IC and the Stress Factor
Stress is a normal part of everyday life, but too much of it can be unhealthy for anyone. Chronic stress can wreak havoc on your immune system by releasing stress hormones such as cortisol into your body. This can, in turn, cause inflammation, reduce your white blood cell count, and increase your vulnerability to illness. However, for those suffering from interstitial cystitis, stress can be even more detrimental.
In people with interstitial cystitis, stress can exacerbate an already painful condition and lead to a flare-up of symptoms. When you get stressed, you stimulate your sympathetic nervous system. This can lead to mast cell production and an inflamed bladder, which for those already suffering from inflammation, can in turn cause increased bladder pain and urgency.
Too much cortisol can be damaging to your body, but not having enough can be just as harmful. Your adrenals are responsible for producing cortisol, but when they are either overworked or too weak from too much stress, they stop producing enough cortisol to control the inflammation in your body. This is called adrenal fatigue, and many people with interstitial cystitis suffer from it. It can place an increased burden on your bladder and also lower your levels of DHEA, a hormone that helps produce both testosterone and estrogen. Your thyroid function and sleep quality could also be affected.
What can cause this kind of stress? Your diet, for one. Food items such as gluten, dairy, refined sugar and grains place an increased burden on your gut. Stress can also come from your work, lifestyle, sleep patterns, toxins, or other bodily infections. Diet and lifestyle changes as well as reducing toxic burden and supporting adrenal function will help in addressing the root cause of your stress.