing with the physical and mental effects of allergies. Both need to be addressed if one is to be free of either, which means that research needs to continue to discover the links so that each can be treated successfully.

Mindfulness and meditation dampen down inflammation genes

Wow! Inflammation is reduced, as seen by a reduction in NFKB levels. NFKB is a transcription factor that is involved in the production of pro inflammatory cytokines. This then drives inflammation. While inflammation is good to fight off infection or repair injuries, it is horrible when it becomes chronic, in which case it can cause autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, etc. Inflammation is also involved in psychiatric illnesses. 

So if mindfulness and meditation decrease inflammation, they will obviously have a healing effect on the body and mind. 

Wow! Decreasing inflammation is why mindfulness and meditation are so helpful! Of course more studies are needed and will be done to make this official. 

Yoga anyone? 

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2137595-mindfulness-and-meditation-dampen-down-inflammation-genes/
Hush those genes
By Jo Marchant
Meditation and tai chi don’t just calm the mind – they seem to affect our DNA too. There’s evidence that such “mind-body practices” dampen the activity of genes associated with inflammation – essentially reversing molecular damage caused by stress.
Mind-body practices such as mindfulness meditation are widely claimed to protect against stress-related diseases from arthritis to dementia. But although there’s plenty of evidence that they can relieve stress, the scientific case for physical health benefits has not yet been proven.
Recent advances mean it’s now easier to study patterns of gene activity inside cells, and there has been growing interest in using this approach to investigate how nurturing inner peace might influence the immune system and disease risk.

Ivana Buric, a psychologist at the Coventry University’s Brain, Belief and Behaviour lab, and her colleagues have now conducted the first systematic review of such studies. The team analysed 18 trials including 846 participants, ranging from a 2005 study of Qigong to a 2014 trial that tested whether tai chi influenced gene activity in people with insomnia.

Although the quality of studies was mixed and the results were complex, Buric says an overall pattern emerged. Genes related to inflammation became less active in people practicing mind-body interventions. Genes controlled by a key protein that acts as an inflammation “on-switch” – called NF-ĸB – seem to be particularly affected.
Stress busting
Inflammation is the body’s first line of defence against infection and injury, but it can damage the body if switched on long term. It is thought to be an important way in which psychological stress can increase a person’s risk of developing disease. Chronic inflammation is associated with increased risk for psychiatric disorders, autoimmune conditions such as asthma and arthritis, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease and some types of cancer.

But the results of the analysis suggest mind-body interventions might help reduce the risk for inflammation-related disorders, says Buric. “And not just psychological ones, but even the physical ones like asthma or arthritis.”
Steve Cole, a genomics researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, who worked on several of the studies included in the analysis, describes Buric’s conclusions as “spot on”. But he says rigorous clinical trials are still needed to show whether the changes in gene expression really do result in improved physical health.
There’s also a need for more studies comparing the effects of mind-body therapies with other lifestyle interventions, such as diet or exercise.
So far, the results suggest that different mind-body interventions may well all be working in a similar way. If your main purpose is to reduce inflammation to improve health, says Buric, “it seems it really doesn’t matter which one you choose”.

Not Just a State of Mind: Scientists Locate the Physical Source of Depression in the Brain

So the area of the brain involved in reward is under active, and the area that of the brain that is involved in non reward and punishment is overactive. Therefore the symptoms is depression 😪 Didn’t all of us people with mood disorders already know this? That depression is a real disease with real physical reasons! Well here’s the proof!

https://futurism.com/not-just-a-state-of-mind-scientists-locate-the-physical-source-of-depression-in-the-brain/IN BRIEF

Major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older, in a given year.
Researchers have found that feelings of loss and low self-esteem are directly linked to two sides the OFC — the medial OFC and the lateral OFC.

ONE IN TEN

Depression is a mental illness many people still dismiss as a matter of mindset. An international team of researchers from UK’s University of Warwick and Fudan University in China may just have proven that depression is more than just that – and pinned down where it originates in the brain.
“More than one in ten people in their life time suffer from depression, a disease which is so common in modern society and we can even find the remains of Prozac (a common drug used to treat depression) in the tap water in London,” explains Jianfeng Feng, a member of the research team and professor at both Warwick and Fudan.
According to their research published in the neurology journal Brain, depression results from connection pattern changes in a key area of the brain called the orbifrontal cortex (OFC). The researchers used a high-precision MRI to scan the brains of more than 900 people, of which 421 were patients with major depressive disorder. They found that feelings of loss and low self-esteem are directly linked to two sides the OFC — the medial OFC and the lateral OFC.

UNDERSTANDING DEPRESSION

The medial OFC, which fires up when we receive rewards, showed reduced functional connectivity in depression. This explains why people with depression feel a sense of loss, disappointment, and low self-esteem. Furthermore, this also leads to weaker memory system functional connectivity in the hippocampus (the brain’s memory center).
The lateral OFC, on the other hand, exhibited stronger functional connectivity in persons with depression. This sector of the OFC is involved in non-reward and punishing events. The lateral OFC displayed strong connections with the precuneus (related with the sense of self) and the angular gyrus (responsible for memory retrieval and attention), making it difficult for depressed persons to feel good about themselves due to easy recall of negative experiences.
This study could allow us to dramatically improve the lives of millions around the world, and could lead to treatment better than the current hit-and-miss approach.
This is a fascinating reminder to us. As we develop better artificial intelligence (AI) technology, it’s worth remembering that we have yet to fully understand how our own brains work.
References: ScienceAlert – Latest, Brain, Warwick University

AUTHOR
Dom Galeon October 20, 2016

EDITOR

Sarah Marquart

@sagaofsarah

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Brain’s immune cells linked to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia (!!!)

This is incredible! Microglia, which are the immune cells that are in the brain, actually over express (meaning they make more of the proteins that the genes code for than normal cells) genes that are involved in the development of Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, and depression !!! Why would immune cells over express genes involved in neurodegenerative and mental illnesses? How would this lead to developing these diseases? Wouldn’t neurons have to over express these genes?

Anyway, this is fascinating, and more pieces of the puzzle ought to be forthcoming and these will give us a better picture of whats happening at the molecular level in the development of these illnesses. 

I have bolder some of the seminal information in this article. Feel free to read the whole thing. 

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170531132645.htmMay 31, 2017

Source: Salk Institute

Summary: Scientists conducted a vast microglia survey, revealing links to neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric illnesses.

Salk and UC San Diego scientists conducted a vast survey of microglia (pictured here), revealing links to neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric illnesses.

Scientists have, for the first time, characterized the molecular markers that make the brain’s front lines of immune defense — cells called microglia — unique. In the process, they discovered further evidence that microglia may play roles in a variety of neurodegenerative and psychiatric illnesses, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases as well as schizophrenia, autism and depression.

“Microglia are the immune cells of the brain, but how they function in the human brain is not well understood,” says Rusty Gage, professor in Salk’s Laboratory of Genetics, the Vi and John Adler Chair for Research on Age-Related Neurodegenerative Disease, and a senior author of the new work. “Our work not only provides links to diseases but offers a jumping off point to better understand the basic biology of these cells.”

Genes that have previously been linked to neurological diseases are turned on at higher levels in microglia compared to other brain cells, the team reported in Science on May 25, 2017. While the link between microglia and a number of disorders has been explored in the past, the new study offers a molecular basis for this connection.
“These studies represent the first systematic effort to molecularly decode microglia,” says Christopher Glass, a Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Professor of Medicine at University of California San Diego, also senior author of the paper. “Our findings provide the foundations for understanding the underlying mechanisms that determine beneficial or pathological functions of these cells.”
Microglia are a type of macrophage, white blood cells found throughout the body that can destroy pathogens or other foreign materials. They’re known to be highly responsive to their surroundings and respond to changes in the brain by releasing pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory signals. They also prune back the connections between neurons when cells are damaged or diseased. But microglia are notoriously hard to study. They can’t be easily grown in a culture dish and quickly die outside of a living brain.
Nicole Coufal, a pediatric critical care doctor at UC San Diego, who also works in the Gage lab at Salk, wanted to make microglia from stem cells. But she realized there wasn’t any way to identify whether the resulting cells were truly microglia.

“There was not a unique marker that differentiated microglia from circulating macrophages in the rest of the body,” she says.
David Gosselin and Dylan Skola in the Glass lab, together with Coufal and their collaborators, set out to characterize the molecular characteristics of microglia. They worked with neurosurgeons at UC San Diego to collect brain tissue from 19 patients, all of who were having brain surgery for epilepsy, a brain tumor or a stroke. They isolated microglia from areas of tissue that were unaffected by disease, as well as from mouse brains, and then set out to study the cells. The work was made possible by a multidisciplinary collaboration between bench scientists, bioinformaticians and clinicians.
The team used a variety of molecular and biochemical tests — performed within hours of the cells being collected — to characterize which genes are turned on and off in microglia, how the DNA is marked up by regulatory molecules, and how these patterns change when the cells are cultured.
Microglia, they found, have hundreds of genes that are more highly expressed than other types of macrophages, as well as distinct patterns of gene expression compared to other types of brain cells. After the cells were cultured, however, the gene patterns of the microglia began to change. Within just six hours, more than 2,000 genes had their expression turned down by at least fourfold. The results underscore how dependent microglia are on their surroundings in the brain, and why researchers have struggled to culture them.

Next, the researchers analyzed whether any of the genes that were upregulated in microglia compared to other cells had been previously implicated in disease. Genes linked to a variety of neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases, they found, were highly expressed in microglia.
“A really high proportion of genes linked to multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and schizophrenia are much more highly expressed in microglia than the rest of the brain,” says Coufal. “That suggests there’s some kind of link between microglia and the diseases.”

For Alzheimer’s, more than half of the genes known to affect a person’s risk of developing the disease were expressed more highly in microglia than other brain cells.
In mice, however, many of the disease genes weren’t as highly expressed in microglia. “That tells us that maybe mice aren’t the best model organisms for some of these diseases,” Coufal says.
More work is needed to understand exactly how microglia may be altered in people with diseases, but the new molecular profile of microglia offers a way for researchers to begin trying to better culture the cells, or coax stem cells to develop into microglia for future studies.

IU scientist developing anti-suicide nasal spray

This article is from 2012 and I just found this Science Nature Facebook post. It sounds like it could be very helpful, obviously! But I couldn’t find anything about whether it was developed and whether it’s in use or not. I’ll keep looking and report back on it. 

https://www.facebook.com/ScienceNaturePage/videos/1070727696392821/

http://www.wthr.com/article/iu-scientist-developing-anti-suicide-nasal-spray

An Indiana University School of Medicine scientist has been awarded $3 million to develop a nasal spray intended to combat suicidal thoughts among soldiers.

The U.S. Army awarded the research grant to associate professor of anatomy and cell biology and of neurobiology Michael Kubek, He works with thyrotropin-releasing hormone, or TRH, a neurochemical he helped discover in the human brain.
IU says TRH is known to have antidepressant and anti-suicidal effects, but isn’t suitable for injection or oral use. So Kubek and other scientists at Purdue and at Hebrew University in Jerusalem are developing a nasal spray designed to deliver appropriate doses of the drug to the brain over time.
The project is part of a national effort designed to combat suicides in the nation’s military.

6 Ways to Break the Cycle of Bipolar’s Negative Thinking

Bipolar disorder, it’s a lot of work! But if we don’t do it, our lives can. Wet wuickly become hell. Below are some steps we can take to stop negative thinking, or at least curb it. We need reminding sometimes that these infernal places that our brains take us are not, in fact, the realist reality that exists! Best luck, bloggers!

http://www.bphope.com/bipolar-buzz/6-ways-to-break-the-cycle-of-bipolars-negative-thinking/


Since those living with bipolar spend more time depressed than elated, having the skills to manage the negative thought pattern is essential. Psychologist Elizabeth Saenger, PhD, offers these six helpful techniques:
#1 Distinguish between what you feel and what is real
Your mood can easily blur your vision. Feeling depressed often means feeling life is hopeless, but it’s important to realize these views are symptoms of bipolar and do not reflect reality. “In other words, it’s the depression talking, not an objective picture of your situation,” Saenger explains. She suggests thinking back to a time when you were optimistic about the future, and tell yourself that what you thought then about your life was more accurate.
#2 Avoid focusing on the negative
When we disregard the positive and instead concentrate on the unfortunate aspects of a situation—dwelling on soccer games lost, and forgetting our victories—we do ourselves a tremendous disservice, asserts Saenger. Instead of focusing on your limitations, think about what a friend would say to you to contradict this negative line of thinking.
#3 Ban over-generalizations
How many times have you concluded, on the basis of a single failure, that you will always fail? Don’t fall prey to overgeneralized thoughts such as “No one cares about me” and “I’m never going to be able to get a job.” Instead, let the words ‘always,’ ‘everybody’, ‘never,’ and ‘nobody’ serve as red flags that you’re probably overgeneralizing.
#4 Create alternatives to mind reading
When we’re depressed, we may be apt to misread or mind read how people feel about us. If we automatically conclude someone does not like us because he didn’t say “hello” rather than considering it was because he didn’t see us, this is mind reading. Saenger says it can help to write down the behavior which discouraged you in one column, your automatic interpretation of it in a second column, and multiple alternative explanations in a third column.
#5 Create a gray continuum when you have black-or-white thinking
Black-or-white, or all-or-nothing, thinking involves inappropriately categorizing objects, situations, or people into one extreme or another. When you are depressed, it is easy to think of yourself as a total failure, or as completely worthless. Remind yourself that the world is made of shades of gray, and people who are all good or all bad are rare.
#6 Break up catastrophizing
Catastrophizing involves noticing one unfavorable fact or unfortunate situation, and making it mushroom in your mind into a chain of hypothetical circumstances ending in disaster. Observed symptoms of a cold lead to an imagined death from pneumonia, or a minor mistake at work results in the nightmare of getting fired. When you predict calamities, ask how probable each event is, and how likely it is they could occur together.

Bipolar Brain Biology a Bit Different

Yeah, a bit different 😉 ! Read on bloggers, it’s not all bad.

Here are some of the difference: “The study showed thinning of gray matter in the brains of patients with bipolar disorder when compared with healthy controls. The greatest deficits were found in parts of the brain that control inhibition and motivation – the frontal and temporal regions.”

But even though these changes exist, Lithium offers a protective role! “Some of the bipolar disorder patients with a history of psychosis showed greater deficits in the brain’s gray matter. The findings also showed different brain signatures in patients who took lithium, anti-psychotics and anti-epileptic treatments. Lithium treatment was associated with less thinning of gray matter, which suggests a protective effect of this medication on the brain.”
https://www.technologynetworks.com/neuroscience/news/mri-study-of-bipolar-sufferers-reveals-structural-differences-288248
Bipolar patients tend to have gray matter reductions in frontal brain regions involved in self-control (orange colors), while sensory and visual regions are normal (gray colors). Image courtesy of the ENIGMA Bipolar Consortium/Derrek Hibar et al.

A new study has found brain abnormalities in people with bipolar disorder.

In the largest MRI study to date on patients with bipolar disorder, a global consortium published new research showing that people with the condition have differences in the brain regions that control inhibition and emotion.
By revealing clear and consistent alterations in key brain regions, the findings published in Molecular Psychiatry on May 2 offer insight to the underlying mechanisms of bipolar disorder.
“We created the first global map of bipolar disorder and how it affects the brain, resolving years of uncertainty on how people’s brains differ when they have this severe illness,” said Ole A. Andreassen, senior author of the study and a professor at the Norwegian Centre for Mental Disorders Research at the University of Oslo.
Bipolar disorder affects about 60 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. It is a debilitating psychiatric disorder with serious implications for those affected and their families. However, scientists have struggled to pinpoint neurobiological mechanisms of the disorder, partly due to the lack of sufficient brain scans.
The study was part of an international consortium led by the USC Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute at the Keck School of Medicine of USC: ENIGMA (Enhancing Neuro Imaging Genetics Through Meta Analysis) spans 76 centers and includes 26 different research groups around the world.
Thousands of MRI scans
The researchers measured the MRI scans of 6,503 individuals, including 2,447 adults with bipolar disorder and 4,056 healthy controls. They also examined the effects of commonly used prescription medications, age of illness onset, history of psychosis, mood state, age and sex differences on cortical regions.
The study showed thinning of gray matter in the brains of patients with bipolar disorder when compared with healthy controls. The greatest deficits were found in parts of the brain that control inhibition and motivation – the frontal and temporal regions.
Some of the bipolar disorder patients with a history of psychosis showed greater deficits in the brain’s gray matter. The findings also showed different brain signatures in patients who took lithium, anti-psychotics and anti-epileptic treatments. Lithium treatment was associated with less thinning of gray matter, which suggests a protective effect of this medication on the brain.
“These are important clues as to where to look in the brain for therapeutic effects of these drugs,” said Derrek Hibar, first author of the paper and a professor at the USC Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute when the study was conducted. He was a former visiting researcher at the University of Oslo and is now a senior scientist at Janssen Research and Development, LLC.
Early detection
Future research will test how well different medications and treatments can shift or modify these brain measures as well as improve symptoms and clinical outcomes for patients.
Mapping the affected brain regions is also important for early detection and prevention, said Paul Thompson, director of the ENIGMA consortium and co-author of the study.
“This new map of the bipolar brain gives us a roadmap of where to look for treatment effects,” said Thompson, an associate director of the USC Stevens Neuroimaging and Informatics Institute at the Keck School of Medicine. “By bringing together psychiatrists worldwide, we now have a new source of power to discover treatments that improve patients’ lives.”
This article has been republished from materials provided by University of Southern California. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.