Researchers may have solved the mystery of why wounds heal best when patients are stress-free.
Emotional upset appears to reduce the activity of compounds important to the healing process, explain Dr. William Malarkey and Dr. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser. They found that levels of two key healing compounds—interleukin-1 and interleukin-8 —were lower in highly stressed women than women with lesser levels of stress.
Highly stressed women also have higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. As stress (and cortisol) levels rise, interleukin levels fall, triggering a slowdown in the healing process.
The findings may have important implications for the treatment of wounds and for patients undergoing surgery. The researchers suggest that stress-reducing therapies, such as medication or psychotherapy, may enhance post-surgical recovery.
SOURCE: Archives of General Psychiatry 1999; 56:450-456.