Everybody needs a little stress in their lives to perform. Think about a musical instrument. Without enough tension, it goes seriously off-tune! However, too much stress and tension can cause the string to snap. It is the same case with humans.
What is stress?
Stress is triggered as a feeling or a reaction to certain situations. It is the body’s mechanism of making you more alert and ready to take on a challenge. Stress can feel like butterflies in your stomach, worried, cranky, headache, or you may find it hard to concentrate. You may think that all stress happens in your mind. However, research has proved that your entire body can be affected by stress.
Relationship between Stress and Immunity
For people around the globe, stress has become a part of life, but did you know that chronic stress can negatively impact your Immunity? This makes you more vulnerable to infection and disease.
If you’ve gotten sick after a stressful event, it wasn’t a coincidence. Your brain and immune system are in constant communication with one another. This means that psychological stress can result in physical symptoms. While stress alone cannot make you catch a cold or flu, it can affect your immune system in two ways:
- The first is by creating chronic inflammation that harms tissues.
- The second is by suppressing the immune cells needed to fight infections.
Let’s consider an example: Suppose you encounter a threatening situation or a stressful situation. The hypothalamus is a tiny region at the base of your brain. It triggers an alarm in your body through a combination of nerves and hormonal signals. This system prompts your adrenal glands to disseminate adrenaline and cortisol hormones, which pull up your heart rate and blood pressure. In addition, cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars and glucose in the bloodstream. This is a natural reaction and is called the stress response.
The chemical hormones triggered by stressful situations result in an onslaught of stress hormones being pumped around the body. While these hormones are helpful in acute conditions, their abilities to interfere with the immune system can result in the following:
- Reduced white blood cell counts
- Higher susceptibility to infection
- Tissue damage
The body regulates the extent of stress response via three systems:
- The autonomous nervous system is the pathway of communication between the central nervous system and the viscera.
- The neuroendocrine system secretes stress hormones
- The voluntary nervous system allows conscious control of skeletal muscles.
Research shows that stress can decrease the efficiency of the Immune system.
The Immune system is used to protect us from disease. There are two ways our body does this:
- Producing phagocytes: Phagocytes are white blood cells that destroy a foreign pathogen by engulfing it.
- Producing lymphocytes: White blood cells, made up of protein, have antibodies to slow down the movement of a pathogen by clamping it. It thus prevents a pathogen from moving and damaging our body.
Kiecolt Glaser et al. experimented to see if the Immune system can be affected by stress. In other words, would people be using as many white blood cells as effectively if they were stressed?
A blood sample of 40 medical students was taken at a University twice.
- Once before the exam, when the stress levels were low
- Once during the exam when the stress levels were considerably higher.
They were also given a questionnaire asking how stressed they felt throughout their exam period and before.
The levels of natural killer cells( lymphocytes and phagocytes) in the blood were observed in the experiment. The more the natural killer cells, the more efficient the Immune system.
The findings of the experiment were:
The students had fewer natural killer cells in their blood during the exam period than before their exam.
The experiment’s findings reveal that the more stressed you are, the less efficient your Immune system is.
Stress is a threat, real, or perceived to homeostasis, the body’s normal functional equilibrium. The body has mechanisms in place to repair the resulting damage once the stressor has passed. However, chronic stress disrupts this mechanism.
As we age, the delicate balance between damage and restoration progressively dips, and impairments accumulate. Prolonged stress can affect how quickly we age.
Nearly two-thirds of the diseases are thought to be triggered by stress. Daily stress can increase an individual’s risk of developing non-communicable diseases or NCDs. An NCD is a disease that is not infectious and non-communicable as an infectious agent does not cause it. Examples of such conditions are:
- Heart disease
How to support your Immune system?
The strength of your immune system will not affect whether you catch a cold, flu, or any other infection. What the immune system does is it helps you deal with infection once you’ve got it.
There are many reasons why peoples’ immune systems are different from one another. Some of it is to do with age, disease, pharmaceutical drugs, or conditions such as treatment for cancer. In all such situations, Immunity is compromised. However, a healthy lifestyle followed along with good eating habits also influence your Immunity immensely.
- Improve your diet
- Quit smoking and alcohol
- Avoid polluted environments
Food to help the functioning of your Immune system
Your Immune system relies on lots of different nutrients because it is a very diverse, complex system. We know that specific deficiencies can depress Immunity. The micronutrients that are extremely important for your Immune function are:
- A variety of fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of many vitamins and minerals such as A, C, and E, which are very important for supporting the Immune system. Fruits are also rich in polyphenolic compounds, which give color to many fruits and berries.
- Fiber-rich foods are very good for your Immune system. Some of the fiber that we do not digest is used by the bacteria in our intestines. These then promote the growth of good bacteria. The good bacteria interact with our Immune system to make it work better.
- Omega 3 fatty acids help in regulating the Immune system. Oily fish is an excellent source of this nutrient.
- Meat is a fantastic source of Vitamin B12 and iron. Vitamin B12 is essential to produce antibodies and white blood cells, protecting your body from infections.
- Vitamin D is known to help your immune response and can help lower the risk of respiratory infections.
- Selenium is an excellent antioxidant, which makes it very important for good Immunity support.
- Zinc deficiency can weaken your Immune system making it more vulnerable to diseases.
These micronutrients help produce white blood cells, which are the building blocks of our defense system.
Do supplements help your Immunity?
We need an adequate nutrient supply to achieve adequate nutrient status and store some of the nutrients in the body. This will give good immune function and better defense against things such as viruses and bacteria.
We need a healthy, diverse, well-balanced diet that is sufficient to meet your daily energy requirements. In addition, your diet should give you all the nutrients you need to prevent deficiencies and counter the influence of stress in your life. For example, suppose you are vegetarian or vegan and do not have meat products, eggs, or even dairy products. In that case, you are at the risk of having deficiencies in iron and micronutrients that are much more abundant in animal products.
Most notably, in the present situation of the pandemic, nothing that you eat will stop you from getting infected. What supplementation might do, is that it may help you overcome the infection without serious health complications. These complications arise particularly in older, overweight people and people with hypertension.
Munulex is one such supplement that helps you fight with harmful microorganisms once they get inside your body. It prevents you from an overreacted proinflammatory response. Take a healthy balanced diet and supplement it with Munulex. For more details, checkout Munulex to kickstart your journey to a healthy and long life.