How stress impacts your immunity

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Stress is an inevitable part of life, and while there’s no magic bullet, there are things you can do to help keep it in check.

One of the ways stress impacts our body is preventing our immune system from functioning at its best. So, it’s good to recognise when you’re feeling stressed and know how to manage stress when it does arise.

Good and bad stress

Some stress can actually be good for us. Stress can help your body conserve energy when it’s hungry, instigates the body’s natural fight-or-flight response when faced with danger and can help the immune system fight injury or infection. However, chronic or prolonged stress can negatively impacting the body’s immune response.

How stress affects your immune system

Stress makes you more vulnerable to catching illnesses by raising your cortisol levels, which can weaken your immune system if they stay high for too long. Stress can also damage your body’s own cells and even trigger responses from your immune system, including elevating inflammation, which can make you more susceptible to viruses and infections.

So how do you know if you’re stressed?

Stress appears when things feel unpredictable or out of control. Do you find yourself constantly sleepy? Or irritable in some way? These are signs of stress. Other common signs to watch for include acne, frequent headaches, lack of energy and digestive issues. Stress also shows up in the form of increased heart rate and tense muscles. 

4 ways to keep stress in check

1. Eat a healthy diet: A varied, healthy diet full of micronutrients is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system. Research has shown that better-nourished people are better equipped to have healthy immune systems. Eat foods rich in nutrients like vitamins C and D and zinc which have been singled out as important for immunity. There’s also plenty of plant foods that help mood, anxiety and even depression.

2. Exercise: Getting active can help protect your immune system. Exercise doesn’t need to be intense to help manage stress–moderate intensity exercise will do the trick (think a walk, jog or spin on the bike).

3. Touch: Emotions have a big impact on our bodies, so it makes sense that the more connected and supported we feel, the less stressed we are. This is because physical touch stimulates the release of dopamine and serotonin, also known as the “happy chemical”, a natural mood stabiliser.

4. Sleep: Quality sleep and keeping our internal body clocks ticking well are essential for maintaining peak physical function. During sleep, the immune system releases proteins which are important for fighting infections and inflammation and also help with our stress response.

For more information and research references, you can read the full article at

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