Have you ever noticed that when you’re stressed at work or school, you sometimes end up feeling run down or start experiencing a cold? 

The reason for this is due to the way our bodies react to stress. When we become stressed, our bodies produce corticosteroid, a hormone that can weaken the immune system, leaving it susceptible to colds and other viruses. 

Many of us experience stress daily, but when we have too much stress and or experience it too often, stress can have a significant impact on your health. Understanding the link between stress and your immune system could make you rethink stress, helping you avoid it as much as possible in the future.

How does stress affect the body?

We all deal with stress in different ways. But experiencing continued stress or intense periods of stress, can affect our immune systems, often serving as an indicator that things are getting too much. Many people will experience illness during a particularly stressful period at work, when planning a wedding and other events where stress levels might be heightened. For others, the effects of stress can come later – usually when you finally get the chance to relax or go on vacation.

There are several reasons behind the impact of stress on the immune system. Firstly, stress leads to the production of cortisol. Cortisol in small bursts can have a positive impact on your immune system, as it can help reduce inflammation. But prolonged cortisol production can mean your blood cells build up a resistance of sorts, making inflammation more possible.

Stress can also affect your body’s ability to produce lymphocytes, the white blood cells that fight against viruses and bacteria. With fewer white blood cells being produced, you’re more at risk of contracting a virus.

Your digestive system can also be impacted by stress. Having a nervous stomach is a common feeling when you’re feeling stressed about something, but there is a known connection between stress and an upset digestive system. The inflammation caused by stress can affect your digestion and leave it more susceptible to bacteria – leading to conditions such as diarrhea.

Long-term effects of stress on the body

While many symptoms of stress will come and go, prolonged stress can have long-term effects on your health. Continued stress could lead to chronic inflammation, which could cause conditions such as arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis and fibromyalgia. 

Stress can also lead to more serious conditions, including cardiovascular disease, while also increasing your risk of developing other conditions such as diabetes or cancer. 

Managing stress for the sake of your health

Your health is important, which is why you must take action to protect yourself from stress as much as possible. Being susceptible to conditions such as colds and flu can impact your health in the short-term, but these illnesses can also lead to hearing loss and more. 

Some of the steps you can take to manage stress more effectively include:

  • Practice mindfulness by taking time to meditate: Controlled breathing and taking time to relax can help bring your heart rate down to a normal level, helping to reduce cortisol production and inflammation.
  • Stress-relieving exercise such as yoga, running or a fitness class can also help you manage your stress in a healthier way. Exercising regularly is also vital for keeping on top of your general health.
  • Talking to someone about the events that are causing stress could also help: You could benefit from the advice of others, and it could help you find an appropriate solution.
  • If you’re in a stressful job, you might want to consider talking to your manager about your situation or consider changing jobs.

You can also consult your doctor if you feel that stress is beginning to affect your health. The sooner you get a handle on the stress, the better it will be for your health.

With stress leaving you vulnerable to viruses, an ENT specialist could be valuable to provide treatment and advice, especially if you’re experiencing hearing loss as a result. Our doctors are well-versed on the small connections between the bodies systems that can result in outlying symptoms like stress. We want to ensure you are hearing your best!

If you have concerns about your health due to stress, ENT Specialists can help. Contact us for more information about what we do or call us to make an appointment at (402) 983-9948.