Given all the current social, political and economic uncertainties, the holidays this year may be even more anxiety-producing and stressful than in the past. Past surveys have shown that 30-50% of people (and because of all of their responsibilities, especially women) experience heightened stresses during the holidays.
STRESS AND INFLAMMATION
Stress alters immune responses affecting our ability to fight infection and heal after injury. Inflammation is a necessary part of the immune response and is stimulated when the body is injured or exposed to pathogens or mutated cancer cells.
Short term stress stimulates the immune system by preparing it for a “flight vs. fight” response, but over a longer period of time stress results in negative imbalances of the immune system and increased inflammation. This becomes even a larger problem for people who are already in poor health or struggling with disease.
Poorly regulated inflammation results in chronic diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, coronary heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and even cancers, so it is important that the body carefully regulate the amount of inflammation produced.
Inflammation is a two-way street. Stress causes inflammation and inflammation causes stress. And when the holidays or daily activities increase stress, the amount of inflammation produced by the body increases as well.
There are biological markers in the blood that track differences in immune responses. The longer and greater the stress, the more likely the body is to switch from a healthy, controlled inflammatory response to one that affects its ability to fight disease and healing processes.
CONTROLLING INFLAMMATION AND STRESS
The net effect of an inflammatory response is determined by the body balancing its inflammatory and its resulting anti-inflammatory responses.
Especially during the holidays, the four best ways to help the body balance are:
Be physically active for at least of 2.5 hours total per week.
- Incorporate a daily immune balancing supplement into your diet.
- Eat a smart, healthful diet.
- Keep your weight under control.
Remember: The better you take care of your immune system, the better it will take care of you.
Graphic adapted from: Johanna Bendell, MD, with thanks.