Did you know stress can affect your immune system? Read on to discover some simple ways you can support your immune system and reduce your stress levels.
Many, if not all of us have felt stressed or run down or both during the past two years during these unprecedented times. While stress levels have increased sharply, our immune systems have also had to combat new assailants.
Stress has been seen to reduce and impair immune system functions.1 Chronic stress in particular is problematic for our immune system as it can alter the balance of neurotransmitters in our body – primarily leading to an increase in cortisol levels, which can then cause inflammation and affect normal immune functions 1
Chronic stress suppresses healthy immune functions and can make us more susceptible to getting sick.2
While the symptoms of low immunity may seem easy to spot, there can be more to low immunity than simply being unwell.
Stress will look different for everybody, but some common signs of increased stress include:
The gut flora or microbiome is made up of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and yeasts.5 Animal studies have found that changing the balance of the gut flora can result in changes to the chemistry in our brains.6
One of the main reasons that the bacteria in our gut can have such a strong influence on mood is that they produce the same neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers that are also made in our brains like dopamine, noradrenaline, serotonin, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (or GABA)7 that control mood and emotions.8
To learn more about the link between gut flora and mood read our article: Did you know probiotics may help your mood?
Gentle, moderate exercise is good for both your immunity and your mood. Exercise can boost immunity3 and it also encourages the release of chemicals like endorphins and serotonin in the body which can improve mood and reduce stress.9
Calm your mind
Calming your mind can help you cope better with stress. Consider using stress management techniques like meditation, mindfulness, yoga, slow breathing and muscle relaxation exercises.4
Eat a balanced diet – consume a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and ensure you drink plenty of fresh, filtered water – as this can support a healthy immune system and mood.10
Keep your gut healthy by eating a fibre-rich diet, including plenty of fermented foods,11 while also limiting artificial sweeteners.
To learn more about getting your gut health heading in the right direction read our article: Tips for getting your gut health on track
Taking a probiotic supplement can support the good bacteria in the gut and help maintain gut health,11 while also helping your mood and having a positive effect on stress and mild anxiety.8
1 - Morey JN, et al. Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function. Curr Opin Psychol. 2015 October 1; 5: 13–17.
2 - Pruett S. Stress and the immune system. Pathophysiology. 2003; 9: 133-153.
3 - Radhakrishnan R. What Are the Signs of a Weak Immune System? MedicineNet. 2021. https://www.medicinenet.com/what_are_the_signs_of_a_weak_immune_system/article.htm - accessed 16-May-22
4 - HealthDirect. Stress. HealthDirect. 2021. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/stress - accessed 16-May-22
5 - Rutsch A, et al. The Gut-Brain Axis: How Microbiota and Host Inflammasome Influence Brain Physiology and Pathology. Front. Immunol. 2020; 11: 604179.
7 - Strandwitz P. Neurotransmitter modulation by the gut microbiota. Brain Res. 2018; 1693(Pt B): 128-133.
8 - Harvard Health. Probiotics may help boost mood and cognitive function. 2019. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/probiotics-may-help-boost-mood-and-cognitive-function - accessed 2-May-2022
9 - HealthDirect. Exercise and mental health. HealthDirect. 2020. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/exercise-and-mental-health - accessed 16-May-22
10 - The Nutrition Source. Nutrition and Immunity. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 2022. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity/ - accessed 16-May-2022
11 - Bratskier K. How To Improve Your Gut Health. 2021. https://www.forbes.com/health/body/how-to-improve-gut-health/ - accessed 10-May-2022.