We all know that stress can have damaging effects on our bodies. But what most of us don’t realize is the number that excess stress can have on our bodies immune system. Yes, stress is an unavoidable part of life. And the reality is that we all need a little stress from time to time to ensure our immune system stays on its toes. I know right about now that may sound silly. But here’s the thing, when our immune system has no work to do it will make work for itself. This often results in the unfortunate side effect of the body attacking itself. However, too much stress forces the body to work too hard over a prolonged period of time. As a result, things start to slip past the normally vigilant eye of our immune system. In the end, like most things in life, it all boils down to a balancing act.
The Domino Effect
Stress is triggered by a number of different hormones. The most abundant contributing hormone to stress being Cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands can be found on the top of each kidney. While Cortisol is mainly known for its involvement in the body’s response to stress it also serves other purposes. Cortisol assists in the regulation of blood sugar levels, balancing metabolism, reducing inflammation, and even in the formation of memories. Its natural effects on water and salt balance, make it ideal for aiding in the regulation of blood pressure. In women, Cortisol also plays a key role in the development of the fetus during pregnancy.
Signs Of Excess Stress
What happens when we have too much Cortisol? When Cortisol levels are in excess it can have devastating effects. Some of the signs and symptoms you should keep an eye out for include: feeling overly alert yet exhausted, difficulty falling and or staying asleep, feeling anxious or nervousness, easily irritated, memory lapse, easily distracted, craving sugar, weight gain (especially around the waist), indigestion, GERD and other digestive issues, as well as skin issues such as eczema or psoriasis. The unfortunate reality is that we all display at least one, if not multiple, of these signs and symptoms. Due to our constant exposure to stress from looming deadlines, money woes, and even the foods we eat. We are in a near constant exposure to stressful situations.
How It Destroys Your Immunity
Excess Cortisol pushes your body into a constant state of alert. Most people don’t realize that during these states of alert certain areas of our bodies are put on pause. This in turn allows the body to redirect that energy back towards areas that are needed incase of the need to fight or flee from a predator. The systems that kick put on the back burner first are reproduction and digestion. In the situation of an immediate threat your body knows that it needs to survive first in order to reproduce at a later date. If you are never in a situation where your mind or body feels safe it will not return any energy towards this ability. Thus, infertility and digestive issues are common long-term side effects that can come from excess stress. In a situation where your body cannot identify an outside source of stress it attacks itself.
Breath It In
There are several safe and all natural ways to reduce your Cortisol levels. Aromatherapy, for example, utilizes the scent of essential oils to naturally realign the chemicals within your body. There are a number of essential oils that have been shown to reduce stress levels as well as Cortisol levels. Some of the top picks are: lavender, rosemary, bergamot, grapefruit, lime, lemon, orange, copaiba, and ylang ylang. Aromatherapy is a great way to help lower your stress and Cortisol levels with ease and the smallest risk of side effects. Some people may have an allergic reaction to them and as a safety precaution you should test the oils in small doses to determine if you fall into this category.
The Power Of Foods
Another great way to naturally destress and therefore strengthen your immunity is with food. Some of the foods that can help reduce your stress levels include: citrus fruits, berries, avocado, dark chocolate, salmon, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, and broccoli. You may have noticed that several of the foods on this list are also on the list of foods for an improved immunity. There is a reason. The majority of these foods are all beneficial to the body in a number of ways. While the citrus foods contain high levels of vitamin C which is good for the immune system. They are also perfect for naturally reducing stress levels. This is why the scent alone of citrus foods, such as oranges, can help lower your stress by at least 80%.
Drink Your Cares Away
Teas just like the foods we eat can come with more than one health benefit. We often suffer from stress when we are dehydrated. While tea acts as a natural diuretic certain teas in small amounts can be more hydrating than a glass of water. In fact, one of the teas that has been shown to reduce your stress levels and prevent dehydration is green tea. Other teas that help reduce stress are ones that can increase circulation such as cinnamon or peppermint. While soothing teas such as chamomile, lavender, and wild orange have also been shown to help naturally lower your stress levels. Regardless of the tea you choose for best results you want to consume 1-2 glasses of tea a day. As an additional precaution to ensure you avoid dehydration you will want to make sure that you are drinking at least 6 glasses of water a day.
Which Path Is Best
Other all natural options that can help reduce your stress levels are through exercise and meditation. While not all exercise routines are built the same. Studies have shown that a minimum of 30 minutes a day at least 3-4 times a week can dramatically reduce your stress levels and also improve your immunity! Again, we see that in treating one we benefit both. For those of us who are not in any hurry to hit the gym anytime soon another way to reduce stress is with meditation. Studies have shown that a mere 5 minutes a day for 30 days straight can actually rewire your brain. The end result is that you are able to process high stress situations not only better but also in a more positive way.
Take It Easy
Remember like everything in life you want to create a balance. You may find that some things are a better fit for you than others. Personally, I suggest to my clients that they slowly integrate in different options that are less of an overall shock to their systems. For example, if I have a client who never works out, eats nothing but junk, and lives a constant fast paced life. I would suggest to that client that they start with nutrition first. Nutrition is one of the most effective ways to heal your bodies. What we put into our bodies directly determines what we can get out of them. Find out what works best for you. Remember you are one of a kind and as such your exercise might not look like everyone else’s and that’s okay. Just do what feels right for you!
Need a Helping Hand?
A happy and healthy life is closer than you may think. Our health is something that we all have to deal with daily, and when we don’t feel our best, it shows. If you are tired of just making it through your day then you NEED to start investing in your health today! You are not alone on this journey. If you ever need any help I am always here to do just that. Even if it is something as small as just acting as a sounding board. Do you have any questions or concerns I can help you with? Feel free to contact me directly at DrDeeandMe@gmail.com or you can even book a one-on-one call with me. Be sure to subscribe to gain access to tons of free goodies and check back daily for more great recipes and information!