Are you someone who feels very stressed out most of the time? It can be challenging to avoid stress in our modern world, but did you know that stress can have a negative impact on the functioning of your immune system? This post will explain how stress negatively affects the immune system, tips on how to de-stress your mind and body, as well as other ways to support your immune system health.
What Happens To Our Immune Systems When We Are Stressed?
When we are stressed, our bodies produce a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is often referred to as the “stress hormone” for this reason. When cortisol is chronically elevated, it can have an immune-suppressive effect. This mechanism of action happens because cortisol production lowers the number of lymphocytes in the blood. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell and are an important part of your immune system, as they help fight disease and infection. So when we are chronically stressed, our immune system struggles to keep us healthy and free of infections.
Tips To De-stress
- Go for a walk
- Take a relaxing bath
- Practice restorative yoga
- Talk to someone who is supportive
- Listen to music that relaxes you
- Practice breathing exercises
- Engage in an enjoyable activity
Chronic stress can contribute to many negative health outcomes, so it’s important to try to discharge that stress from our bodies whenever possible. Doing anything that will disconnect you mentally from thinking about stressors can be a huge help for mental stress. It’s also important to blunt that cortisol activation happening within the body, so any sort of calming activity or exercise will be very helpful in doing so.
Other Ways To Support Your Immune System
If you’re someone who is chronically stressed, it would be a good idea to support your immune system in other ways as well. One of the best ways to support your immune system is through diet. Some nutrients that are important for immune function include the following:
- Zinc– which is quite abundant in red meat, poultry, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, chickpeas, and seafood such as oysters, crab, and shrimp
- Vitamin D– one of the best ways to get vitamin D is sunlight exposure, but food sources include beef liver, eggs, and fish (especially fatty fish such as salmon)
- Vitamin C– which you can get from citrus fruits, bell peppers, cantaloupe, strawberries, dark leafy greens, broccoli, and more
- Selenium– which is also an important nutrient for thyroid function and is abundant in chicken, beef, tofu, and brazil nuts
- Antioxidants– found in vegetables and fruits, especially berries, as well as many herbs and spices
If it’s hard for you to get enough of any of these nutrients through diet, you could also consider supplementing them to increase your intake. Having a good resilience to stress will help to keep your immune system functioning optimally, so remember to focus on relaxation and calming your nervous system down when you are feeling any sort of inner tension or stress.