Stress. Rich or poor, young or old, we all experience it at some point. No matter what our reasons for being stressed it affects us all the same and it is not pleasant. I am sure we can all relate to the headaches, low energy, upset stomach and inability to sleep, but what are the tolls that stress takes on the immune system? How does it actually affect the immune system and why?

Here is the science bit, pay attention now.  The immune system is a collection of billions of cells that travel through our bloodstream. They move in and out of our tissues and organs like soldiers defending our body’s against foreign bodies. Things like bacteria and viruses. The main type of immune cells are white blood cells. The white blood cells are made up of lymphocytes and phagocytes. There are two types of lymphocytes. B cells produce antibodies which are released into the fluid surrounding our bodies cells to destroy the invading viruses and bacteria. And then T cells. If the bacteria somehow manage to get past the B cells then the T cells latch on to the bad guys, multiply and destroy those bad boys like Bruce Willis in die hard. (Minus the vest and gun).

Now when we are stressed the immune systems ability to fight off nasty viruses is greatly reduced. Making us much more susceptible to infections. If we are stressed the stress hormone can lower the number of lymphocytes meaning more baddies are getting through and the T cells have to step up and do more work.

An indirect effect that stress can affect our immune system is if we are stressed we are more likely to participate in behaviour that can make us unhealthy eg, smoking or drinking alcohol. Stress is linked to headaches, flu, diabetics, asthma and gastric ulcers so it is really important that if we are stressed that we try and deal with it head on. All the behaviours that stress makes us display can be detrimental to our health so we need to make sure we try and keep healthy and the stress levels down.

So stress makes us ill, but why? Stress leads to frequent illness and infections. When we are stressed it puts increased strain upon our heart and circulation system due to increased heart rate, this could increase your risk of developing disorders of the heart e.g. coronary heart disease. Also when we are stressed it has a direct effect on the digestive system. Digestion gets inhibited and when stress is gone the digestive activity increases which may cause gastric ulcers. So when we are stressed it isn’t just the obvious symptoms that occur there is more going on in the background. The human body is so complex it really is amazing. 

So when we feel stressed or like we have to much on our plate it really is important we sort it out. Speak to people, a problem shared really is a problem halved. Try our best to tackle our issues one by one and let’s look after our body’s. They really are our temples.