The body’s immune system plays a vital role in keeping us healthy every day during normal times as well as when we are exposed to germs and bacteria that cause infection, along with toxins or factors that may lead to the development of major diseases like cancer. Although we often feel that stress is somewhat normal, and as long as we can address the causative issues, our health will not be impacted. That is not exactly the case, however. Here are several ways that stress may impact your body’s immune system to make you more vulnerable to illness and disease.
The immune system is suppressed
Stress is caused by many things in life, such as relationship problems, a heavy workload, or financial issues to name a few. While a certain degree of stress can be expected in everyday life, higher levels of stress can interfere with healthy living and disrupt our well being. The thymus gland in the body produces lymphocytes, also called T-cells, that are activated in an immune response when the body becomes aware of viral or bacterial invasions. Significant levels of stress may negatively impact the immune response so that your body is unable to fight off illness as designed.
You lose sleep
People who are struggling with stress often report the loss of sleep. They either sleep less, or the quality of sleep is impaired. The immune system can work especially effective when the body is at rest, so the inability to rest comfortably can disrupt the immune response.
Your appetite may be impacted
Stress can also take a toll on your appetite. You may feel hungry than usual, or you might binge snack on unwholesome foods like chips, soft drinks, and sweets. Either way, your body will miss out on a nutritional balance of necessary vitamins and minerals that help to keep you healthy and strong. In a weakened or ill-nourished state, the body is unable to produce a quality immune reaction to fight disease.
You may not take care of yourself
When a major stressor lingers or keeps you intensely upset, you might not do the usual self-care that is needed for good health. Brushing your teeth, bathing routinely, socializing with friends, taking prescribed medication, and other healthy habits can be neglected when you are worried about something. This further debilitates the immune system to keep it from doing its job, thus increasing the risk of illness.
If you notice that you are feeling more stressed than usual, or if a major life event hits you and causes significant stress, remember to take care of yourself during this critical time. Maintain healthy lifestyle habits, and see a doctor if you experience symptoms of illness or are concerned about stress factors that could compromise your health.