Don’t Stress! If you want to Prevent Cold and Flu
One of the only ways to ensure cold and Flu prevention is to give your immune system all of the necessary tools it needs to fight off infection. Although there are plenty of activities you can do to boost your immune system, there are also specific things, which should be avoided, in order to ensure that your immunity is in tip top shape.
Stress and Your Immunity
There are lots of things you can do to boost your immunity such as; eating healthily, sleeping enough, exercising regularly and getting plenty of sunlight and fresh air. However, if your stress levels are high, your immunity can take a dive and you could find yourself picking up virus after virus, without realising why. Your immunity is directly linked to your stress levels and when stress hormones are circulating around the body, they can reduce the white blood cells, cause inflammation and make you more likely to pick up viruses and infections.
Some stress in our lives is essential; without it we wouldn’t achieve goals or take chances to improve our lives. When we have to go through something which is nerve-wracking, like having a job interview, an exam or going on a date, we are nervous, so our bodies release adrenalin. The adrenalin gives a short boost of energy to enable us to complete the task at hand, usually with beneficial results.
Prolonged stress is not good for the body. Unfortunately, when a stressful situation is out of hand or anxiety goes on for too long, it can affect both our mental and physical health. The body can get into a habit of being in the ‘flight or fight’ mode, seeing everything as a potential threat, flooding the body with cortisol to give us energy to fight. When this continues for a long period of time, the body becomes exhausted, the immune system is suppressed and chronic inflammation can occur. This cycle of circumstances then allows bacteria and viruses to invade the system and you are then susceptible to all kinds of illnesses.
We need the hormone, cortisol, to prepare for stressful situations, enabling the ‘flight or fight’ system. However, when this occurs on a regular basis, the protein needed for signalling the immune cells (lymphocytes) is lowered and suppression of the immune system takes place. Lymphocytes kill off antigens and other harmful entities that invade the system, so not only are we more susceptible to disease and infection, our bodies can no longer heal as quickly as previously.
Cortisol also reduces inflammation within the body and is necessary for healing. Unfortunately, in prolonged stressful situations, it cannot continue to abate inflammation on an on-going basis. The immune system becomes suppressed and inflammation takes over, causing long term issues with fighting off infection and illness, mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and sleep disorders.
How to Regulate Stress Levels
Obviously, we can’t eradicate all stress from our lives – we need a certain amount to be able to live day to day – but we can certainly dispose of unwanted stress.
Much of our immunity is found in the gut and probiotics are naturally occurring microorganisms that reside there. They strengthen immunity and build resistance to disease.
Deep breathing exercises can help much more than you think. When taking a deep breath, our system thinks that the threat causing the stress has disappeared, allowing our bodies to return to the ‘rest and digest’ mode. Concentrating on deep breathing for between 5 to 20 minutes a day can be beneficial to your brain, heart and immune system.
The best thing about regular exercise is that any stress hormones, which are floating around the body are used to aid your workout, rather than causing problems sitting in your system. Exercise has also been proven to strengthen immunity and increase your ability to deal with stress.
Stress in our lives is never going to be completely eradicated, evolution has seen to that. However, we can ensure that this stress does not get out of control by following these simple rules. By building good bacteria in the gut with probiotics, our immune system gets the opportunity to improve, enabling us to lead healthy, happy and (almost) stress-free lives!