Nov 01 2015

What is stress doing to your immune system?

Published by at 1:24 pm under Stress

What is stress doing to your immune system?
Different types of stress affect our bodies in different ways…learn the signs and symptoms to prevent stress from hurting your health.

 

Last week we talked about how teens have taken over as the most stressed out generation. Of course, stress affects people of all ages, not just teens. Everyone experiences stress on some level at different times. It is part of life. But the type of stress and how we deal with it can affect our health in different ways. Recognizing stress, dealing with it properly and managing it are all keys to staying healthy.

Different levels and types of stress affect us all:

Routine stress is the day to day stress brought on by daily life situations…a tough relationship or job, an arduous commute, an ailing parent or a personal illness, financial strain. All these things add a daily pressure that wears on a person.

Stress brought on by a sudden, negative change includes a divorce, loss of employment or a sudden illness or injury.

Traumatic stress is when someone experiences a major accident, assault, war, natural disaster where one’s life is threatened. 1*

Our bodies respond to stress in a different ways. Digestive issues are very common. We also get headaches, inflammatory skin reactions such as hives, or other breakouts, depression or inability to sleep.

When a stressful period lasts over an extended period of time, our body’s reaction may be illness. Stress affects the immune system by producing the hormone Cortisol, which sends the brain its fight or flight message. When this happens, other functions in the body pause until the stressful encounter has passed. This is how the body deals with the immediate emergency. The immune system also receives signals to slow itself while Cortisol does its job. When a person is experiencing chronic routine stress, the immune system stays in low gear as Cortisol stays present to deal with the stress. This leave the body vulnerable to viral infections such as cold or flu, and vaccines such as the flu shot  become less effective. Additionally, present illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, skin conditions, memory function, and digestive issues and ulcers can get worse. (1,2)*

For years, researchers have known of the connection between stress and the immune system. “…Stress suppresses immune system function and over time, the immune system does not adapt but instead continues to wear away. What was intended to protect the body begins to harm it when unregulated. The effect of stress on the immune system has been linked to cancer, AIDS and other autoimmune disorders…”2*

It is important to evaluate your stress level and keep it in check. Chronic stress can become a new normal in your life, and you won’t even realize how it is wearing you down. Pay attention to your symptoms or those of your loved ones and recognize if lifestyle changes are in order.

What symptoms should you look for that your or a loved one’s stress is taking a toll? Increased use of alcohol or other substances, irritability, depression, over eating, trouble sleeping, low energy, anxiety, heart palpitations, increased blood pressure…all of these are signs that stress may be impacting one’s health negatively. 2*

There are steps you can take to help with stress levels.

  • Say no to activities if you are a “yes” person and feeling overwhelmed.
  • Exercise.
  • Get support through friends, family or other support groups.
  • Talk it out.
  • Seek guidance from a health care practitioner.
  • Meditate
  • Keep your gut healthy to keep your immune system strong
  • Eat right and try to get enough sleep
  • Make a list to avoid your “to dos” constantly swimming around in your head *

We can’t make life’s stress go away. But we can take measures to minimize the effects it has on our bodies and our immune systems. Keeping your gut healthy is at the top of our list for a healthy immune system so despite life’s stress, you are protected from your core. The holidays are around the corner and life always gets more stressful during that time of year. Don’t let it catch you off guard. Act now to make sure you are managing your stress properly.*

Healthiest wishes,

Kelli

 

 

Resources:

  1. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml
  2. http://2.http://www.livestrong.com/article/22689-stress-affect-immune-system/

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