Our modern, rushed lifestyles have allowed stress to filter into almost every aspect of our lives.
Stress can best be described as a state of mental and emotional strain resulting adverse or demanding events in our lives. It's impossible to avoid all the hard stuff that comes your way, but the solution lies in the way you react to it.
Scientists have long been aware of the connection between the immune system and how it can be compromised by stress. Learning to cope in a healthy manner will minimize the negative impact it may have on your immune system efficiency.
How stress weakens the immune system:
The immune system is the body’s form of defense, which is made up a myriad of cells, tissues, and organs, which work together to fight toxins and other foreign substances which threaten to do harm to the body. When you feel stressed out, the immune system’s ability to defend the body is reduced, and we become susceptible to infections etc.
This is how the immune system becomes compromised:
Studies have shown that the immune system of highly stressed people has sluggish responses to health challenges
The raised levels of the hormone cortisol, over-produced by chronic stress, can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system, making you more vulnerable to infections
While cortisol does its job, the immune system receives signals to slow down, and if stress is not eased and cortisol stays high, the immune system may remain in low gear
The under-performing immune system can then result in serious inflammatory conditions, which is the cause of many ailments
The immunity of those who would normally have a healthy immune system is subsequently lowered
Chronic stress leads to a lower amount of a certain protein being produced, which is instrumental in the signaling for “reinforcements” between immune cells. Without this communication, the body is in danger of contracting acute illnesses and may have to endure extended recovery times
Stress can have an escalated, indirect effect on the immune system if a person uses unhealthy coping strategies like binge-eating of unhealthy foods, and smoking or drinking much more than usual
The bottom line is that if you have constant, chronic stress which is not effectively handled, you are open to various illnesses which can have a devastating effect on your health.
Steps you can take:
Eat a good nourishing breakfast each day that includes minerals like calcium and potassium which have a calming effect on the body
Follow a healthy diet as much as possible
Avoid excessive caffeine, which may give you a short boost, but could leave you feeling jittery and anxious
It is VERY important to get enough sleep. Sleep pattern disturbances, or even mild insomnia, will be perceived by the body as major stress. The cortisol will rise to new heights, and immunity will fall to new lows
Interact socially often, and talk to family and friends if you feel the need to unburden or get some advice
The efficiency of your coping skills will be the key to a vital, fully-functioning immune system.
Some good news:
The good news is that a little stress is not a bad thing, as it keeps you alert to react to sudden, unexpected stressful situations. Short-term suppression of the immune system will not put you in danger, it is only when it is chronic that you will be prone to infection and disease.
Brief, curtailed bouts of stress due to unforeseen events or circumstances in your life, will simply keep you on your toes to respond quickly to the situation and will have no negative effect whatsoever on your immune system.
Stress is no laughing matter, as it plays a part in many deadly diseases such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, AIDS, obesity, and chronic digestive problems, to name a few.
Surveys conducted worldwide have revealed some disturbing facts…
In the US results showed 75% of adults reported experiencing high to moderate stress in the past month, and more than half felt their stress increased over the past year91% of Australians presently feel stress in at least one part of their lives, while Australian employers report absenteeism due to stress costs the economy about $14.2 billion annually.7 million working days are lost annually in the UK, thanks to stress related issues, at a cost of about 28.3 billion British pounds.
A serious situation indeed!