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  5. Is Stress Making Your Immune System Weak?

Did you know that too much stress can make you sick? If you have noticed, in many scenarios people come down with some illness when they are feeling stressed out or depressed. To many, it may sound like a coincidence but it is more than that.

Researchers suggest that stress has a strong connection with your immune system. It has the potential to weaken your immune system and open the door for outside threats to attack your body. But why and how it happens is a matter of discussion.

Let’s find out how stress is connected to your immune system and how you can prevent it.

Before we dig into how stress is related to the immune system, it is important to know about the white blood cells in the human body. Also known as immune cells, these white blood cells travel inside the human body through the bloodstream. They provide protection against foreign antigens such as viruses, bacterias and cancerous body cells.

The B cells and T cells are two main lymphocytes (a type of white blood cells) that form an integral part of the human immune system. Of these, B cells are the first difference mechanic of your body. When any foreign body enters your body, the B cells start secreting antibodies to destroy the antigen before it can enter your body’s cells. If the antigen manages to enter your body somehow, then T cells work by locking and destroying the infected cells of your body.

When you are under stress, the stress hormone cortisol is secreted. It potentially reduces the fighting ability of your immune system, as it lowers the production of lymphocytes in your body. As a result, your body’s strength against fighting the antigen weakens. [1]

Stress also affects your immune system in another manner. If distressed people choose addictive habits such as alcohol consumption, smoking, drugs etc, the body’s health is ruined from its core. An unhealthy body, thereby leads to a weak immune system.

According to a meta-analysis report, there is a strong correlation between psychological stress and the human immune system. A person with acute stress has proven to go through potential irregularities of the immune system. Also, people with chronic stress issues have major irregularities in their cellular and hormonal measures. [2]

How Does Stress Affect Your Immune System?

1. Digestive Issues

When you are stressed, your digestive system fails to work at its normal pace. When you are under stress, your body responds by increasing the secretion of adrenaline. Stress also reduces the flow of oxygen and blood to the gut, thereby causing cramps, ulcers and other gastro-intestinal disorders. [3]

2. High Blood Pressure

Stress causes a surge of hormone secretion in your body, especially causing an adrenaline rush. A normal adrenaline rush happens when you are facing any kind of physical threat or fear. This rush makes your heart beat faster than its actual rate. Fast heart rate narrows down the heart vessels leading to high blood pressure, which impacts the immune system. [4]

3. Heart Disease

When you are stressed, your body releases the cortisol hormone. Experts say that a high amount of cortisol secretion leads to health conditions like blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides etc. These conditions in turn, increase the chances of heart disease.

Hypertension is another stress-related issue that happens when you have prolonged high blood pressure. It leads to coronary heart disease, whereby your heart arteries build up plaque (a build-up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances). Plaque narrows down the wall of arteries and limits the blood flow to your heart. [5]

4. Auto-Immune Disease

Apart from genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors, autoimmune disease is related to stress as well. Studies suggest that most patients with autoimmune diseases have a previous medical history of stress and anxiety. Celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis are such autoimmune diseases associated with stress. [6]

How To Treat Stress & Boost Your Immune System?

1. Exercise

Exercise is known to be the best stress reliever. Regular exercise will not only provide you with physical benefits but also manage your stress levels. You can choose aerobic exercise or zumba to make yourself feel better. It releases the endorphins hormone that gives an instant boost to your mood.

2. Decrease Caffeine Intake

While you may rely on caffeine to go through a long day, it is not really helpful for stress. Infact, it only increases your stress level. Along with limiting caffeine, also avoid food products that contain caffeine. Limiting your caffeine intake will keep your blood pressure in control and also manage stress.

3. Avoid Tobacco & Alcohol

Depending on alcohol and tobacco to get rid of stress is a bad idea. Rather than helping you deal with your problems, smoking will harm your health and reduce the blood flow to your heart. Alcohol influences serotonin and other neurotransmitters in your brain and increases your stress level.

4. Healthy Diet

A healthy diet would give you the strength to fight the negative effects of stress. Since stress disturbs your natural blood flow and causes blood pressure; healthy nutrient-filled food will help to lower the impact of stress and maintain good blood flow. Add stress-relieving food into your diet such as eggs, fatty fish, turmeric, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, brazil nuts etc.

5. Lifestyle Changes

An irregular and unhealthy lifestyle can affect your health in many ways. A daily routine that isn’t well-scheduled with time-management, will not allow you to finish your regular work on time. This will lead to stress. Also, the other common unhealthy habit of not sleeping on time can increase your anxiety levels.

Preventive Tips For Reducing Stress

1. Meditation can bring mental peace. Doing meditation regularly will help you prevent stress.

2. Make some time for yourself every day. Do what relaxes you.

3. Reach out to a friend and share your problems whenever you feel stressed.

4. Involve yourself in physical activities like swimming, dancing, running or a long walk.

5. Laughter is the best medicine for stress. Watch something funny or read about it.

6. Try to sleep on time and get a minimum of eight hours of sleep.

7. Do not skip meals. Food will make you healthy and your immune system strong.

8. If needed, take a break from your hectic life and enjoy a holiday with your loved ones.

9. Avoid people who cause you mental trauma and bring negativity in your life.

10. Never feel ashamed or afraid of asking for help if you need it. Talk to a therapist/counsellor if you are having anxiety issues.

Wrapping Up

Stress has become an integral part of daily life. Though most people may not take stress as a serious problem, it affects health in multiple ways. Acute stress weakens your immune system and makes way for a variety of illnesses. But the good news is that you can manage stress if you follow the above-mentioned ways. Taking care of your mental health is as important as treating physical sickness. If you stay stress-free, your health will automatically benefit from it.

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