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What Are The Effects Of Stress On The Body? Inflammation Matters

Your approach would probably be an integrated one, with of a few stress management activities to really help yourself deal with stress because it is crucial to prevent or minimize the adverse effects that chronic stress can have to the immune system.What Are The Effects Of Stress On The Body? Immune System is Compromised

Whether you feel tired, you have a headache, you can not sleep, you feel sick, you are over-eating, you feel weak or you are more impatient than usual, the explanation that always seems to be appropriate is “I am just stressed”. In reality, you are right for thinking and believing that stress is causing these symptoms, but do you understand why and how this is true? Do you understand the seriousness of stress on the body and what are the effects of stress on the body?

A review of several studies concluded that:

Stress is the common risk factor of 75%–90% diseases, including the diseases which cause the foremost morbidity and mortality. (1)

What I want us to gain from this article is that stress is more than a word we throw around to minimize our symptoms and to justify them as “normal”. Let us face it, our culture today is face-paced and filled with stress, so we have just accepted that this is the norm. But there are ways to decrease the effects of stress on the immune system.

The idea that stress plays a huge role in the development of short-term and long-term physical and psychiatric is more than just an idea. The effects are caused by the network of pathways between the central nervous system (CNS) , the endocrine system and the immune system.

Types of Stress

Flight-Fight-Freeze-Response-Acute-Stress

 

ACUTE: short-term stress which is typically defined as the fight-flight response by the body, to adapt quickly to stress in the environment.

This is a SURVIVAL response and understanding how a response adapted to a short term stress can not adapt to long term or chronic stress is key.

CHRONIC: is an accumulation of stress over a long period. The stress is made up of many single events one after another or the severity and duration of one traumatic event.

Sources of Stress

INTERNAL

This is stressed caused by your perception on a situation and/or your emotions state.

This is very important to understand because even though there is no physical stressor in the environment or the physical stressor has been removed, you can continue to cause a release in the stress hormone by your MIND-SET and THINKING.

An example of this is when you constantly worry, fear, or have regrets and think of what you “could have done”,

EXTERNAL

Stressors that come from your surroundings such as from family, friends, work and school. The stressor could be temporary (acute) such as taking an exam or passing an interview.

Effects Of Stress On the Immune System

The Immune System & Its Function

The immune system protects you by performing each of these immune responses:

  • Looking for foreign substances in the body;
  • Looking for unhealthy cells in the body;
  • Sending messages to other organs and cells to warn them of an attack on the body;
  • Attack micro-organisms that will lead to an infection.

Your approach would probably be an integrated one, with of a few stress management activities to really help yourself deal with stress because it is crucial to prevent or minimize the adverse effects that chronic stress can have to the immune system.This diagram gives a good summary of the organs that make up the immune system. Along with these organs ANTIBODIES and LYMPHOCYTES are necessary to adequately perform these immune responses to protect your body from illness.

The Adrenal System & Cortisol

I know that most people have the idea that the hormone cortisol is bad for you because it is the stress hormone. But in fact, it is good for the body in the normal amounts and we NEED it for survival.

Anything in excess is toxic to the body and that is how cortisol got it’s bad rap, because today, we have more stress than ever before, and so we reap only the negative effects of cortisol.

Cortisol is actually an adaptive hormone that functions to help you during periods of acute stress known as the flight, fight or freeze response.

Cortisol shuts down the non-essential functions of the body, like digestion and immune response, so you have enough energy to deal with the situation at hand. It decreases the level of lymphocytes which protect us from illness.

Cortisol also assists in these stressful situations by maximizing your energy output to your muscles by increasing your blood sugar level and narrowing your arteries. End result is blood pumping faster to react to the threat.

I think without going any further, isn’t it clear to see that the effects of cortisol LONG-TERM would be extremely detrimental and cause you to be susceptible to illness?

What Is Inflammation Of The Immune System?

Role of Inflammatory Cytokynes

These are proteins released from the central nervous system and the immune system depends largely on these to protect the body because these cytokines activate lymphocytes to do their job – protect you from foreign physcial and psychological stress.

  • Pro-Inflammatory cytokines are released when there is a threat to initiate the body to attack the foreign invader. This threat does not have to be a physical one (like cancer), but also STRESS.

With acute stress, it has been shown that this immune system response is temporary and is in fact, an adaptive and flexible response that the body uses for self-preservation. In other words the PRO-INFLAMMATORY response is necessary for survival and one the cytokines and lymphcytes do their job, they leave. (2)

Chronic stress however, causes the same pro-inflammatory response to the immune system but because of the prolonged state of the stress, it does not have the opportunity to regulate and the levels will continue to increase, eventually leading to damage to the body. (2)

Age and Disease

It has been shown in many studies that age and disease further impairs the immune system from being able to adapt to stress.

People with autoimmune disorders need to be even more aware that stress can have a huge impact on their well-being because their immune system interprets self-tissue, self-organs and self-cells as invaders. (2)(3)

Inflammatory Induced Diseases

There are many diseases that are caused and/or worsened, by the chronic response to stress on the body. Some of them are:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis – which has been shown to lead to other health issues like heart attacks, stroke and cancer by a study called “co-morbidity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis – Inflammation Matters”. (4)
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases – for example Crohn’s disease, or Celiac Disease because the inflammation affects the body’s normal capacity to digest food, absorb nutrients and get rid of toxic waste. (5)
  • Depression, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, fatty liver disease and cardio vascular diseases.(1)

Your approach would probably be an integrated one, with of a few stress management activities to really help yourself deal with stress because it is crucial to prevent or minimize the adverse effects that chronic stress can have to the immune system.

Management of Stress

I came across this quote, written by Robert Sapolsky, and American neuroendocrinologist. This was written over 20 years, in 1998 and still reflects true today, probably even more so in today’s society:

“Stress-related disease emerges, predominantly, out of the fact that we so often activate a physiological system that has evolved for responding to acute physical emergencies, but we turn it on for months on end, worrying about mortgages, relationships, and promotions.”.

Possible Strategies

  • Yoga and/or meditation
  • Breathing exercises
  • Talking a walk outdoors
  • Sports
  • Aerobic Exercise
  • Journalling
  • Chatting with friends & Socializing
  • Watch a movie
  • Listen to music

Your approach would probably be an integrated one, with of a few stress management activities to really help yourself deal with stress because it is crucial to prevent or minimize the adverse effects that chronic stress can have to the immune system.

Of course, the three basics lifestyle elements that will always be the FOUNDATION for our health are regular exercise, good nutrition and quality sleep.

We Are All Different

Worry-Stress-InternalStress

You need to have an approach that works for you. We can not eliminate stress from our lives; that is impossible. Our perspective plays a HUGE role on how stresses affect you and the impact it will have on your immune system response. Having a positive mindset and not worrying incisively can make a huge impact.

I will be honest with you ladies. I cause stress to myself, by constantly thinking about “what next”, “what will I get done tomorrow” etc. So for me, internally created stress is my big issue. When I start to get into that pattern of thinking, some things I do are:

  • Make lists and set goals for by week.
  • I take a deep breath and remind myself to “be in the moment“. These thoughts come back but I repeat this strategy until these intruding thoughts become less frequent.

Personally, I believe that any action that disconnects you from “reality” so to say is typically a good strategy.

For me, I totally disconnect from any worry by watching a movie before sleep. Once I am done, I do NOT go back to look at my phone or emails etc. I go straight to bed, feeling like I forgot about by present day and the tasks I want to complete for tomorrow. I fall asleep really quickly and stay in a deep sleep.

Waking up feeling refreshed and well-rested starts the day off right not only because I am more productive, but I am less inpatient and in a happier mood.

What stressors really affect you? Are they internal or external? What are the strategies have you have tried that worked for you? Do you feel you should make some changes?

Let me know what you think and send me a comment ladies!

Until NEXT TIME:)

.

6 thoughts on “What Are The Effects Of Stress On The Body? Inflammation Matters”

  1. The truth in this article is gripping! About 3 months ago I was in a very deep state of depression.

    That was not a good time for me. Turns out I was stressed out on two fronts. 

    Work and relationship.

    Needless to say, I was able to come out of this by traveling, engaging in sports and video games. These 3 activities changed my life. Now I’m more focused, calm and driven than ever before.

    Stress is a silent killer. I’ll advise everyone to employ some of the methods here to combat it today if you’re going through it. Don’t wait till it’s too late.

    Reply
    • Hello Codjoe,

      Thank you so much for reading and for your comment. You said it perfectly: Stress is a silent killer. I totally agree and it is amazing that you identified and ackowledged your stresses and dealt with them effectively. Not everyone is able to do that – you should be proud. 

      Traveling is definitely an amazing escape if you can. It is amazing you have found your integrated approach that helped you then and will continue to serve yoou in the long-run. 

      I hope to see yoou back here again:)

      Have a great weekend and stay safe. 

      Reply
  2. Wow, this post couldn’t have come at a better time.  With COVID-19, trying to find even the simplest items such as toilet paper – it is a very stressful time.    My wife and I are in that category that COVID-19 really likes to take out.    Fortunately, I’ve been able to work from home, but still I can’t imagine the additional stress that has come about with people being laid off. 

    What I have noticed is that I have become much grumpier than usual with my dear wife.  Knowing that I shouldn’t do it – it seems to be more of an unconscious reaction.    I definitely need to take a deep breath and remember to be in the moment.   We are beyond the hard-Aerobic Exercises stage of life, what would you recommend for an elderly couple, who are into their late sixties?

    Reply
    • Hello Steve,

      Thank you so much for your interest in reading my post and giving me feedback. You are absolutely right. Everything right now, even the most trivial things are stressful. We are limited in our movement, food, finances, social interactions… EVERYTHING. 

      You are right. We have to be grateful for what we have and like yourself, I am blessed to be able to work from home. And that is great news because it also ensures your health because you can control your environment. There are hundreds of first responders that have died taking care of others during this pandemic.

      It is great that you are aware of your impatience with your wife and I can say it is nomal. We are not typically confined in the same space for a long duration with no end in site. It is important that you guys communicate and give each other personal space when needed despite the situation.

      I am not sure if going for a walk is allowed or recommended in your area, but walking would be the best. Have you guys ever considered doing some yoga with some youtube videos? I would suggest that for sure. It will keep your muscles moving provide strength and flexibilty, keeping blood flowing and allow you to practice your breathing. What do you think? You can also enjoy some music and have dance date nights at home to add some flare to social isolation lol

      Cheers, Cynthia

      Reply
  3. Hi Cynthia,

    There has never been a more vital time for us to ensure that our immune systems are working as efficiently as possible. Your article is a great resource for those wanting to find out, not only how the immune system works, but also how we can help ourselves to maintain it.

    I’ve never personally been in any doubt about the affect that stress has on the health of our bodies. However, many of your readers may not realise the importance of ensuring stress levels are under control. I think after reading this they will be left with no doubt about the vital role that a relaxed body and mind has on our health. 

    Reply
    • Hello Ray,

      You are absolutely right. We are going through a time that is new to everyone. We are limited in our movement, our goals, our finances, our relationships and more. I mean how do we NOT worry and get stressed.

      We have to look at this time as an OPPORTUNITY to evaluate our lives and ourselves. What is working for you and what isn’t? Are we happy with our job? our health? 

      I really do stongly feel, that if we use this time wisely, we should be able to come out stronger and healthier. 

      My goal with my blogs is to inform and help people so I am glad you feel that the content here was useful. I want the information to have enough detail but not be too overwelming. I think it is important to UNDERSTAND why you should do something in order for that person to impement the changes and STICK to them.

      Thank you again and hope to see you back here:)

      Reply

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