Strengthening Your Immune System

Have your children already brought a cold home from school? Have you picked up a virus in your yoga class or on the bus? Are you constantly struck down by colds, flu or other infections? Do you easily get sick after a stressful event or on the weekend after a stressful week?

Your immune system is intrinsically linked to your stress levels.

We may notice that stress levels result in physical symptoms such as tight necks or shoulders. However, we may not realize that stressful situations may trigger an increase in stress hormones in your body. Increased stress hormones affect our body’s immunity and increase its vulnerability to infections and disease.

Stress response is necessary

Stress hormones are helpful in acute situations. Our built-in response to stress, the so-called ‘fight or flight’ response, has been evolved to secure our survival. It was useful to fight or run away when threatened. It still is useful in acute situations, e.g. if a small child runs onto the street without looking, we want to immediately run after it. Or if we have an exam or job interview coming up, stress hormones provide us with extra energy that we need to perform best. In emergency situations our stress response serves us.

Chronic stress affects us physically and mentally

In modern life many people experience chronic stress: Instead of coming back to a relaxed state after an emergency situation, we remain in a prolonged fight-or-flight state. Stressors such as stress at work, frequent use of digital devices or constant exposure to (negative) news affect us physically and mentally. Stress hormones stay elevated and interfere with natural functions such as breathing, digestion and circulation. Chronic stress increase the risk of heart disease, lead the way to digestive issues, lower our immune function or leave us more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.

Stress lowers immunity function and hampers the ability to stay healthy

The chemical reactions caused by stressful situations or ongoing stress results in an increase of the stress hormone cortisol. This can result in reduced white blood cells needed to produce antibodies to fight off invading bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. The body is more susceptible to colds, flus and other infections or diseases. Furthermore, dysregulations in the immune system may create chronic inflammation that harms tissues and cells. Long-term inflammation can possibly lead to arthritis, asthma, allergies or inflammatory bowel disease.

Managing stress and finding a balance in life is essential for good health

We cannot avoid stress, but we can learn how to respond to stress differently. In order to do that we have to increase our awareness. Developing strategies and practices that help us to shift from our reactive patterns (fight or flight response) to a more relaxed response (rest and digest state) is vital. Creating times to regularly nourish ourselves and becoming aware of our reactions to stress is a helpful step in managing our stress.

Strategies to reduce stress and boost immune system

Find some practices that work for you to decrease stress hormones in your body such as practicing yoga, meditation, going for a daily walk or keeping a gratitude journal! Both Alexander Technique and Reflexology are also effective ways to reduce stress, find better balance and improve health. If you don’t know the Alexander Technique why don’t you start with trying out the “Constructive Rest” by following this link … Here are some other strategies to strengthen your immune system:

SPENDING TIME IN NATURE

Make it a habit to spend more time in nature. Go for walks, even in the rain – just get some good gear to stay dry. Exercise outside instead of going to the gym. Have meals outside in the sunshine. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it also contributes to your physical well-being. Research has shown that spending time in nature helps to reduce blood pressure, heart rate and the production of stress hormones.

EATING HEALTHY DIET

While eating well is important all year round, it is especially important during the fall and winter. Eat a diet full of nutrient-rich whole foods, including fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Include garlic in your diet: Garlic antimicrobial and antiviral properties that are useful in battling common colds. Avoid processed and fatty foods. Reduce pasta, white bread and sugar.

Do you know?

Eating or drinking 100 grams (8 tbsp.) of sugar, the equivalent of about two cans of soda, can reduce the ability of white blood cells to kill germs by forty percent. The immune-suppressing effect of sugar starts less than thirty minutes after ingestion and may last for five hours. In contrast, the ingestion of complex carbohydrates has no effect on the immune system.

GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP

Sleep is the best medicine! Most adults stay at their healthiest getting 7 – 8 hours of sleep a night. Research has shown that infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced with sleep deprivation. People who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover, if you do get sick.

EXERCISE

Exercise to boost your immune system! Make your workout a daily habit. You don’t have to run a marathon to benefit from exercising, moderation is the key. If you are healthy, it is recommended to exercise 30 minutes daily or 150 minutes per week. Moderate activity such as brisk walking, bicycling, running, swimming or a simple exercise routine is ideal.

Note: Please be advised that these tips are not meant to replace medical treatments. If you suffer from an illness or disease and your symptoms are severe, please seek medical assistance

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