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Am J Gastroenterol. 2006 Oct;101(10):2300-7. Epub 2006 Sep 4.

Public speaking stress-induced neuroendocrine responses and circulating immune cell redistribution in irritable bowel syndrome.

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1
Department of Medical Psychology, University Hospital of Essen Medical School, Essen, Germany.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

Augmented neuroendocrine stress responses and altered immune functions may play a role in the manifestation of functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorders. We tested the hypothesis that IBS patients would demonstrate enhanced psychological and endocrine responses, as well as altered stress-induced redistribution of circulating leukocytes and lymphocytes, in response to an acute psychosocial stressor when compared with healthy controls.

METHODS:

Responses to public speaking stress were analyzed in N = 17 IBS patients without concurrent psychiatric conditions and N = 12 healthy controls. At baseline, immediately following public speaking, and after a recovery period, state anxiety, acute GI symptoms, cardiovascular responses, serum cortisol and plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) were measured, and numbers of circulating leukocytes and lymphocyte subpopulations were analyzed by flow cytometry.

RESULTS:

Public speaking led to significant cardiovascular activation, a significant increase in ACTH, and a redistribution of circulating leukocytes and lymphocyte subpopulations, including significant increases in natural killer cells and cytotoxic/suppressor T cells. IBS patients demonstrated significantly greater state anxiety both at baseline and following public speaking. However, cardiovascular and endocrine responses, as well as the redistribution of circulating leukocytes and lymphocyte subpopulations after public speaking stress, did not differ for IBS patients compared with controls.

CONCLUSIONS:

In IBS patients without psychiatric comorbidity, the endocrine response as well as the circulation pattern of leukocyte subpopulations to acute psychosocial stress do not differ from healthy controls in spite of enhanced emotional responses. Future studies should discern the role of psychopathology in psychological and biological stress responses in IBS.

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