HOW CAN STRESS AFFECT YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Stress refers to the effect of a situation on a person’s response to change and is defined by how well that individual can cope with that change.
Stress and anxiety will manifest themselves in noticeable ways, such as increased perspiration, augmented heartbeat, breathing, and back pain. However, there are many other reactions to stress that occur within the body that are not tangible until they develop into a more mature state.
One example of how stress debilitates our bodies in an invisible way is how vulnerability to disease and illness increases in presence of high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone).
Stress and anxiety are known to increase your risk of disease by suppressing your immune response and the way in which white cells replicate within your body. As immunity declines, we are put at a higher risk of stress-induced illness such as cancer, heart attack, diabetes, and stroke, to name a few.
Aside from an increased exposure to disease, stress slows down the healing of the body and, if experienced regularly, can even shut down your body’s relaxation response. This is responsible for fighting stress and anxiety and bringing you “back down” once you have undergone the “fight or flight” response.
Research also shows that immunity among the elderly is more vulnerable to stress-related changes and that it can be particularly dangerous for individuals who carry a family history of the diseases that can arise from increased or chronic stress.
Despite the bad news on immunity and continuous stressors, the good news is that short-term stress or eustress (good stress) increases immune function and helps the body prepare itself for a stressor more readily. In fact, studies have proved that chronic stress is the most detrimental type of stress for your body and immune system, as it affects first your cellular immunity, then attack the whole immune system.