Stress and The Immune System

By October 14, 2009Uncategorized

With all the news about Swine Flu these days it’s a good time to revisit the concept of stress and the immune system because not only are we approaching the flu season, we are approaching the holiday season and there is a definite correlation! Experts suggest that as much as 50% of Americans are walking around with a suppressed immune system (stress, poor nutrition and insomnia are the contributing factors). The metaphor of falling domino works well here. Domino # 1: There is a whole cascade of biochemicals that are produced and secreted under stress. First, the nervous system reacts to a “Threat” by releasing epinephrine and nor-epinephrine. This is followed by (Domino # 2) the release of many hormones, all of which prepare the body for fight or flight. These include but are not limited to: Cortisol, aldosterone, vaspressin, and thyroxine. When one engages in fight or flight these hormones are used for their proper duties. When one sits in front of a computer terminal all day (or other sedentary means) then these chemicals become a toxic hormone cocktail in the body. When cortisol lingers in the body (and we don’t know why) destroys white blood cells (Domino # 3). That’s right, prolonged stress, in terms of lingering Cortisol, suppresses the immune system.

• Stress Tip for the Day:
Good eating habits tend to disappear in stressful times. We tend to eat comfort foods which are high in refined sugar. Refined sugar also suppresses the immune system. Consider reaching for a piece of organic fruit or trail mix when the hunger pangs strike and try to minimize your intake of refined (table) sugar.

• Books Worth Noting:
Speaking of nutrition, Michael Pollan’s most recent book, In Defense of Food, is an excellent resource to add to your library. As a sequel to his best selling book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he highlights a clear path to healthy eating. I highly recommend this book.

Photo of the Day:
Sometimes seeing a picture of the stress and immune system brings home the point better than words. I had this image created for my college textbook, Managing Stress.

• Quote for the Day:
“The bottom line is that refined sugar upsets the body chemistry and suppresses the immune system. The stronger the immune system the easier it is for the body to fight infectious and degenerative diseases.” —Professor Nancy Appleton, Ph.D., Nutritionist

Brian Luke Seaward, Ph.D. is an internationally renowned expert in the fields of stress management, mind-body-spirit healing and stress and human spirituality. He is the author of over 10 books including the bestsellers, Stand Like Mountain, Flow Like Water, Stressed Is Desserts Spelled Backward, The Art of Calm, Quiet Mind, Fearless Heart and Managing Stress (6E). He can be reached through his

© Brian Luke Seaward, Ph.D.

Brian Luke Seaward

Author Brian Luke Seaward

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