The Stress of Stress
It has long been known that psychiatric reactions to life’s stresses are common and can lead to immune system dysfunctions. Recently, the results of a study done in Scandinavia were published. The study looked at whether there was an association between stress-related disorders and autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases, much more common in women as opposed to men, cause the immune system to make antibodies that attack the body’s organs. The reasons for this are not well understood. The results of the study were very interesting as the study found a strong association between significant life stress and the subsequent development of an autoimmune disease.
Autoimmune diseases come in many shapes and forms. Examples include thyroid diseases (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, and a recently discovered disease called latent autoimmune diabetes of adults, or LADA. LADA, also called diabetes 1.5, is a mix of type I and type II diabetes. In type I diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, the cells within the pancreas that make insulin are destroyed. Many experts think this is caused by a viral infection. The result is that the patient, typically a teenager or pre-teen, must take insulin to control the blood sugar. Type I diabetes does not respond to oral medications. In type II diabetes, formerly known as adult-onset or non-insulin dependent diabetes, the pancreas does make insulin however the amount of insulin, is insufficient or there is a condition known as insulin resistance that makes the insulin less effective. This condition often responds to oral medications and insulin injections are usually not needed. Type II diabetes is often inherited, and obesity is a significant risk factor.
Now along comes LADA, aka diabetes 1.5. It is a mix of both type I and type II diabetes, therefore the 1.5 designation. Those with LADA make some insulin but not enough to keep the blood sugar controlled, thereby needing insulin injections to control the blood sugar. LADA is often diagnosed when older adults, who are presumed to have type II diabetes, do not respond well to the usual medications prescribed for type II. The clinician can perform a blood test called c-peptide, which measures the amount of insulin the pancreas is producing. In type I diabetes, the c-peptide level is nearly zero, whereas in type II it is normal. In LADA, the c-peptide level is below normal but not zero.
The Scandinavian study now suggests that LADA, an autoimmune disease, and many other autoimmune diseases may be directly linked to significant life stresses and the psychological damage those stresses may cause. It is easy to say one should avoid stress, however that is easier said than done, especially if you have children. If you have type II diabetes that is not responding well to treatment (and you are compliant with following your diet and taking your meds), have your doctor check to see if you have LADA. If you do, blame your kids for it!
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