Researchers have suspected for a long time that stress can negatively impact your immune system. Many of us have observed this ourselves in real life. Who hasn’t found themselves going through very stressful times and then wind up recovering on your back in bed?
Now researchers are finally confirming that stress does affect our immune systems. Even more revealing is which part of the immune system is affected the most – which turns out to be Natural Killer or NK cells. The NK cell is the first responder to health problems. They are responsible for defence against invaders and killer cells, which do not belong in our body because they are mutations or unstable. An optimally-performing immune system and NK cells in particular are important to fight many different forms of poor health.
Stress and its Effects on the Body
What did these researchers find out? Three major biochemical compounds in the body used in research to determine levels of stress are cortisol, epinephrine and prostaglandin E-2. All three had a negative effect on NK cell activity and effectiveness in the body.
- Prostaglandin E-2 had an immediate effect and it remained so for a long time afterwards.
- Cortisol, which is expressed in long-term stressful situations, slowly kept having an increasingly negative effect on NK cells.
- When concentrations of epinephrine and prostaglandin E-2 were decreased in the body, the effects also started to diminish. They found the immune-suppressing effects of the raised cortisol levels persisted, even after the cortisol levels returned to normal.
The bottom line is that stress can have a profound negative impact on your immune system, leaving you vulnerable. Find ways to support your immune system’s natural killer cells and relax, as they can have a positive impact on your stress levels and health!
Things You Can Do to Fight Stress
A scientifically proven mushroom extract like AHCC is an excellent supplement to boost your body’s own stress-fighting NK cells. Practicing yoga is a very popular and effective way to help decrease stress. Recent studies show that yoga enthusiasts have a healthier quality of life. Other exercises to reduce stress are to take walks or ride a bike.
You can also practice meditation such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, a system developed at Harvard. Or incorporate a simple exercise such as going over a response to a stressful encounter three times in your mind before responding verbally. All these can help you navigate life more smoothly.
About the Author
Dr. Frank Ervolino is a licensed naturopathic physician and acupuncturist with 20+ years of experience in natural medicine.
Dr. Ervolino graduated from Bastyr University with degrees in Naturopathic Medicine and Acupuncture. He maintained successful practices in Seattle and Florida. Invited to join the Mind/Body Institute of Jupiter Medical Center, Dr. Ervolino became the first ND/acupuncturist to be invited on staff at the hospital. He also worked closely with the Foshay Cancer Treatment Center. Dr. Ervolino was appointed to the DOH State Board of Acupuncture where he remained until 2006, when he left as chairman of the board. He has served on the regulatory board FAOMRA and several boards of the AAAOM.
Dr. Ervolino lectures regularly on acupuncture and Chinese medicine. He also works as a formulator/product designer for several herb and supplement companies with a unique interest in cancer prevention and treatment. Currently, Dr. Ervolino maintains a practice at his community acupuncture clinic in Stuart, Florida and does consultations by phone.