Stress and its relationship to the Immune system

 Stress has very much become a part of life with most of us functioning under moderate to very high stress most of the time during our working lives. The impacts of significant stress are far-reaching and affect all aspects of human health. Chronic stress is a less intense, longer lasting form of stress than acute stress, which over time, is associated with increased ‘wear and tear’ on body systems and quality of life.

Since the dawn of mankind, through the process of evolution, the human body developed mechanisms to protect itself during periods of stress. Known as the ‘fight or flight’ response, these mechanisms are designed to save our lives in dangerous situations. The problem in modern times is that stress has become much more continuous and frequent, and therefore these normal physiological responses to stress are frequently or continuously affecting us, which results in health problems.

Often overlooked are the damaging effects of high stress on the immune system. Stress poses a significant risk to immune health, as it results in increased inflammation, decreased number and function of immune cells, and disrupted immune system balance.

The outcome of this impact may result in a health condition, such as cancer, skin conditions such as atopic eczema & psoriasis, recurrent infections, diabetes, cardiovascular disorders and auto-immune conditions.

In addition, chronic high stress or a sudden stressful event is also very often involved in a flare of an existing health condition.

Very often, your body will show physical signs of high stress when the threshold of acceptable stress has been crossed. These signs may include:

  • Fatigue
  • High blood pressure
  • Reduced libido
  • Sleeping difficulties – such as difficulty to fall or remain asleep
  • Weight gain around the middle
  • Cravings for caffeine or sugar
  • Muscle aches/pains/twitching
  • Frequent headaches
  • Frequent infections
  • Low moods/ feeling flat/ inability to enjoy life

If there is significant stress, it is vital that the stress is addressed and its effects decreased in order to reduce the effect of this enormous driver for health issues.  If the source of stress itself cannot be eliminated, and usually it cannot, then we need to consider ways to mitigate and reduce the effects of the stress on the body.

This is where effective stress management strategies need to be implemented and adhered to in order to help with your health concern.

In more serious cases of acute or chronic stress, such as abusive relationships, addiction, clinical depression, PTSD and anxiety, professional help is required. Helplines such as Lifeline (www.lifeline.org.au Tel: 131114) can offer support and guidance if needed.

The practitioners at Psoriasis Eczema Clinic can assess all the triggers for your skin condition and can advise you how to address these triggers.

 Phillip Bayer

Senior Practitioner, Psoriasis Eczema Clinic

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