Why is stress so difficult for our immune system?
People generally say, "Give your stress wings and let it fly away." Why is stress regarded as something that must be avoided from our lives? Can stress hormones truly put your health at serious risk?
Stress is a natural response to life events. Everyone experiences physical and emotional stress at some point in their lives. Being unhappy, your routine is turned upside down, having extreme work and responsibilities or even traumatic events can creep into you triggering stress formation. As soon as this happens, the control tower in your brain responds by releasing the hormone cortisol, which quickens your heartbeat and gets your muscles ready for action. This stress can sometimes benefit our bodies by allowing us to adapt to a serious situation for a short period of time. On the other hand, if your stress response persists and lasts for a long time, it can be harmful to your health. It can have a negative impact on your nervous system, respiratory and cardiovascular systems, immune system, and even your digestive system. Among these, the connection between stress and the immune system has some effects on your natural defence.
Defending the defender
The immune system is the body's defensive force that fights off invaders and protects it from diseases. Infections caused by bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens are avoided, and tissue damage is repaired by our immune system. People with weakened immunity are more likely to catch diseases quickly. Stress has both direct and indirect effects on the immune system. It has the ability to inhibit immune cells, cause inflammation, and trigger a constant fight-or-flight response.
Count on WBC
WBCs (white blood cells), also known as leukocytes, are immune system fighters that protect the body from infectious disease and foreign intruders. Constant stress can reduce the amount of WBC in your blood and disrupt normal white blood cell communication, weakening your immune system's ability to fight off intruders. Chronically stressed people are more vulnerable to viral diseases such as flu, common cold and other infections.
Weakening your defence
When our bodies detect an attack, they initiate a biological reaction to resist it, and inflammation is the body's defensive measure against infection from external invaders like bacteria and viruses. A typical inflammatory response promotes healing by dilating blood capillaries to allow more WBCs and nutrients, as well as immunological components like antibodies, to enter a damaged region. However, a Chronic inflammation caused by prolonged stress can lead to more harm by causing long term effects on immunity.
When there is more fight
Stress triggers the fight-or-flight response, which involves the release of hormones such as cortisol in response to physical threats. These stress hormones circulate throughout the body keeping it on high alert, raising blood pressure and heart rate. Chronic stress and a constant state of alertness in the body can depress the immune system by increasing the sensitivity of WBCs to stress hormones. This process can also increase your risk of causing autoimmune diseases.
Stress has a direct influence on your mental health, and it's now evident that it can also have an impact on your physical health. Lowering your stress is one of the finest things you can do to boost your immunity and keep your physical health in check. Let’s look at a few practical ways to do that.
● Exercise regularly to relieve both mental and physical stress.
● Get enough sleep that recovers you from everyday stress
● Engage in social events and spend time with friends and family
● Practice mindfulness with Yoga and Meditation
● Eat a variety of nutrient-rich food