Stress Less, Boost Immunity
Your immune system is your body’s first line of defense against invading bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. Your organs, tissues and cells all work together to fight harmful substances and protect you from getting sick.
Your immune system is intrinsically linked to your stress levels. On the whole, your immune system does a remarkable job of defending you, however research has shown that chronic stress can reduce your immune system’s ability to fight off antigens; the harmful invaders that can make you unwell and vulnerable.
Stress can affect your immune system in two ways:
By creating chronic inflammation that harms tissues
By suppressing immune cells needed to fight infection
Stress and the Immune System
For one thing, stress is an unavoidable part of life. What may appear to be a stressful situation for one person is not for another. Sometimes stress can be overwhelming and other times it can be a motivator that helps you rise to the occasion. In either case, if stress is chronic, it can take a toll on your immune system. Research cited in the Harvard Business Review showed that 60% to 90% of doctor visits were stress-related.
It is commonly known that stress causes your body to produce greater levels of norepinephrine, epinephrine and cortisol, known as your excitatory response. In controllable short releases, this excitatory response can boost your immunity by limiting inflammation. But over time with long term stress, the door opens for more inflammation. In addition, stress decreases the body’s lymphocytes — the white blood cells that help fight off infection. Leaving you at more risk for an over tired immune system that can’t properly protect you.
In a review conducted by researchers at Ohio State University, psychological stress was found to disrupt communication between the nervous-endocrine systems and the immune system*. Psychological stress raises the risk for the common cold and other viruses. Less often, chronic stress can promote a hyper-reactive immune system and aggravate conditions such as insomnia, fatigue, mood issues, allergies, asthma and autoimmune disease.
*NCBI (2006) Stress-induced immune dysregulation: implications for wound healing, infectious disease and cancer.
Remember, the stress response often can’t be avoided: it’s an evolutionary mechanism that we simply have to manage and there are lots of ways to minimize its impact and the time your body spends in ‘fight or flight’ mode. Below are some basic tips for stress and immune system health.
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Stress & Immune Health Tips
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Get enough sleep
Walk during work/school breaks
Find things to laugh about
Practice meditation and deep breathing techniques
Get out in nature
Take some You time for rest and relaxation