Stress. Everyone experiences it in their daily lives. Most have also noted that sometimes during periods of high stress, they come down with a cold or illness. This isn’t a coincidence. Numerous studies have linked stress with a depressed immune system. When the immune system isn’t fully active at its job of fighting off infection and illnesses, our bodies become highly vulnerable.
Why does this happen? What is stress exactly and how does it suppress the immune system? Stress triggers the fight or flight response which endows us with a short-term burst of energy in order to run away from or combat a threat to our physical well-being. Specifically, stress releases hormones into the bloodstream, among which adrenaline and cortisol play the role of giving us that short burst of physical power. Cortisol in particular has interesting effects. From Wikipedia:
“Its functions are to increase blood sugar through gluconeogenesis, to suppress the immune system, and to aid the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrate.”
The increases in blood sugar and the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrate are what provide the boost of energy for coping with a physical threat. However, a suppressed immune system is the side effect of cortisol. Short-term suppression of the immune system is usually harmless. However, when people experience chronic stress from the problems of modern life, the immune suppression effects of cortisol also become chronic.
A perpetually suppressed immune system leaves one susceptible to heart disease, cancer, and infectious diseases. This study at Carnegie Mellon University details the mechanism of how cortisol suppresses the immune function.
The Importance Of Stress Management
Chronic stress induced by the long-term problems of everyday life must be managed. Those who fail to manage it, risk their health and longevity. Stress management entails proactively addressing the difficulties that cause stress. It also requires that one find ways to turn off the release of stress hormones such as cortisol. One technique that is highly effective at stress reduction is float tank therapy. By eliminating the external stimuli that the brain and central nervous system must constantly process, deep relaxation is induced. When the mind is relaxed, the fight or flight stress reaction is turned off.
While stress is unavoidable, we don’t have to take it home with us and allow it to damage our health and our relationships. If you wish to learn more about how float therapy can reduce the stress in your life, please contact us.