Stressful Vulnerability: How Anxiety Can Weaken Our Immune System
There are many reasons why anxiety is bad for our bodies, and we are aimed at avoiding all of them if we can. Our bodies can be completely derailed by anxiety, and the physical consequences of stress are a huge burden to bear. One of these effects is the impact it has one the immune system. Your immune system is your body’s defense mechanism against outside bacteria and organisms. It is what your body uses to fight against viruses and other foreign intruders. It is one of your body’s most powerful weapons and far more durable than a lot of people realize. Whenever your body ingests something threatening, something outside of the body, your immune system kicks in to make sure you do not get sick. It is trained to do whatever it needs to stop that from happening. The relationship between anxiety and our immune system is a complicated one. Unfortunately, there is research that points to anxiety having a debilitating effect on your immune system. It shows that too much anxiety can lower your body’s immune system and put stress on the body, releasing a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone and acts as the alarm system for your body.
Cortisol’s Impact on the Immune System
There is a good reason why cortisol lowers your immune system. During times of high stress and worry, cortisol attempts to reduce inflammation by reducing the number of antibodies that cause inflammation. It also turns on natural immunity, or the ability to immediately fight off problems, and moves resources away from specific immunities (the ability for your body to prevent certain things your body knows how to stop).
But cortisol is only helpful in short bursts. When you experience extended, prolonged stress, your body needs those T-cells and white blood cells. However, sustained release of cortisol continues to suppress them, thus causing a weakening of your immune system over time. The biggest problem with this is not that you will get sick, as you still have to come in contact with germs and bacteria. The problem is that once you get sick, your body will have an even harder time recovering from it. The cells that are being suppressed and attacked are needed by the body to attack intruders in their system. Stress makes it harder for your body to recover, as your stress response is suppressing your immune system.
The Link Between Anxiety & Allergies
There is also evidence that those of us with allergies are more likely to develop anxiety, which will reduce your immune system, causing more allergies to be formed. It is not very clear why this is the case, but theories seem to indicate that it happens at a molecular level. It is also possible that living with allergies and an already weakened immune system makes life more difficult and uncomfortable, which can increase the likelihood of developing anxiety. While the immune system is not what is causing the stress to form, it causes certain behaviors that lead to the development of anxiety.
So this is all to say that there is another reason you should strive to not experience anxiety, though that probably goes without saying. Living your life in a way that helps keep tension at bay and minimize your odds of getting sick is always an important thing. As usual, we recommend getting plenty of exercise. Exercise not only naturally boosts your immune system but is also the best natural way to fight off anxiety in your body. The chemicals it releases in your brain drastically improve your mood.
Maintain a healthy diet. While this doesn’t necessarily create a natural, chemical remedy as exercise does, it goes a long way toward developing a better mood. This improved mood will lessen the possibility of anxiety. Plus, it also helps boost that immune system. Finally, massages are a great way to not only reduce stress but also boost immunity. Again, no one is entirely sure why it boosts your immune system, but evidence has shown that it is effective in doing so. Perhaps it is because massages help reduce pain and aches in the body, which can have several health benefits.
There are many reasons we avoid anxiety, and one of them is because of how it affects our immune system. Not only can it create mental and physical problems, but it can also leave us susceptible to more problems later on. So continue to practice your tools to help stave it off and live a happier, more stress-free life, not bound by the shackles of stress or concern.
Of course, it’s impossible to live a completely stress- and anxiety-free life. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for that ideal, however! If you have a history of anxiety and substance abuse disorders, your immune system can be in tatters. Fortunately, both your anxiety and your SUD can be treated at the same time. If you’re tired of living with the ongoing burden of stress and anxiety, give Choice House a call today. Choice House is a full continuum of services, including inpatient treatment and structured sober living. Our staff includes passionate and experienced experts, trained in cutting-edge, research-backed methods to make sure you’re supported by the very best in the field. Above all, Choice House offers you a brotherhood which will support you throughout every step of your recovery. Call us today at (720) 577-4422 to learn more.