Immunity has been a hot topic this year, and with no end to the covid-19 pandemic in sight, it remains more important than ever to keep our immune system fighting fit. While we often focus on ways to support our immunity with some of our favourite herbs like echinacea and elderberry, it’s also key to remember there are many factors that can lower our immunity. Excess alcohol, smoking, poor sleep, and stress are just some of the lifestyle factors that can lessen our defences and leave us open to infections.
Stress is a feature in all of our lives, we all face it to some degree on a daily basis, but when we are under chronic stress our immune system can suffer. Up until the late 19th century intense emotional states and responses were considered a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. Recently we have begun to make the connection again between our emotional state and immune health, with modern scientific research highlighting that that there is a connection between emotional, physical, and immunological health.
Multiple regulatory pathways have been found that link the immune with nervous and endocrine systems, and this connection is mediated through the release of cytokines, hormones, and neurotransmitter activity. Environmental events to which the nervous system and endocrine system respond can also elicit responses from our immune system. Meta-analysis of hundreds of reports indicate that stressful events are associated with changes in the immune system.
Many studies suggest that chronic exposure to stress, anxiety and negative moods can affect our physical health. When we are stressed the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced, leaving us more susceptible to infection. Studies have found that just 5 minutes of anger is so stressful it can impair the immune system for more than 6 hours. In healthy people, simply recalling an angry experience from their past caused a 6 hour dip in levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A (IgA), which is the cells first line of defence against infection and pathogens in the upper respiratory tract, the GI system, and the urinary tract. Higher levels of IgA are associated with decreased incidence of disease and less susceptibility to upper respiratory infections.
It’s natural and only human to experience anger at points in our lives, but in cases where stress or anger become persistent or chronic, our immune response can become diminished. If you do find yourself frequently angry, try to figure out some coping strategies to help you remain calm and protect your immune system.
“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” – Buddha
Tips for Remaining Zen
- Meditation and breath work can send specific messages to the brain and have powerful effects on brain centres involved in thought, emotion and behaviour.
- Be mindful, try to find a solution to the problem or re-frame your thinking on a situation.
- Take a break, taking time in nature to walk, or simply breathe can help you to feel calmer.
- Talking to someone about how you are feeling can help alleviate negative feelings, and someone else may be able to offer advice or perspective that can be valuable.
- Guided relaxation and laughter has been reported to have a powerful modulating effect on the immune system, make time for fun and relaxation and do something you enjoy every day, including exercise that makes you feel good.
- There are also herbs that can help to calm or ease stress including chamomile, holy basil and ashwagandha.
- Try diffusing or having a bath with a few drops of calming lavender oil for the ultimate relaxation.
While incorporating some of these tips, it’s hard to always stay completely calm and in perfect health, so try a little herbal support from our Elderberry Echinacea blend to help you stay fighting fit all year round.