Does stress exacerbate liver diseases?

Yoichi Chida, Nobuyuki Sudo, Chiharu Kubo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

62 Citations (Scopus)


Although anecdotal comments on detrimental effects of psychosocial stress on liver diseases can be found even in the early literature, only recently has scientific evidence been reported. The present article reviewed such evidence to demonstrate how stress exacerbates liver diseases. A search of the literature from the last two decades was performed using MEDLINE by pairing 'psychological stress' with 'liver' or 'hepatitis.' Additional research was conducted by screening the bibliographies of articles retrieved in the MEDLINE search. The search results showed that the principal effectors of the activated hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, glucocorticoids, can exert a facilitative effect on the hepatic inflammatory response and even increase the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma. For certain liver diseases, defective HPA axis activation, which probably contributed to the exacerbation of the liver disease, has been reported. The efferent sympathetic/adrenomedullary system mainly contributes to the stress-induced exacerbation of liver diseases via its neurotransmitters, the catecholamines. In contrast, the efferent parasympathetic nervous system elicits an inhibitory effect on the development of hepatic inflammation. In conclusion, the pathophysiological interaction between stress and the liver appears to be regulated by the complex, dynamic networks of both the endocrine and autonomic nervous systems, which implies a further need for basic research into the involved mechanisms and for clinical evidence to apply psychosocial support to patients with chronic liver diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-208
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology (Australia)
Issue number1 PART2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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