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Home / Adrenal / Stress and Your Immune System

Stress and Your Immune System

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg March 15, 2018

Let’s talk about stress and your immune system. When most people think of improving the immune system, they often think of getting more vitamin C or making diet changes. While these can be beneficial, there is one aspect that many forget about: stress.

When your body is in a stress state, it isn’t just mental—there’s something going on at a physical level. Your muscles get tense, and your body produces a number of hormones that flood your body and change the way it functions.

Temporary stress isn’t the issue here. Stress naturally comes and goes, and it can even be beneficial for the body in small amounts. However, chronic stress is a huge problem—especially when it comes to your immune system. When stress hormones flood your body, they begin to create several problems in the immune system.

If you feel like you are affected by chronic stress and your immune system is taking a hit, then you’re in the right place!

In this article, we’re going to cover:

Business woman stressed and sick at work | Stress and Your Immune System


 

The Stress and Immune System Connection

When someone has a chronic health problem, it almost always originates from a stress event. Recently, a lady called into my live show, and she had all sorts of issues, including digestive problems, allergies, and sleep problems. These issues had been going on for years.

What’s interesting is that she was eating well, but she didn’t see any improvements. So I asked her, “when did it all start?” It was right after she turned 31 when things started to go downhill. She had recently encountered a massive stress situation. I see this problem again and again.

Stress makes you very susceptible to sick poor imune function and disease. Why? It has to do with the adrenal hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is a natural steroid hormone. It’s also known as the “stress hormone” because the adrenal glands produce and release lots of cortisol when you experience stress.

While a small amount of cortisol is necessary for a balanced and healthy body, too much becomes a huge problem. Excessive cortisol levels can interfere with the immune system in several ways…

1. Suppresses White Blood Cells

Cortisol suppresses white blood cells, which are a vital part of the immune system. White blood cells protect the body from infectious diseases, cancer, and foreign invaders. When your white blood cell count is low, your defense against viruses, bacteria, and cancer becomes weakened.

2. Interferes With T Cells

T cells are a type of white blood cell that helps with cell-mediated immunity. If your T cells are suppressed, you are far more susceptible to infection and disease. High cortisol is known to lower T cells, which compromises immune function.

3. Lowers Immune Barrier

Cortisol actually lowers your immune barrier. This enables viruses to invade the cells and cause massive issues throughout the body. This is why many people get viral infections like shingles and herpes when they are stressed.

4. Increases Platelets

Cortisol can also increase your platelets. Platelets are very small blood cells that help form clots when you are bleeding. However, if your platelet levels are too high, you can develop blood clots, which can turn deadly.

5. Increases Neutrophils

Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell. While these cells are helpful in normal amounts, excessive amounts can cause inflammation throughout the body.

Together, these effects cause some major problems throughout the body. They can contribute to autoimmune disease and many other chronic mental and physical health problems.

 

Signs and Causes of Stress

How do you know when you are stressed, and what is causing your stress? Surprisingly, it isn’t always obvious. You may have built up stress and tension that manifests as something that seems unrelated—you might get sick far more often or experience muscle aches and pains.

The first step to fixing stress is to find out where it came from. In many cases, stress comes from work, family, friends, and finances. There may be stressors that are very difficult to get rid of—like a toxic relationship. However,until you fix these stressors, you will likely continue to experience signs and symptoms of stress, including poor immune function, which can lead to infections, frequent colds, and even cancer.

Here are some signs you could have a stress issue:

  • Clenched jaw or grinding teeth
  • General aches and pains—especially in the shoulders and neck
  • Dizziness and brain fog
  • Headaches
  • Sleeping issues
  • Heart racing while at rest
  • Changes in appetite
  • Exhaustion
     

Woman stressed out with folder on head | Stress and Your Immune System


 

How to Improve Stress and Immune System Function

If you begin showing symptoms of a stress problem, you can use several methods at home to help reduce stress naturally. Try these out:

1. Walking

One of the best things you can do to improve your stress levels is to go on a long walk. Walks help you clear your mind, burn built-up energy, and get exercise, which increases mood-boosting hormones. A walk every day will help you keep stress under control and prevent stressors from building up and causing chronic tension in the body.

2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is incredibly important for your stress levels and mood. It has been shown to give your mood a positive boost and lower anxiety levels. The best source of vitamin D is natural sunlight. However, you can also try vitamin D3 and K2 supplements.

3. Remove Yourself From Stressors

It’s not easy, but sometimes the best way to relieve stress is to avoid situations you know cause you stress. This could involve major life changes, such as a new job, relationship, or lifestyle.

4. B vitamins

B vitamins have a massive influence on your ability to release stress. In fact, consuming high levels of B vitamins is associated with a 20% decrease in stress. If you are in high-stress situations, it’s a good idea to use a B vitamin complex. You should also have extra vitamin B6 because stress tends to deplete this nutrient.

5. Sleep

When you sleep, your body and mind take a break from the day’s physical and mental stressors. If you aren’t getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night, you may not have enough time to rejuvenate fully, which causes stress to build up in the body.

These stress-reducers are best used to prevent a chronic stress problem or built-up tension. If you have years of stress and tension built up in your body, you may need to try acupressure to release stress.

Parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system | Stress and Your Immune System


 

How to Relieve Serious Built-up Stress With Acupressure

When your stress levels have stayed high for years, chances are you have accumulated massive amounts of stress and tension in the body. Though walks, sleep, and vitamins will help prevent further stress from building up, you still have to get rid of stress that’s still built up from years upon years of stressful events.

There are certain parts of your body that are involved with the fight-or-flight mechanism, also known as the sympathetic nervous system. This is the system that is responsible for stress and tension. Then, you have the parasympathetic nervous system, which counters the stress.

I created a massage tool just for this purpose. This is something you can use at home on yourself to help relieve all of those years of built-up tension. You can use this acupressure tool to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system hot spots, like the neck, mid-back, and abdomen. Most people notice their whole body instantly feels lighter and more relaxed even after one session.

 

Key Takeaways

Stress and your immune system are directly connected. When you experience chronic stress, your adrenal glands release excessive amounts of cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone.”

Cortisol suppresses white blood cells, interferes with T cells, lowers the immune barrier, increases platelets, and increases neutrophils. These effects lead to poor immune function and predispose your body to viral infection, bacterial infection, cancer, and more.

You can relieve stress naturally at home. However, it’s essential first to find and address the root of your stress. When you have built-up stress and tension, it can help to use acupressure to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to counter the sympathetic nervous system, which is where stress builds up.

If you need stress relief, give my acupressure massage tool a try and see how it works for stress and immune system health.

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.
 

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