6 surprising ways to reduce autoimmune disease risk

Stress is a killer…quite literally.

In fact, a brand-new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found conclusive evidence linking stress with 41 autoimmune disorders.

This finding makes a lot of sense, as in recent years, science has shown that stress causes chronic inflammation — the precursor to many chronic diseases, including autoimmune diseases.

Tragically, most of mainstream medicine has misdiagnosed and undertreated these mysterious, widespread “mind-body” conditions for decades.

But researchers at my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, had insight into the problem 40 years ago.

UPenn ahead of the curve, once again

Back when I was in training during the mid-1970s, the medical scientists at UPenn already recognized that conditions like multiple sclerosis and psoriasis involved stress and the immune system. And they began labeling them as autoimmune diseases because of the way the immune system turns against itself when compromised with these conditions.

The connection seems obvious now, as we’ve all experienced physical symptoms from stress — such as chronic fatigue, GI distress and conditions, and higher vulnerability to the common cold or flu.

But since UPenn’s observations in the 1970s, there’s hasn’t been sufficient scientific research on the direct connections between stress-based psychiatric conditions and specific immune-related diseases. That is, until now…

The new observational study followed more than one million people in Sweden for 30 years.

Eventually, more than 100,000 participants were diagnosed with a chronic stress-related condition — from acute stress disorder, to adjustment disorder, to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

And those who suffered a diagnosed stress-related disorder were 30 to 40 percent more likely to subsequently be diagnosed with one of 41 different autoimmune diseases — including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease (irritable bowel), psoriasis, and multiple sclerosis.

Plus, people diagnosed with PTSD at a young age ran a much greater risk of developing an autoimmune disease. However, those subjects who received treatment for PTSD soon after diagnosis displayed a lower risk of later developing one. This point supports a causal link between stress and the onset of an autoimmune disease.

According to the lead author, Unnur Anna Valdimarsdóttir, from the University of Iceland, “We know from previous research that too much stress can disrupt our immune system, but this is the first study that shows the link between PTSD and other stress disorders and increased risk of autoimmune diseases in a large sample of individuals.”

The study also suggests a broader link between stress and inflammatory conditions in general. Indeed, there’s a growing trove of research suggesting that several psychological disorders, including depression and thoughts of suicide, could stem from chronic inflammation in the brain.

Reduce stress to reduce inflammation

In the meantime, there are many things you can do RIGHT NOW to lower your stress levels, including…

    1. Mind-body treatments – Natural approaches like hypnosis, relaxation, biofeedback, acupuncture, and yoga work wonders to reduce inflammation and stress. I suggest you take my Emotional Type Quiz, which I developed with Mike Jawer, and read my book of the same name, to determine which natural approaches will work best for you.
    2. Train your brain to relax – Two books can help in your quest to stay stress-free year-round — Your Emotional Type and New World Mindfulness.
    3. Light workouts – You can also reduce stress by getting some light physical exercise a few times a week. If possible, outside activity will increase those benefits.
    4. Follow a Mediterranean-based diet – The Mediterranean-based diet has been shown to help reduce inflammation. It consists of lean proteins, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh produce, nuts, whole grains, and red wine. Additionally, stay away from processed carbs and sugar, which increase inflammation.
    5. Enjoy a few drinks – As I explained yesterday, research shows moderate alcohol consumption significantly reduces stress. So — go ahead and enjoy a glass of wine (or two) with dinner most nights of the week.
    6. Take a high-quality B complex supplement daily – Remember that study I told you about a few years ago involving Canadian flood victims? Turns out, victims who took a daily B vitamin had much lower stress scores after six weeks. And B vitamins definitely help your body fight free radicals and ward of systemic stress and inflammation. Look for a high-quality vitamin B complex that contains at least 50 mg of B3 (niacin).

P.S. Speaking of inflammation, it’s also important to reduce its presence in your brain — which ultimately prevents the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. You can do this with a common botanical. To learn more, check out the new August issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter. (If you’re not yet a subscriber, now’s the perfect time to get started.)


“Association of Stress-Related Disorders With Subsequent Autoimmune Disease,” JAMA. 2018;319(23):2388-2400