Can stress affect your immunity?
Destress to boost your immune system
Can stress affect your immune system?
The short answer is, yes. Our resident nutritionist and naturopath Rhaya Jordan compares the relationship between stress and immunity to opposite ends of a seesaw: if one goes up, the other will go down. In this blog we explore 5 key ways to boost your immunity and destress:
- EAT WELL – AND SLOWLY: A healthy diet is essential
- TAKE VITAMIN C: Boost your natural defences
- CALM YOUR MIND: Mediate and relax
- SPEND TIME IN NATURE: Head outdoors and rediscover nature
- NURTURE YOUR SOCIAL CIRCLE: Relationships are key
Learn to recognise the signs of stress. When we feel worried, anxious or under pressure, our bodies release stress hormones. These stress hormones create stress symptoms and reduce our immune system’s ability to battle foreign bodies, making us more susceptible to infections and disease.
In other words, your state of mind can indeed affect your state of health.
While it is easier said than done to simply stop worrying or feeling anxious, there are ways you can deal with your stress levels and therefore improve your immunity. Even if you cannot get rid of the cause of your stress, you can be more proactive about managing its impact and modifying your body’s response.
For the sake of your physical and mental health, it is worthwhile to keep feelings of anxiety and worry in check with conscientious stress management.
Read on for achievable, effective ways to reduce stress and strengthen your immune system.
EAT WELL – AND SLOWLY
The gut microbiome plays an enormous role in training and activating the immune system.
The best foods to feed your gut and keep your microbiome flexible and responsive include fibre-rich vegetables, fruits and grains. Eating real, whole foods such as these will also help to regulate your blood sugar levels and avoid sending them up and down in alarming spikes.
Digestion is a huge part of eating that is often overlooked. During stress, digestion is inhibited. The well-known saying “we are what we eat” would be more accurate as “we are what we digest”. The gut microbiome can suffer from poor diets, rushed eating and stress – all factors which inhibit effective digestion and may lead to gut lining damage.
Good-quality bone broth contains gelatin, which can bind water in the digestive tract, protecting the lining of your intestines and aiding repair. Bone broth combined with fibre-rich food including fermented foods can help to maintain a healthy, happy gut, which in turn can support immunity.
TAKE VITAMIN C
People with adequate levels of vitamin C are more resilient to stress and bounce back from stressful situations faster.
The essential vitamin is required to produce norepinephrine, a chemical that acts as both a stress hormone and a neurotransmitter; it also suppresses the formation of the major stress hormone cortisol.
CALM YOUR MIND
Destress yourself with the help of meditation and relaxation training. You can train your mind to focus and relax just as you might train the muscles in your body with certain exercises.
It is a misconception that meditation or mindfulness practice must be done while sitting or lying down in complete silence. In fact, active meditation, where you remain grounded in the present moment while doing an activity, can be just as beneficial and is far more accessible for beginners or people already feeling stressed.
A good example is a simple walk in which you focus on the sights, smells and sounds around you, taking care to notice the rhythm of your breathing and steps. Active meditation can even be done while carrying out daily tasks such as cooking or washing up – ideal for people with packed schedules.
Training your mind in this considered manner helps clear distractions that may cloud your judgement, disrupt your concentration or block creativity. Regular practice will help to alleviate feelings of stress, enhance calm and ultimately boost your immunity.
SPEND TIME IN NATURE
Boost your immune system by heading outdoors and treating yourself to wellness walks.
There is an indisputable link between spending time outdoors and increased health and happiness. Researchers have found that by immersing oneself in any natural environment can have positive effects on the immune system, support healing and improve mental health.
Spending time in nature is an opportunity to unplug from commons sources of stress such as endless news alerts, emails, social media and to do lists.
Read more about how taking time to walk outdoors can be beneficial in this blog.
NURTURE YOUR SOCIAL CIRCLE
Studies show that people with meaningful social ties are more able to cope with the stress of negative events.
Staying in touch with even just a handful good friends is a good idea to help boost your immunity by helping you to feel strong and connected. Friends can also encourage positive behaviours such as eating, sleeping and exercising well.
Show loved ones you are thinking of them by sending a thoughtful gift; our gift guide has lots of ideas.