You’re working hard… getting less sleep than you should… stressed…
Before you know it, you’re sick!
If you’re not careful, it could be the flu that strikes. Flu season is ramping up now and usually peaks between December and February.
But cold, flu, stomach virus — it doesn’t really matter which bug — they’re all opportunists waiting for your immune system to go down. Then they take over and leave you coughing, sneezing, aching, vomiting and laid up in bed… then the cycle repeats itself because of the stress of missing work.
Stress is literally making you sick, and here’s the proof.
Stress and your immune cells
Researches at Michigan State University are providing new insight into how certain types of stress interact with your immune cells and regulate how these cells respond to those bugs out to take you down.
They looked specifically at how a stress receptor, known as corticotropin-releasing factor, or CRF1, can send signals to certain immune cells in your body, called mast cells, and control how they defend you against disease (or not).
During the study, the researchers compared the histamine responses of mice to two types of stress conditions — psychological and allergic — where the immune system becomes overworked. One group of mice was considered “normal” with CRF1 receptors on their mast cells and the other group had cells that lacked CRF1.
Here’s what they found…
“While the ‘normal’ mice exposed to stress exhibited high histamine levels and disease, the mice without CRF1 had low histamine levels, less disease and were protected against both types of stress.”
In fact, the CRF1-deficient mice exposed to allergic stress had a 54 percent reduction in disease, while those mice that experienced psychological stress had a 63 percent decrease.
In other words, the mice whose bodies could not send stress signals to their immune cells got sick less than half as often as normal (non-stress-resistant mice)!
It’s the mind-body connection at work — and is exactly why you must…
Lower your stress to support your immune system
So, considering the damage stress does to your body and how it results in a lowered immunity and more disease, how can you protect yourself? Start by decreasing the stress and aiding your immune system at the same time, by following these tips.
#1 — Take advantage of essential oils to destress and boost immunity
A number of essential oils, including lavender, rose, ylang ylang, bergamot and chamomile are known for decreasing anxiety. Add them to a diffuser or sprinkle them on your pillow at night to help combat stress and promote better sleep.
Some essential oils are also known for their immune-boosting properties and a scant few can be taken orally like oil of oregano, but instruction usually advises mixing with a carrier oil like coconut oil.
#2 — Try yoga
A mega-review of 35 scientific studies demonstrated that yoga significantly decreases stress and anxiety. Join a class at your local gym or try a video at home to start grabbing the stress-reducing benefits today.
#3 — Supplement omega-3s
Omega-3s from fish oil have been shown to lower both inflammation and anxiety, just what you need to take the pressure off of your immune system. Eat plenty of wild-caught, fatty fish, like salmon and take a high-quality omega-3 supplement daily.
#4 — Practice diaphragmatic breathing
Deep breathing techniques are a time-tested way to control your stress levels and one of the most effective is diaphragmatic breathing.
To make it work for you: Sit with your shoulders back, one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Breathe in for a count of two, feeling your stomach rise and then breathe out slowly, through pursed lips. Repeat.
Don’t let stress leave you exhausted, beaten down and sick. Use the tips above to stop the stress that allows germs to gain a foothold in your body and optimize your health year-round.