Nutrition, Activity and Wellness: Stress Weakens the Immune System
Yet the design of our immune system is complex and influenced by an ideal balance of many factors, not just diet, and especially not by any one specific food or nutrient. However, a balanced diet consisting of a range of vitamins and minerals, combined with healthy lifestyle factors like adequate sleep and exercise and low stress, most effectively primes the body to fight infection and disease.
A healthy immune system lets us fell well look well and lets us use our energy more effectively. Remaining away from the stressful factors, approaching life and events positively, keeping away from smoking and alcohol, adequate and balanced nourishment and regular exercising are among the supports we can give to our immune system. However, sometimes, these supports become insufficient and we may need some strengthening out sourcing for our immune system. This supports should be preferred through natural nutrients rather than medications.
Those with chronic mild depression had weaker lymphocyte-T cell responses to two mitogens, which model how the body responds to viruses and bacteria. The immune response was down even 18 months later, and immunity declined with age. In line with the 2004 meta-analysis, it appeared that the key immune factor was duration, not severity, of depression. And in the case of the older caregivers, their depression and age meant a double-whammy for immunity. The researchers noted that lack of social support has been reported in the research as a risk factor for depression, an insight amplified in a 2005 study of college students (Glaser, R., Robles, 2003). Health psychologists Sarah Pressman, PhD, Sheldon Cohen, PhD, and fellow researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's Laboratory for the Study of Stress, Immunity and Disease, found that social isolation and feelings of loneliness each independently weakened first-year students' immunity. In the study, students got flu shots at the university health center, described their social networks, and kept track of their day-to-day feelings using a handheld computer (a new technique called "momentary ecological awareness"). They also provided saliva samples for measuring levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Small networks and loneliness each independently weakened immunity to a core vaccine component. Immune response was most weakened by the combination of loneliness and small social networks, an obvious health stress facing shy new students who have yet to build their friendship circles.
Models specifically examining recovery from stressors and sedentary behavior would be useful, as stress is linked to these outcomes. Finally, it should be noted that psychosocial stress and exercise interact during PA itself, a third area of inquiry that will likely inform the complex confounding of these two factors.
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Glaser, R., Robles, T. F., Malarkey, W. B., Sheridan, J. F., & Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K. (2003). Mild depressive symptoms are associated with amplified and prolonged inflammatory responses following influenza vaccination in older adults. Archives of General Psychiatry, 60, 1009-1014.
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