How your Brain, Hormones, and Immune System talk to each other.
When I talk to clients about their health goals, they are often surprised to find out that symptoms they experience in different body systems are connected to each other.
New research is emerging all the time about how some of the critical systems of the body talk to each other constantly through signaling chemicals. Cells in the nervous system, endocrine system, and immune system all have receptors for the signaling chemicals (neurotransmitters, hormones, cytokines) of each other.
This can lead to some surprising connections. For individuals who have difficulty producing dopamine (perhaps someone with ADHD), this can lead to certain inflammatory conditions because of the role dopamine plays in the regulation of immune cells through the peripheral nervous system. Some studies show that this could be a major causative factor in conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Other parts of the nervous system, like certain parasympathetic pathways, are also responsible for down-regulating immune response.
It also can give us a hint at how some natural therapeutics work with these systems too. There was a study on acupuncture done on mice, and they discovered that if a mouse develops sepsis, stimulation of a single point on the leg (Zu San Li) activated a parasympathetic pathway that travelled to the hypothalamus, which then in turn activated the adrenal system to release corticosteroids and dopamine, which shut down the sepsis-associated inflammation and in many cases saved their life.
What does this tell us? That when we get sick, perhaps if our respiratory or digestive system develops inflammation, that there is a complex interaction going on between our brain, our hormones, and whatever our immune system is interacting with. We get sick, it is not just the symptom itself - it is an indicator that the coordinated response of all our systems is not functioning well. That includes our state of mind too.