Saturday, April 11, 2020

Stress and the Immune System

I am sure it is not a surprise to you that stress can have a profound effect on your immune system. For a body to remain healthy, a state of balance (or homeostasis) must be maintained. Stress disrupts this balance by suppressing the body's immune system and increasing the risk of infections, autoimmune disorders, overall inflammation, and quite possibly even cancer

The immune system is actually a multifaceted network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend the body against attacks by "foreign" invaders, such as microbes (bacteria, parasites, and fungi) and some viruses. The immune system can prevent microbes from invading the body, and if they succeed in doing so, seek out and destroy the microbes. The immune system organs are located throughout the body and include the bone marrow, the thymus, lymphocytes, lymph nodes, spleen, and other lymphoid tissues found in the linings of the digestive tract, airways, and lungs. These tissues include the tonsils, adenoids, and appendix.

The immune, endocrine, and nervous systems communicate through hormones, neurotransmitters neuropeptides, and products of immune cells. The immune system shares anatomic connections and signal molecules with the nervous and endocrine systems. The nervous system has direct connections to immune system organs (bone marrow, thymus, lymph nodes, and spleen).

Stress can result in many different effects on the immune system, including the following:

A redistribution of immune cells into areas of the body where they are less effective

A reduction in the ability of white blood cells to perform crucial functions

An increased risk of allergies

An exacerbation of the symptoms of asthma

A reduction in antibody production

A reactivation of latent viral infections

2 Important Points:

Remember, stress impacts every individual uniquely. Each person's threshold for stress can vary greatly, and the physiological responses to acute and chronic stressors can be as unique as the individual who is experiencing the stress.

Essentially every body system is affected by stress, and prolonged stress can lead to illness, chronic disease, or death.

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