Stress and its Effects On Your Immune System

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Stress and its Effects On Your Immune System

Stress has been part of human life forever, it is nothing new.  We have been fighting stress and its causes for our entire existence.  Natural stressors, ones that we would have experienced as we evolved, are very acute, meaning the stress occurs and then shortly after it ends.  Think being chased by a bear, the bear chases you and you either escape or don’t and the stress is done.  It is not something that would have lasted for hours or days.

Bear approaches a visitor along a road at Brooks Camp

Today we have many different kinds of stressors that occur in our lives and they either last for longer periods of time or happen sequentially one after the other for days on end.  We have all had a super stressful day at work where we are trying to meet a deadline, or some unforeseen business critical issue comes up, and the entire day is one giant stress ball.  Sometimes that is just a single day, and that is fine, but if it happens day after day for weeks and weeks it can be an issue. 

Maybe it is not one single issue causing us chronic stress instead, the cause is packed days which consist of hard workouts, rushing the kids around from school to games to practice to friends house, stress from work, and don’t forget the “honey to do” list waiting for you at home.  Some of us are jumping from one thing to the next day after day after day, and never taking a break.

What happens when we experience these types of stress, acute and chronic?  How does it effect us?

A stress response elicits various processes in the body, for example the release of hormones that will produce adrenaline, preparing you to either fight or flee from the stress.  The other thing the body does is activate the immune system (1).  Why?  If, for example, you got a cut exposing you to a greater risk for infection, the immune system wants to be ready to fight it off.

If we have chronic stress, these physiological processes are constantly being activated.  When the immune system is chronically activated, the mobilization of immune cells becomes far less efficient (1).  When our immune cells cannot get to where they are needed, then you are more likely to get sick

Today, in particular in March-April 2020, we are experiencing an unprecedented amount of stress.  I know my stress level has been heightened more than normal.  With the compounding fact that the reason for the stress is a novel virus, it is a double whammy, the virus is causing us chronic stress, which then down regulates our immune system, making us more susceptible to contracting the virus ☹️ 

Now more than ever we need to be utilizing stress management techniques to stop the chronic stress for a while.  Personally I love walks, meditation, journaling, or just keeping busy with hobbies that I enjoy.  Something else that helps decrease the stress I experience is to limit my time watching the news, especially on the weekend, it really helps me relax more.  There are many activities you can do to relive stress.  In fact Chris Kresser has put together a great list of resources around managing your stress.  I suggest you check those out if you are looking for ways to manage the stress you are experiencing.

If you need help or have questions, just hit reply to this email and let me know!

(1) Dhabhar, F. S. (2014). Effects of stress on immune function: the good, the bad, and the beautiful. Immunologic Research, 58(2-3), 193–210. doi:10.1007/s12026-014-8517-0 

Have Kids?  Make Sure They Are Active!!

The other day an article titled COVID-19 pandemic may exacerbate childhood obesity landed in my inbox.  Apparently many kids are getting the majority of their exercise when they are at school and since they are not in school right now authorities are worried that this will increase the rates of childhood obesity.  This never occurred to me as my kids are constantly moving and active, they wear may wife and I out.

HD wallpaper: four boy playing ball on green grass, four children ...

Activity for kids is just as activity is for yourself.  I know it can be easy to stick them in front of the TV in order to get some work done while they are home, believe me I have done it myself.  However once you got what you needed done go for a walk with them, take them outside for a bike ride, go for a quick run, play catch, kick a ball around, anything they want to do that gets them moving.  Believe me it will benefit both of you.

April 2nd 2020 Q&A

I hosted a Q&A session on my Facebook Live this past Friday where I answered 3 questions YOU emailed to me (thanks Trevor, Jennifer, and Stephanie!)  You can watch the replay of the Q&A on Facebook/Instagram/YouTube.  Here are the three questions I answered.

1.) Should I put collagen in my smoothie?
2.) Slow weight loss on keto, should I change things up?
3.) What is the right balance of endurance and strength training?

Lets Work Together

I recently had a couple of clients “graduate” from my health coaching practice so I have a few openings for new clients.  If you would like to explore working together feel free to schedule a discovery call to see if we are the right fit.

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