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Is stress making you sick?

Undoubtedly two of the most complex systems in the body are the immune system and the stress response system. Years of research have highlighted the impact of stress on our immune systems. Did you know that acute stress actually upregulates our immune response, and this is a good thing? This system developed as a result of our prehistoric existence where our very life was threatened by injury and infection. Therefore, an enhanced immune response at times of (acute) stress offered a survival advantage. For many of us today, our stressors are insidious and chronic by nature. Chronic stress has been shown to suppress immune function, with subsequent immune depletion. On a biochemical level, chronic stress suppresses interleukins 12 & 4, resulting in immune suppression. Also, biochemically, chronic exposure to stress results in cortisol resistance and a failure to down regulate the inflammatory response. This could be described as a double whammy, we are left with both immune suppression, so at risk of increased of lingering infections, alongside of uncontrolled inflammation which exaggerates the signs and symptoms of infection. Basically, sicker for longer!! Aargh!! I could go on and on about dietary and lifestyle interventions for stress management… And I will some other time…


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