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Stress and immunity

Did you know that stress has a measurable effect on your immune system?!

💙With all the stress over the past year, being aware of its effect on immunity, and learning ways to counteract it, have never been so important

💙Studies looking at the how stress alters the immune system are intriguing, and give us a better insight into the role of stress and health

💙The immune system connects with the 'stress' system via several methods :

- the sympathetic (fight or flight) system directly communicates with immune (lymphatic) tissue via nerve fibres

- cortisol (stress hormone) alters immune response and white cell numbers

-stress also means people are more likely to do things that have a negative effect on the immune system (eat poorly, not sleep well, stop exercising, smoke or drink alcohol etc)

💙Studies looking at the effect of stress show that short term stresses (ie a few minutes or hours) boost immune cells (to help the body cope with threat /injury)

However chronic stress actually suppresses immunity, making you more likely to catch infections (its also linked to flare ups of latent infections like herpes, EBV, or shingles)

💙One of the first studies looking at this in the 1980s, took blood samples from medical students before and during end of year exams

These showed that T cell and NK cells (types of white blood cell) levels dropped significantly under stress, and the severity correlated with stress levels

💙Over 300 studies have looked into this since, and found similar effects, especially in older people, or people with depression

💙Another study looked at first year college students, and found the higher their stress levels and the more socially isolated they were, the less they built immunity from a flu vaccine

💙Proven ways to boost immunity when stressed include the following :

- Journalling (improves antibody levels and response to vaccines)

- connecting with others (increases immune cell levels)

- meditation and breathwork (reduce cortisol and sympathetic nerve activity, and improves immune markers)

- exercise and time in nature (reduces cortisol, improves vagal tone, and improves immune markers)

- sleep

Even simple changes can help!!

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