Stress is a normal part of everyday life. Anything from meeting a deadline at work to moving into a new home can trigger stress. For some, stress can become overwhelming while others thrive off of it to push through whatever situation they may be experiencing. However, if stress becomes chronic, it can begin to negatively impact your immune system.
What Is The Relationship Between Stress & The Immune System
Quickly going back to basics: stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences and the immune system is a complex network of cells that defend the body against antigens (cancerous cells, bacteria & viruses.)
When we become stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off foreign bodies is reduced therefore making us more vulnerable to infections. Stress also causes your body to produce higher levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can lower the body’s lymphocytes which are the white blood cells needed to help fight off infection.
Causes Of Stress
Some of the most common causes of stress are work, chronic illness, traumatic events, financial obligations, family responsibilities, the death of a loved one, and the list can go on. Oftentimes, stress can come from the inside rather than an actual event happening to you. Fear, uncertainty, unrealistic expectations as well as your attitude and perceptions can cause feelings of stress.
How Stress Impacts Life
High stress levels can cause a number of mental and physical conditions. Stress responses can affect your digestive system, cause ulcers, raise blood pressure, increase blood cholesterol levels and even cause anxiety and depression which can lead to higher levels of inflammation. If you have high levels of inflammation, your immune system can’t properly protect you because it has essentially been overworked.
If you are unable to reduce stress levels, chronic inflammation can occur causing the development and progression of immune system diseases like: lupus, fibromyalgia, arthritis, and inflammatory bowel disease. Long-term stress can also put you at greater risk for mental decline, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
How To Reduce Stress
Since stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an emotional, mental and/or physical response, there are plenty of things YOU can do to manage it.
We spoke with Osteopathic Physician, Dr. Greene, on what we can do in order to help reduce stress & boost our well-being. Here are some of his tips:
Get Enough Sleep
Shorter sleep duration increases the risk of infectious illness. Attempt to set a schedule for yourself. Go to bed within roughly the same hour every evening and wake up around the same time daily. The body functions more efficiently when there is rhythm to the day, which reduces unnecessary fluctuation in cortisol production associated with late nights and variable times of waking. If you experience difficulty sleeping, consider incorporating melatonin into your night time routine. Not only is it beneficial in the induction and maintenance of sleep, but melatonin has also been shown to be anti-inflammatory and reduce oxidative lung injury and inflammatory cell recruitment during viral infections.
Implement Stress Management Practices
Psychological stress disrupts immune regulation. Various mindfulness techniques such as meditation, yoga, breathing exercises (4-7-8 breathing technique), and guided imagery are effective in stress reduction.
Eat Real Food
Vegetables and fruits are a rich repository of flavonoids that are considered a cornerstone of the anti-inflammatory diet. At least 5–7 servings of vegetables and 2–3 servings of fruits are recommended daily. Foods to consider: tomatoes, apples, onions, oranges, nuts, parsley, celery, berries, green tea, and herbs. Licorice (black) is a reasonable food to consider due to its anti-inflammatory and immune enhancing effects. The overall importance of eating these types of foods is to increase fiber intake, feeding the beneficial bacteria of the gut to enhance immune function.
- Vitamin C
Clinical trials have found that vitamin C shortens the frequency, duration and severity of the common cold and the incidence of pneumonia. Typical daily dosing of vitamin C ranges from 500mg to 3000mg daily with even higher doses utilized during times of acute infection. The most effective administration is intravenous or intramuscular.
One of the most potent and effective natural anti-inflammatory substances on earth, Curcumin, a key component of turmeric, also demonstrates antiviral effects against a variety of viruses. Consuming raw turmeric (via root or dehydrated powder such as found in curry seasoning) tends to be better absorbed than Curcumin alone. Ensure if you choose a Curcumin supplement it has black pepper or black pepper extract as that facilitates absorption.
Zinc supplements stimulate particular immune cells and reduce oxidative stress. It can significantly reduce the risk of infections and promote immune response in older adults. Studies have also shown that 80-92mg per day of zinc may reduce the length of the common cold by up to 33%.
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Available in a variety of delicious flavors, our stress-relieving gummies contain 10mg of calming CBD to soothe feelings of stress and anxiousness. They’re easy to incorporate into your daily routine and perfect to take on-the-go so you can find relief anytime, anywhere!
Remember, not all stress is bad for us, but if it becomes chronic, it’s time to take control of it so we can keep our immune systems strong!
For more about Dr. Greene: