Supporting stress and your immune system- 3 simple steps
Ever go on vacation and notice that you have less pain?
Ever come back from vacation and get sick?
The reason this happens is because of the stress mechanism.
The stress mechanism is your bodies response to stressors. When you are under chronic low grade stress, your body responds by pumping out a hormone called cortisol. This hormone is designed to help you deal with any stressor, short term. Cortisol elevates your blood pressure and heart rate and increases your energy stores so that you can run or fight! That's the good news. The bad news is that it also stops your digestion and puts a stopper on your immune function.
Your immune function is modulated by the good bacteria in your gut, called probiotic. When cortisol is secreted, those probiotic take a break and so does your immune system. Now, if you are faced with a tiger, this is perfect because you don't need your immune system at that time. All you need is the energy to fight or get away. However, most of us don't live that life. Our stressors mostly come from work, relationships, toxins we are exposed to or the food we are eating. Pretty mild stuff, relatively speaking.
Now, if this flow of cortisol becomes chronic, then not only is there a gradual decline of your overall immune function, but it also changes the environment of your gut, leading to an imbalance known as dysbiosis.
Dysbiosis is the change in composition of your gut flora (the living organisms that live in our gut) to one that has more bad guys than good guys. Dysbiosis can lead to chronic inflammation, allergic reactions, even auto-immune issues.
3 steps to improve your resilience to stress and support your immune system
Step One: Identify
Identifying your stressor(s) is the first step in improving resilience. If it's a toxin or food you are eating, reduce or eliminate your exposure.
What if the stressor is related to work or relationships?
Being clear about what is bothering you makes it easier to create a plan to reduce it in your life.
Step Two: Choose a Mindfulness practice.
Integrating mindfulness practices into your day is scientifically shown to significantly reduce perceived stress. Types of mindfulness practices are meditation, breathing, taking a walk, exercise, and even chatting with a friend. Mindfulness practices won't eliminate the stressor but they will often change your perspective on them and the physical impact they have on your body. They have also been shown to reduce the stress response so less cortisol is secreted and improves dysbiosis.
Step Three: Support with food and/or herbal supplements
We can't always do it alone and the body sometimes needs more support than simple diet changes can provide. I like to think of it as a two stage process:
Stage one is Initiation. Initiation is the immediate support to reduce and repair the effects of our stressors. A simple elimination diet is a good start, coupled with some herbal supplements to support our stress mechanism and repair the immune ecosystem. I recommend eliminating dairy, sugar and gluten for 2 weeks and re-introducing them one at a time to see which is the most offensive food. Echinacea and/or rhemannia and ginseng have been shown to improve your immune function. Probiotics serve a double purpose of improving immune function and repairing dysbiosis.
Stage two is Restoration. Restoration is creating a long term strategy to maintain a healthy response to stress and a healthy immune system. The best food "diet" by far and the most scientifically studied is the Mediterranean diet. This is a great baseline diet rich in vegetables, nutrients, healthy fats and lean proteins. Subtract the food that was the most offensive in our elimination diet and add a good multivitamin and Omega-3 supplement.
Combine with your choice of Mindfulness practice.
Follow these 3 basic steps and you are well on your way to a life with less stress and a healthier immune system.
We use supplements from Standard Process using o rganic whole food ingredients.
Echinacea Premium- echinacea purpurea tablets
Ashwaganda Complex- skullcap, ashwaganda, licorice, ginseng
Tuna Omega-3- Fish oil
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The comments are provided for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical or health-related advice, and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or health problem. Statements made have not been evaluated by the FDA. Consult your health care professional before starting any healthcare plan or regimen.