These Common Health Problems Might Actually Be Good For Your Body
Last week, a new U.S. study found a link between morning sickness during pregnancy and a lowered risk of miscarriage, officially making vomiting while expecting seem a little less horrible. Although this information is not currently applicable to my own life (rejoice!), I was happy to hear about the study for a number of reasons — the most important one being that my sister is currently pregnant with her third child, and morning sickness is the bane of her existence. The study also left me wondering: if something as seemingly crappy as morning sickness can be beneficial, what other common health concerns might actually be good for us? Plenty, apparently.
In fact, some research suggests that we’ve been looking at a fair number of common health issues far too negatively. As it turns out, problems from allergy symptoms to non-life-threatening episodes of situational depression can, in addition to their drawbacks, come with a surprising number of health benefits. Heck, when handled well, even the right dosage of stress can be a little good for us.
Of course, the possible benefits of these widespread health concerns don’t undo their potential to cause us serious harm; but it’s reassuring to know that many of the most commonly experienced health issues aren’t entirely bad for you.
1. Allergy Symptoms Can Protect You From Harmful Substances
If you suffer from seasonal allergies, food allergies, latex allergies, or literally any other kind of allergy, then you probably feel like allergy symptoms serve absolutely no purpose except to ruin your existence. But according to a 2012 article published by Scientific American, allergies might have evolved to keep us safe. With the exception of anaphylaxis — an acute allergic reaction to an antigen (think bee sting) which rapidly lowers blood pressure and closes airways — researchers believe allergic reactions generally exist to protect us.
Multiple studies back up this claim, too. A 2006 study published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation reported that "key cells involved in allergic responses degrade and detoxify snake and bee venom." Moreover, a 2010 study which was also published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation suggests that allergic responses to tick saliva can actually prevent the tiny arachnids from attaching and feeding. So lower-intensity allergic reactions aren't just an annoyance — they might actually be a sign of our bodies looking out for us.
2. Bouts Of Sadness Can Leave You More Well-Adjusted
Clinical depression can be life-threatening, so if depression has been a long-term health concern for you, don't ignore it — seek help. That said, according to some mental health experts, just feeling depressed or sad on a short term basis can actually be good for you in the long run. According to Lara Honos-Webb, PhD, a clinical psychologist in San Francisco, and author of Listening to Depression: How Understanding Your Pain Can Heal Your Life, fighting some depression can make us mentally and emotionally stronger people.
As Dr. Honos-Webb told Prevention back in 2011, "Depression is meant to stop you in your tracks because, like physical pain, it's a signal that there's something wrong and you need to fix it...The social withdrawal that comes with depression can help you change something in your life that's broken — and once you've gone through it, you can be stronger and more resilient because of the experience."
Again, this doesn't mean you should throw out your anti-depressants. This simply means that working through non-life-threatening emotional pain with tools like therapy, meditation, exercise, or creative work can better equip us to manage any future bouts of sadness and/or depression.
3. Nausea During Pregnancy Is Linked To Lower Miscarriage Risk
As we mentioned above, morning sickness is awful — but it's also a pretty solid indicator that you're less likely to miscarry. According to The Huffington Post, these findings are the result of a new U.S. study led by Stefanie Hinkle, a scientist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
For the study, 800 women averaging 29 years in age — all of whom had experienced at least one prior miscarriage — were asked to keep daily diaries of their nausea and vomiting symptoms from weeks two through eight of their pregnancy. At week 12, the women started recording their symptoms in monthly questionnaires. These questionnaires showed that 86 percent of the women reported nausea, and 35 percent reported combined symptoms of nausea and vomiting. At the end of the study, researchers found that, "Nausea and vomiting were associated with a 50 percent to 75 percent lower risk of pregnancy loss."
4. Having A Higher BMI Could Help You Live Longer, Recover Faster, And Face A Lower Risk Of Developing Dementia
As Medical Daily reported back in 2013, contrary to popular stereotypes, having a higher body mass index (BMI) can actually be good for you. Yes, there are numerous health issues associated with being overweight, such as heart disease and diabetes. However, as Medical Daily put it, "even though overweight people are more likely to develop serious health issues, normal and underweight people are much more likely to die from them." Additionally, perhaps due to the common misconception that overweight people are inherently unhealthy, doctors are typically more aggressive and proactive when treating their overweight patients.
On top of that, a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that a higher BMI can "lower the risk of dying from any cause by about 6 percent." Yet another study, which was conducted by the Center for Disease Control, (CDC) found that a BMI within the range of 25 to 29.9 can increase your lifespan.
As if all of that isn't evidence enough that being fat and being unhealthy aren't synonymous, The Telegraph reported in 2015 that being overweight can reduce your chances of developing dementia by 25 percent, assuming you remain "physically stroke-free." Moreover, that very same article asserts that belly fat might actually make it easier to heal — one study discovered mesenchymal stem cells in abdominal fat that are capable of repairing tissue "so quickly that you'll never even notice any damage to begin with."
5. Small Doses Of Stress Can Improve Brain Function And Overall Health
I've both written about and personally experienced a few of the ways that chronic stress can mess with your health. If you're too stressed for too long, you put yourself at greater risk for developing breast cancer, Alzheimer's, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. So chronic stress is no joke. That said, some research suggests that brief episodes of stress can be good for our health.
As Entrepreneur reported in 2013, "Embracing situations that cause short-term stress that lasts for an hour or two, such as giving a public speech, is associated with better health profiles." In small doses, stress-induced adrenaline rushes can improve memory, boost our brain's cognitive abilities, and increase awareness. Plus, according to a study led by Kirstin Aschbacher, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, a small amount of stress might tell your body to up its antioxidant operations. In turn, this change could better protect your body from aging, tissue damage, and disease.
So the next time you start freaking out about a job interview or a first date, remember —a little bit of stress is one of the many things you've been told to avoid that might actually do you some good.
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