I have spent two years, studying the work of experts in the field of autoimmunity and have combined what I’ve learned, in 24 steps. I’ll be sharing one step every week for the next 24 weeks, on my website and social media platforms (starting Monday 18 May 2020). This is step 17 of 24.
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STEP 17: MANAGE YOUR STRESS
We now know that three things must be present for an autoimmune condition to develop: a genetic predisposition, a leaky gut and a trigger. (Thanks to research done by Alessio Fasano, MD in 2009) One of the triggers is stress.
The way you think, feel, and respond to situations doesn’t only affect your stress level, it also affects your immune system. Emotional, mental and physical stress play a huge role in your overall health. Whether you are stressed from undergoing surgery, training for a marathon, eating poorly or constant exposure to toxins or whether you worry about finances, have a difficult relationship with a loved one or have a stressful career, your body responds to stress in the same way.
It is critical to understand what impact chronic stress has on your health. Stress contributes to the development of all disease. From increasing susceptibility, to the common cold, to being a major contributor in stimulating the immune system in autoimmune disease.
If you do not manage your stress or find ways to reduce it, it will completely undermined all the changes you’ve made in your road to recovery.
How is it possible for stress to have such a big impact on your health?
When you are stressed, your body perceives the stressor as a threat. To prepare you to either fight of flight from the threat, your adrenal gland releases cortisol and adrenaline.
Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts you energy supplies. Cortisol releases sugars and fats into your blood to be used by your muscles. The essential functions for survival needs to get priority, so cortisol curbs the non-essential functions like the immune system and digestive system.
Let’s say you are chased by a lion. Your fight or flight response is activated, and cortisol and adrenaline work together to help you survive. By the end of the event, you are either dead (killed by the lion) or alive and safe (because you climbed a tree or ran away). Either way, there is no need for the body to continue producing adrenaline and cortisol and both levels return to normal.
The problem with modern times is that stress is chronic and never goes away. From having a demanding job, raising kids, meeting deadlines, being stuck in traffic, writing exams, fighting an illness, going through a divorce or a death in the family. There is never a relief and you are in a chronic fight or fight mode. All those other “non-essential” functions, like the immune system and digestive system, that are suppressed by raised cortisol levels, never get a chance to be prioritised.
Studies have further shown that acute short-term threats (like being chased by a lion) triggers the distribution of immune cells in the body, resulting in enhanced immune function in organs like the skin most likely in preparation for wound healing. The immune system are therefore activated in anticipation of being needed.
This might be beneficial during acute short-term threats like being chased by a lion, but becomes a huge problem during long-term chronic stress. The real impact of stress on the body is complex and not yet fully understood, but what is universally accepted is that chronic stress causes immune system dysfunction.
Try these stress management tools:
- Keeping a gratitude journal
- Spend time in nature
- Do what you love
- Positive mindset
- Healing affirmations
When you sign up for the 6-month Autoimmune Way program you will not only learn about the roll stress plays in your disease but you’ll also be gently guided through each of the above stress management tools.
Join the Autoimmune Way program now for only $7 per month.