Stress, Inadequate Sleep, Poor Nutrition and Your Immunity
Is your immune system healthy? Is that something you thought about before this year?
What exactly is your immune system? Can you make it better? Stronger? What can you do to make it less likely that you will get sick with COVID?
Your immune system is essential to your good health. Several factors can harm your immunity. Stress, not getting enough sleep and poor nutrition are three of those.
Humans have been dealing with stress since the beginning of time. While our modern day stressors differ greatly from those of early humans, our fight or flight responses are still very similar leading to physical symptoms. Instead of fighting for our lives like early humans, we may be stressed about work or an exam.
Increased stress can result in higher cortisol levels. Those elevated cortisol levels lead to immunosuppression.Higher cortisol levels can decrease white blood cells and cause inflammation.
Many hormones are affected by stress. Furthermore, stress can lead to some negative behaviors such as nutritionally, with either poor dietary choices or substances like alcohol.
Increased stress can also affect tumor development and growth.
Lack of sleep can also adversely impact your immune system. If you do not get enough sleep or lack quality sleep you will be more likely to get sick and it will take you longer to recovery.
While you sleep your body produces cytokines. During immune responses those cytokines are necessary for fighting infections. Infection fighting cells and antibodies are also reduced by lack of sleep.
Most adults should aim for 7 to 8 hours of good sleep a night. Teenagers should be getting 9 to 10 hours. Children may need 10 or more. Also, if adults are sleeping more than 10 hours, they may not be getting quality sleep.
Nutrition is extremely important for optimal immune system health. Many dietary components contribute. Being deficient in micronutrients like zinc, iron, and vitamin A can lead to disruptions in immune response. It’s also important to make sure you are getting an adequate amount of carbohydrates for your body and your activity level. Insufficient carbohydrate consumption is linked to higher incidences of sickness. Sometimes a vitamin supplement can help restore balance.
Doing what you can to reduce your stress level will definitely benefit your immune system. There are many different ways to combat stress. Consider therapy if you feel you need help in working through stress or traumas. Exercise is very beneficial for stress reduction. This can be as simple as going for a walk, swimming, hiking or you may prefer more involved workout classes. Journaling is another way to work through your stress and feelings.
Other options include mindfulness and meditation. These are great for getting your body into a state of relaxation. The Mindful Movement is a great source! They have wonderful, guided meditations if you are new to the practice. Meditation can decrease your cortisol level and improve inflammation.
Yoga is another good choice. Deep breathing is effective in reducing inflammation.
Find what works best for you and your lifestyle.
Some stress is necessary and it isn’t all bad, but we definitely want to work on lowering chronic stress.
Stress, inadequate sleep, and poor nutrition can all lead to decreased immune function. Focus on getting adequate rest, eating a healthy, balanced diet, and managing your stress levels. It may require some work on your part, but it will help you stay healthy in the long run.
If you need help don’t be afraid to reach out to professionals. There are great therapists, doctors, and nutritionists who want to help you on your journey to live a long, healthy lifestyle.