The effect that chronic stress has on the body is lethal.
Being stressed out all the time is so bad for you that stress is commonly referred to as the “silent killer”. That nickname alone is ominous enough to get the point across!
While we all know that controlling stress levels is critical for overall bodily health, many individuals are unaware of the damage that chronic stress can do to the immune system.
Given that our immunity is a defense mechanism working nonstop to make sure every other bodily function can keep doing its thing, it is important to fortify this system!
In this article, we are going to discuss five ways that chronic stress can wreak havoc on the immune system.
Increased Corticosteroid Production
One of the primary pieces in the puzzle that is the immune system are a particular group of cells known as lymphocytes. These guys have several important jobs that keep us healthy, like producing antibodies and attacking foreign pathogens when they enter the body.
During periods of stress, the body releases a type of hormone known as corticosteroid. This hormone serves to decrease the amount of inflammation in the body. Oftentimes a man-made corticosteroid will be prescribed when a person is experiencing excessive inflammation.
However, when it comes to immunity, corticosteroid significantly decreases the production of lymphocytes, ultimately weakening the entirety of the immune system.
Ramped Up Cortisol Levels
Another hormone that is released when a person is experiencing stress is cortisol. This hormone, among other things, also decreases the amount of inflammation. While this can be good short term, but over time, the body can develop an increased tolerance for cortisol.
When an attacking foreign pathogen is trying to enter the body, the immune system uses an inflammatory response to try and eliminate the threat. However, issues that cause the body to be inflamed, such as chronic stress, can be extremely counterproductive.
Over time, the body becomes resistant to the effects of cortisol (to a certain extent). Chronic stress leads to way too much cortisol being produced. When this occurs, chronic inflammation persists all over the body. When the body is in a state of constant inflammation, the immune system’s primary method of attack is greatly diminished.
Unhealthy Ways Of Managing Stress
Unfortunately, many people turn to less healthy, even destructive, habits to try coping with stressful times. Substances like drugs, alcohol and smoking are commonly utilized in the management of chronic stress.
While it is common knowledge that these things are bad for a person’s health in general, it is important to realize that anything negatively affecting your overall health is doing the same thing to your immune system. Resorting to harmful habits in order to manage stress can actually compound the situation, harming your immune system and the rest of the body in general.
Lack Of Sleep
Getting enough sleep is absolutely essential to maintaining your health and well being. Given that we are discussing how stress decreases the strength of your immune system, you can bet that sleep can factor into this equation!
When we are stressed out, especially for long periods of time, getting a good night’s rest is all but impossible. The worry and thoughts running through the mind make it very difficult to sleep.
Sleep is the time period in which the body restores itself and produces many substances essential to healing and maintenance. One product of sleep is a type of cell known as a cytokine. Cytokines carry out several very important functions related to the immune response.
Chronic stress keeps you from getting enough sleep. Losing sleep means the immune system is not provided the soldiers it needs to do its job properly.
Secondary Health Problems From Stress
Regardless of the illness, disease or health condition being discussed, having any number of pre-existing conditions puts an individual at a significantly higher risk of mortality or extensive damage.
As the body is already running at less than 100%, it is obviously not going to deal with a new disease or illness as well as a body that is not compromised. Stress, especially chronic stress, has been absolutely proven to increase person’s likelihood of developing many serious health issues such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.
As we previously discussed, anything that harms the entire body in general only serve to drastically weaken the immune system.
Being stressed out all the time greatly increases your chance of developing a serious health condition which, in turn, wreaks havoc on various other bodily functions, and ultimately detrimental to your immunity!
Stress, Illness and the Immune System | Simply Psychology; https://www.simplypsychology.org/stress-immune.html
What Happens When Your Immune System Gets Stressed Out? – Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic; https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-happens-when-your-immune-system-gets-stressed-out/
Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/