Billi Gordon Ph.D.

Obesely Speaking

Mind, Body and Election 2016

Our immune system is getting burned by this heated election.

Posted Mar 24, 2016

Source: Shutterstock

Judging by social media, the upcoming presidential election is very emotionally charged. These emotions threaten our health because the emotion areas of the brain are rich with receptors for neuropeptides (messenger molecules). These neuropeptides bring information from more than 50 of the body’s informational substances such as gut peptides, hormones, growth factor etc. [1, 2] This connects the brain, glands, and immune system and forms a network that expresses the emotional highs and lows of life at a cellular level, or nerdly speaking – the biochemical substrate of emotion.[3-6] This connectivity between the emotional centers of our brain and our immune system determines how well we can prevent or recover from disease based on the efficacy of communication via neuropeptides.[1, 2]

In human evolution neuropeptides and their receptors (host molecules) have been around since Day One.[7-9] We identified opiate peptides and insulin in unicellular organisms before the Beatles broke up.[7, 10-12] Take home message: neuropeptides have been used for intercellular communication between one-cell organisms. [13-15] Therefore, in complex organisms (that would be us)  unique neuropeptide distributions are used to communicate emotion on a biochemical level.[1, 2, 16-23]  Since evolution has preserved the structure and function of neuropeptides, then even the simplest organisms use neuropeptides to galvanize behaviors that have the greatest survival value.[2] In humans, it logically follows that the functional integration of the body’s cells via neuropeptide networks and their receptors is critical to survival, i.e., health and immune status. [2, 17]

Source: Shutterstock

So the feelings generated by politics are expressed by neuropeptides in the emotional parts of the brain, which mediates communication to the other parts of our body such as our immune system. The integrity of this communication determines our ability to avoid and heal from disease.  Picture an astronaut saying “Houston we have a problem,” and Houston not being able to hear the message.[1, 2, 16, 17, 23, 24]

This scenario on a cellular level increases the risk for colds and flus and vulnerability to chronic conditions such as Cardiac Disease, Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis, Cancer, etc. [2, 16, 17, 25-33]     

Soon, scientists will concede that separating psychology, neuroscience, endocrinology and immunology is an outdated approach; mind/body medicine is the scientific reality. Mounting research tells us that emotional status affects diseases we originally thought were completely somatic. I do not mean, “your attitude affects your recovery,” although most agree that is true.  What research is finding is that your emotional state can dictate whether or not disease will occur in the body.[28, 29, 31, 33-47] 

Shutterstock (altered by Dr. Gordon)
Source: Shutterstock (altered by Dr. Gordon)

That said, let's be candid -- this election is ugly. In addition, it is hard to be an American, because we are not Europe, Asia, Central or South America, Africa, Canada, or Australia – we are all of them.  We do not practice Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Agnosticism or Atheism – we practice them all. America speaks many languages, has all levels of education, wealth, ability and disability. We are all that is good about humanity and all that is bad. We are all that is triumphant, and all that is tragic and sad. 

So finding our way as a nation is very difficult – many rivers must be crossed to find some common higher ground. In political arenas many skirmishes must be fought over what to discard and what to cherish, as well as what to trumpet and what to silence.

Source: Shutterstock

Humans are a social species, meaning in part, that membership in kinships, clans, and nations is vital because social relationships kept our ancestors alive. So naturally, where America is involved, emotions occur that will affect the neuropeptides that dictate our health status by affecting the efficacy of mind/body communication – particularly between the gut, the immune system, and the subcortical areas of the brain that regulate emotion.

And this affects everyone, even Americans who hate America, and claim not to care. Evolution appointed an inescapable biochemical need for social connectivity in all humans – for survival purposes. And at the end of the day, we are all just humans trying to survive.  That and indifference, not hate, is the opposite of love – Hate is just love having a bad hair day.  Remain fabulous and phenomenal. 

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