A rather unfortunate part of living in today’s world is that dealing with stress has become normal. On a daily basis, many people tend to go through stressful situations. And if we don’t learn how to deal with the stress, the effects can be terrible for our body. To be more specific, our immune system is especially vulnerable to prolonged periods of stress. To help you understand the danger this poses, we have put together an explanation of how stress affects the immune system.
Immune system basics
Before you can understand how stress affects the immune system, you need to know how it works. So, first off, the immune system’s purpose is to protect the body against infections, which pathogens can cause. Additionally, it heals damaged tissues caused by injury or illness. Secondly, there are two branches of the immune system. The first branch, innate immunity, is a general, rapid response to pretty much any threat found inside the body. However, this response isn’t specific to the threat, so it’s compared to broad-spectrum antibiotics. The second branch is acquired immunity. This is what happens when your immune system detects microbes. Then, it learns about a specific threat to combat it in the future. With this in mind, keeping your immune system up and running is essential. Improving your mental and physical health helps keep your immune system healthy too.
When we experience stress, our body employs a survival response called fight or flight. Essentially, this response is meant to prepare your body for dealing with danger by flooding it with stress hormones and putting you on high alert. This leads to increased blood pressure and heart rate by moving blood from the gut to the muscles. While this response has its uses, it also leads to palpitations, nausea, and anxiety, which obviously is not good for you. In addition, extended periods of stress and constant alertness due to fight or flight also suppress the immune system. This leaves you much more susceptible to sickness. It is pretty common for a person to be in constant fight or flight while moving. So, to keep your health intact while relocating, it is imperative to remember to take breaks and destress. Staying healthy is even more important if you are going through a long-distance relocation.
Suppressing immune cells
One of the most important parts of our immune system, by far, are the white blood cells. They are a vital part of both acquired and innate immunity and serve as the first line of defense against illnesses. The biggest part of how stress affects the immune system is impacting the production of white blood cells. Different types of stress also affect different types of white blood cells. Namely, acute stress impacts the production of monocytes and killer cells. Chronic stress impacts the functionality of T-cells. All of this affects your immune system negatively. However, it should also be mentioned that the longer you’re under pressure, the worse it gets, and it can even lead to permanent problems. As such, it is vital to destress whenever you can. In fact, this is one of the reasons why having a pet is good for your health.
Your body promotes healing and prevents further damage to tissues through inflammation. Typically, an inflammatory response dilutes blood capillaries. This, in turn, brings more nutrients and white blood cells to the injured area. In addition, this serves to prevent infections by bringing antibodies to the injury as well. Stress inhibits the body’s ability to regulate inflammation, leading to chronic inflammation cases. Chronic inflammation can lead to all sorts of issues, and, generally speaking, it brings a lot more harm than good. As such, regulating stress becomes especially important while healing from an injury.
Issues with sleep
Sleeping is crucial for keeping your immune system healthy since a lack of sleep can bring its own issues. Namely, it affects the production of white blood cells cytokines (which help with infections and inflammations) and suppresses melatonin, a hormone that combats stress while you sleep. Stress stops you from sleeping by keeping your mind active at night, which leads to a lack of rest. In extreme cases, this has been known to evolve into stress-induced insomnia, and that issue is not something you can fix quickly. If it isn’t treated immediately, it can evolve into chronic insomnia, bringing more stress and creating a vicious cycle. Of course, the best way to deal with this is to avoid it entirely. As such, when you notice you’re not getting enough sleep, take the time to destress properly.
Following what we talked about, it makes sense that relieving stress is vital to staying healthy. However, different kinds of stress relief have different benefits. As an example, laughter improves the production of killer blood cells. Exercising regularly resets the fight-or-flight into rest-and-digest. Changing to a healthy diet helps with mineral and vitamin deficiencies. Sleep, in general, is a great way to combat stress and boost your immune system. So, to find which kind of stress relief is the most beneficial to you, you need to see what’s causing the stress in the first place.
How stress affects the immune system – conclusion
It should go without saying that stress is bad for you overall. Especially over prolonged periods, it can lead to many awful issues. In short, not knowing how to deal with stress can lead to problems with both mental and physical health, and as such, it is essential to learn how to deal with it immediately. Coping with stress can be difficult, but there are ways to combat it. You can always rely on professional help at the end of the day. We hope you found this explanation of how stress affects the immune system helpful, and we wish you the best of luck in dealing with pressure!
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