What are the effects of stress on the immune system and what can you do about it?

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You probably don’t think about it often, but your immune system is working nonstop to protect your body from illness. This is an important task. However, there are several factors that can weaken your resistance, such as lack of sleep, harmful substances and a poor diet. And how does stress affect the immune system? In this blog, we address that and ways to support your resistance.

How does the immune system actually work?

The immune system is an incredibly complex system whose job is to protect you. Not only against disease, toxins and other invaders, but it also helps you recover from injuries. Your resistance is not in a single part of your body. Immune cells can be found anywhere in the body, such as your bloodstream, lymphatic system, skin, marrow and mucous membranes.

The moment your body perceives organisms that don’t belong there (bacteria, fungi, parasites or viruses), it activates an immune response. In this process, special cells spring into action that mark and destroy the threatening cells before they can cause damage to the body. So that is (mostly) an effective system that helps keep your body healthy.

The impact of stress on your immune system

Almost everyone experiences stress at one time or another, and many people even suffer from chronic stress. No matter what that tension is caused by, it triggers in your body the fight-or-flight response. This is almost automatic. This reaction dates back to when our ancestors had to survive in the wild. It allowed them to respond appropriately to a threat, and it increased their chances of survival.

Even now, your body still reacts this way. With stress, which is seen as a threat, a hormonal chain reaction is triggered. More adrenaline is produced, causing your heart rate to increase, your breathing to speed up and your muscles to tighten. Your digestion slows down and you may even sweat.

Cortisol is also produced. This causes a rise in blood sugar and an acceleration of metabolism. This gives you more fuel at your disposal to deal with the threat. But cortisol also inhibits the immune system. Because, of course, during times of great threat, healing wounds and fighting germs are not so important for a while.

In acute stress ( such as surviving an attack by a bear) this response is very effective. In our modern society, there is usually no life-threatening situation. We experience stress due to money worries, tension at work or a high workload. As a result, the stress is chronic. If you constantly feel stressed, you cannot relax and recharge. Your body will remain in survival mode and continue to produce stress hormones. As a result, you run the risk of lowering your resistance.

Research on stress and resistance

There is also
research
showing the link between stress and negative effects on the immune system. There appears to be a link between prolonged stress and poor communication between immune cells and high levels of cortisol. You can see these negative effects reflected in the fact that people who suffer from psychological stress are more prone to colds and cold sores. But more serious conditions can also be linked to stress, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

How can you support your immune system?

Unfortunately, many people suffer from stress, and it cannot always be so easily avoided. Fortunately, you can support yourself and your resistance in several ways. With a combination of healthy eating and attention to your mental well-being, you can counteract the negative effects of stress and take better care of your immune system.

Stress, healthy eating and your immune system

Eating is more than just supplying your body with nutrients. What you eat and drink can help reduce stress. If you feel tense, drink a relaxing herbal tea of chamomile and valerian, for example. Vitamins and minerals are also important, both for the immune system and to reduce stress. Magnesium helps relax muscles and nerves. Vitamin C and omega-3 are important to become more resilient to stress.

Further Ashwagandha is a useful supplement when it comes to the immune system. This herb is an adaptogen: if your resistance is not active enough, it makes it work better. If it is overactive, it has inhibitory properties. Also medicinal mushrooms can help improve immunity, such as Reishi, Turkey Tail, Chaga and Maitake. CBD oil is also a supplement that is soothing and relaxing. If you are looking for other options, look further in our shop at all of our products that help the immune system support. 

Meditation

To better cope with stress, it is important to be able to find your own inner peace. Here meditation or mindfulness help well. These techniques help you distance yourself from your thoughts and focus on, for example, breathing or what you see, hear or feel. By sitting in silence for a moment every day, you develop a routine and it gets easier and easier.  Do you find meditation difficult? There are a large number of apps these days that allow you to follow guided meditations.

Physical movement

Physical exercise is also a good way to get rid of stress. Exercise makes your body produce all sorts of chemicals that make you feel more comfortable in your own skin. They help reduce anxiety and stress. Another benefit is that by physically exerting yourself, you make yourself tired, so you sleep better. And that, in turn, helps you cope better with stress.

As you can see, there are several ways you can support yourself during times of stress. Preferably choose natural methods, such as nutrition, supplements and mindfulness, so that you support your body and mind in a healthy way.

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