Stress suppresses our immune system and can have a major impact on our susceptibility to many illnesses, especially infection such as the cold and flu. Many studies and over 20 years of research find that psychological factors are associated with increased risk of developing respiratory illness if exposed to respiratory viruses. Some factors that affect susceptibility are:
• Poor coping skills
• Lack of social support
• How we perceive stress
• Negative life events
• Negative outlook
Stress disrupts the regulation of cytokines, which are signaling molecules that regulate inflammation and cell communication. Cytokines tell our immune system how to respond and are the main source of communication amongst the cells that are involved in the immune system. Also, cortisol, the hormone that rises during stress, can suppress immunity and increase our risk of succumbing to infection.
So how do your reverse this trend and immunize yourself against stress and infection?
• Reduce physiologic stress by eating nutrient dense food such as fresh fruits and vegetables, limiting sugar, alcohol, refined carbohydrates and saturated fats, exercise and get plenty of rest.
• Develop stress management skills and strategies to cope with stress such as laughter, saying No, reframing, negotiating, delegating.
• Work on stress management techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, listening to soothing music, or getting absorbed in an enjoyable hobby or activity.
• Look for the positive, live with an attitude of gratitude and find something to be grateful for everyday.
• Surround yourself with people who are kind, nurturing, supportive and uplifting. Develop and maintain a support network.
• Supplements such as phosphatidylserine can reduce the impact of stress on your memory, dietary supplements such as chamomile, lemon balm, valerian, passion -flower and hops can relax and calm you, L-theanine provides calming actions with mental alertness.
• Seek professional if depression and/or anxiety become unmanageable or interfere with your ability to cope and function.
An anti aging specialist can help you choose the best forms of diet, exercise, supplements and hormone balance for your unique risk factors, lifestyle, genetic and metabolic profile. These can stress proof your immune system to guard against infection.