Political turmoil is reaching unprecedented levels in America and is being propagated by an omnipresent and largely negative 24-hour news cycle. Whether you’re on social media or out in the world, it can feel relentless and is increasingly difficult to tune out.
In acknowledging these realities one can’t help but wonder what this constant stream of political upheaval is doing to our stress levels, and how that anxiety and stress is affecting our liver health.
With Democrats in need of some serious soul searching before the 2020 elections and Republicans limping away from the midterms with many longtime staffers quitting or refusing once coveted positions, things are looking bleak no matter which side of the aisle you sit on.
Faith in the system is waning, and that stress could very well be affecting our health as a nation.
The link between and mind and body is indisputable. So how do stress and anxiety manifest into physical problems for your liver?
This article dives deep into the worry that’s brought on by the 24-hour news media cycle, political upheaval and how it can trigger health issues by putting unnecessary stress on your liver.
Stress and liver health are connected. What are the more subtle symptoms that indicate liver problems due to stress, and how can we manage and resist the constant flow of negative political news?
Stress and Liver Death Correlated
A massive study conducted in 2015 by the University of Edinburgh and published in Gastroenterology found a correlation between psychological distress and liver disease mortality.
Researchers had an extremely deep participant pool of 166,631 individuals, collecting data over a 10-year period. Over that period of time, 17,368 participants died, 457 of whom died of liver disease.
In correlating participants’ levels of psychological stress, based on a General Health Questionnaire each participant completed (GHQ), researchers discovered “a significant increase in liver disease mortality with increase in GHQ score.” The higher the GHQ score the higher the level of psychological stress.
If you’re already diagnosed with hepatitis or another liver disease, watching the news and the psychological stress it induces has an “intricate relationship with inflammatory and fibrosing changes of the liver during the course of hepatitis.” That coming from a 2009 article published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology regarding the relationship between psychological stress and liver disease.
While further studies are necessary, it’s clear that there’s a correlation and it’s a well-held belief that psychosocial stress exaggerates inflammation in an already unhealthy liver.
Subtle Symptoms of a Liver Problem
If you feel stressed out about what you’re reading and listening to in the news, keep an eye out for some of these initial and subtle symptoms of a liver problem.
Some of the more subtle signs that you’re liver could be under too much stress are as follows:
- Itchy skin. When your liver isn’t functioning properly, bile can collect in the bloodstream and cause itching.
- Spider veins. If your liver is damaged it may be struggling to complete its natural duty of managing hormone levels. If estrogen isn’t getting broken down by the liver it can accumulate and cause spider veins just beneath the surface of your skin.
- Halitosis. Bad breath can be caused by dimethyl sulfide, which accrues in your blood when you suffer from liver cirrhosis.
- Lack of focus. If your liver isn’t cleaning the blood of toxins, they can affect multiple areas of your body – including your brain.
Pleasure in Pain
We may be more addicted to negative news and political turmoil than we’d like to believe. In an experiment conducted by McGill University in Canada, researchers found a “negativity bias” where people choose to consume negative news media over lighter, more positive media if given a choice, even whilst outwardly declaring a preference for positive stories to negative ones.
Perhaps, the current political climate, complete with
- sexual misconduct
- mass shootings
- and climate change
simply catches our eye and attention more than positive news.
Perhaps, negative news makes us feel better about our own lives by comparison in the short term.
Whatever the reason, we seem to be a bit obsessed, and that welcomed stress can wreak havoc on the liver.
From the separation of children from their families to offensive twitter rants, the messages coming out of the White House are outright horrifying. They also don’t appear to be letting up anytime soon and, whether an intentional political strategy or not, their net effect is to distract and numb us.
It doesn’t take a study to tell us that hearing these messages ad nauseum can create feelings of powerlessness. And powerlessness can easily lead to feelings of sadness and depression.
Which came first, liver problems or stress?
It appears that psychological stress and the mountain of negative news that inundates us share a symbiotic relationship. Stress can trigger liver issues, and the news is causing stress. But at a certain point worrying about your liver health also contributes to a negative headspace, feeding the cycle.
What We Can Do
According to The Mayo Clinic, “if you have liver disease, take time to understand how psychological conditions can affect your disease and talk to your doctor if you have or feel you are at-risk for anxiety or depression.”
They also offer some helpful tips if you have liver problems and fear you may be suffering from anxiety or depression.
Help the people close to you understand what you’re going through and how it impacts your liver. It can help to talk honestly about what you’re going through.
- Try and eat healthy, which includes not drinking alcohol. There’s a whole rabbit hole of research and science telling us that alcohol puts a tremendous amount of strain on the liver and inflames and accelerates liver disease.
- Use common sense when taking care of yourself. Try and be physically active every day and get plenty of sleep. Taking care of yourself can improve your self-image and mental state overall.
- Spend time with the people you care about or working on hobbies that make you happy.
- And, lastly, try to schedule time when you can put your phone down and take a step away from the news to check in on your own mental well-being.
Working these times into your routine may help you feel a little less tied to the 24-hour news cycle. And don’t worry; it’ll always be there when you come back.
- https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/12/trump-chief-staff-nick-ayers/577762/, The Atlantic, “Why Trump Can’t Find Anyone to Be His Chief of Staff,” By David Graham, published Dec 10, 2018, Retrieved Dec 18, 2018
- http://www.people-press.org/2018/11/15/public-expects-gridlock-deeper-divisions-with-changed-political-landscape/, Pew Research Center, “Public Expects Gridlock, Deeper Divisions With Changed Political Landscape,” Published on Nov 15, 2018, Retrieved Dec 18, 2018
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25680670, Journal of Gastroenterology, “Association Between Psychological Distress and Liver Disease Mortality: A Meta-analysis of Individual Study Participants.” Published on May 14, 2015, Retrieved Dec 18, 2018
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2702105/, World of Gastroenterology, “Psychosocial stress and liver disease status,” By Cristin Constantin Vere, Costin Teodor Streba, Letitia Maria Streba, Alin Gabriel Ionescu, and Felix Sima, Published on June 28, 2009, Retrieved Dec 18, 2018
- xhttp://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140728-why-is-all-the-news-bad, BBC.org, “Psychology: WHy bad News Dominates The Headlines,” by Tom Stafford, Published on July 29, 2014, Retrieved Dec 18, 2018