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Mitigating the stress and immune response

August 2019 Print
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It is well known that excessive stress is bad for us – it can be toxic and affect our immune system[1]. Stress triggers a release of hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, and when it comes to our immune system, cortisol is essential for modulating levels of inflammation in the body.

While science indicates that there is a good amount of stress to have, called eustress (a positive form of stress that has a beneficial effect on health, motivation, performance and emotional wellbeing[2]), chronic stress can have serious long-term health effects: including depression, anxiety, fatigue, muscle pain, hormone imbalances, weight gain and sleep disturbances[3].

In the earliest stages of chronic stress, known as the ‘wired and tired’ stage, there are elevations in the cortisol levels in the afternoon or evenings instead of in the morning. As these high levels continue, we essentially burn out our adrenal glands and start to feel long-term fatigue.

When our stress response is altered in the longer-term, we see an increase in inflammation. Inflammation can be both a driver and a symptom of a variety of different health problems.

It is really important that we learn how to manage our stress. Here are some top tips to support our health, particularly when stress is a driver.

1. Consider support with supplements (following advice from a qualified healthcare professional)

  • Curcumin is one of the primary prescriptions for managing inflammation as it works similarly to anti-inflammatory medication[4]. It’s important to choose a form which has high bioavailability such as Meriva® (as our bodies will more effectively absorb).
  • Vitamin C is important to help with both adrenal and immune function. It accumulates in the adrenal glands to synthesis stress hormones. The dose is important, with research showing that 1,000 mg of Vitamin C taken three times a day may help to reduce elevated cortisol levels[5].
  • B-vitamins to support cellular energy production and balance hormone production.  
  • Vitamin A, D, E which may be good for both the stress response and our immune cells[6].
  • Withania is a herbal adaptogen, which has a specific extract called KSM-66 shown to support the stress response, help reduce cortisol[7] and reduce feelings of stress including food cravings.

 2. Lifestyle Tips

  • Do some exercise as it helps people to cope with stress very effectively. You don’t have to go out and run a marathon, just find something you enjoy.
  • Eat lots of green leafy veggies, non-farmed wild seafood and avocados as these provide a source of nutrients and good fats which are nourishing for our nervous system.
  • Take pro-inflammatory foods out of your diet such as coffee and high sugar caffeinated energy drinks. Though if you’re not in adrenal exhaustion stages, a little bit of coffee is okay.
  • Foster an environment for healthy sleep hygiene by removing technology and ensuring your bedroom is a sanctuary for stress.

 

For more information on mitigating the stress and immune response download the Expert Voice podcast featuring Naturopath Teneille Newton on your preferred listening app such as Apple Podcasts.

The Expert Voice podcast series is designed to help natural healthcare practitioners remain at the cutting edge of the ever- evolving nutritional therapies industry. The series covers topics across lifestyle and nutrition, stress and toxicity, healthy ageing, gut health, mental health, and more. It focuses on the role of nutritional supplementation in helping both healthcare professionals and their patients on the journey to achieving and maintaining good health.

References

[1] Stress Weakens the Immune System, American Psychological Association, February 23, 2006

https://www.apa.org/research/action/immune

[2] Definition of Eustress, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/eustress

[3] Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behaviour, 4 April, 2019 https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987

What are the consequences of long-term stress?, Aug 1, 2019 https://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/qa/what-are-the-consequences-of-longterm-stress

[4] James W. Daily, Mini Yang, and Sunmin Park, J Med Food. 2016 Aug 1; 19(8): 717–729.

[5] Brody S, Preut R, Schommer K, Schürmeyer TH, Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2002 Jan;159(3):319-24. Epub 2001 Nov 20.

[6] Laura C. Rall & Simin Nikbin Meydani, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and Immune Response: Recent Advances,  Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1999.

[7] K. Chandrasekhar, Jyoti Kapoor, and Sridhar Anishetty, Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul-Sep; 34(3): 255–262

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