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Stress and The Immune System

Stress and The Immune System

The immune system is comprised of millions of cells that travel via the bloodstream. These cells move in and out of organs and tissues to defend against bacteria, viruses, fungi, cancerous cells and other foreign bodies. When you are stressed, the immune system's capability to fight off these foreign bodies is reduced, and we become more susceptible to illnesses and infections. 

When you are under acute or chronic stress, the body increases the production of cortisol. In the beginning, cortisol can lower inflammation and immunity; however, over time, the body relies on this increased cortisol production, which allows for increased systemic inflammation. When you are under chronic stress, a cortisol supplement  helps to manage the effects of cortisol on the body, reduce systemic inflammation and improve immunity

Additionally, stress can lower the white blood cells in the body. White blood cells help to fight off infections. When white blood cells are reduced, you are at an increased risk of experiencing infections and viruses, including the common cold. 

Stress also can indirectly affect the immune system due to unhealthy coping strategies. For example, when someone is under a lot of stress, they are more likely to increase their alcohol or tobacco consumption, which can further damage the immune system. 

In one study, investigators determined that stress can negatively impact the immune system. The experiment was done on medical students. During the study, blood samples were taken during a low period of stress and then during the student's final exams. The lab measured T cell activity in these blood samples along with a questionnaire to assess the psychological healthiness. The study found that stress can lower the immune response .

Stress relief methods 

Strategies to reduce your stress levels help to improve the immune system as well as your thought patterns and mood. Follow these tactics to reduce both long-term and short-term stress. 

Meditation – Meditation involves focusing on the present moment without worrying about the future or being plagued with memories of the past, relaxing your muscles by sitting comfortably and concentrating on your breathing. In order to combat your stress levels, practice meditation for 10 to 15 minutes every other day. Meditation can help to lower inflammation and cortisol levels. 

Progressive muscle relaxation – This technique involves focusing your mind ‘tension. As you concentrate on one muscle group, tense the muscles and then relax them to relieve tension. According to WebMD, experts recommend that you should begin with your lower extremities and work upward to your head. Progressive muscle relaxation can be done lying down or sitting up. Just make sure that you practice this technique in a quiet environment to avoid distractions. 

Guided imagery – Guided imagery involves conjuring a serene location to help you focus your mind and relax. This technique often includes incorporating relaxing music, using your imagination and speaking positive and uplifting words of affirmation to yourself. To practice guided imagery, sit or lie down and practice deep breathing. As you breathe, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. As you exhale, feel the stress and tension leave your body. Once you are relaxed, envision yourself in a serene location and use all of your senses. Smell the scents of the ocean, hear the waves crashing, see birds gently gliding overhead, taste the salt in the air and feel the sun gently caressing your skin. Enjoy this vision for 10 to 15 minutes to help decrease your stress levels and improve your immunity. 

Stress and The Immune System

Yoga – Yoga can help to boost the immune system and relieve systemic inflammation. Yoga involves rhythmic breathing while going through a series of flowing movements to relax the muscles and soothe the mind. One of the benefits of yoga is its ability to improve your balance and increase flexibility. 

Stress is beneficial in acute situations where you need to react quickly. However, when stress becomes chronic, it can affect both your body and mind, resulting in lower immunity. Use these stress relief methods along with a cortisol supplement to help decrease your stress levels. For best results, incorporate at least 20 minutes of stress relief techniques daily to help reduce systemic inflammation and improve your immunity.

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