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Stress and Your Immune System: Why You Get Sick More Often When You’re Stressed

[Webinar] Are you sick much too often? Does sickness typically come along at times when you are the most stressed? Discover how Dr. Radawi of Tri-Cities Functional Medicine takes a holistic approach to sickness, the immune system, and underlying stress disorders.

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Stress is more than a state of mind. It has a physical effect on your body – increasing inflammation and thwarting your immune system’s attempt to fight off sickness and disease. Yet, life brings many circumstances and challenges that commonly provoke stress.

Until you consider the problem from a whole-body perspective, you continue to suffer year after year. For a lasting solution, you must go beyond the sickness to find the underlying cause. With the right holistic treatment, you can learn to manage stress, bolster your immune system, and stay healthier. Here are some of the signs that stress is taking a toll on your body and what to do about it.

Is Stress a Positive or Negative Thing?

Stress can be a positive thing. Suppose you have a presentation to do for your job. A little stress can make you more alert, more focused, and ready to nail that presentation. This happens because stress triggers your fight-or-flight response.

You want to look good in front of your boss, coworkers, and clients, so you feel some emotional pressure. At the same time, your body moves rapidly into a state of readiness. This type of brief, minor stress can help you perform better to face a challenge or manage changes in your life.

When the stress continues and becomes chronic, it can have a profound negative effect, not only on your mind but on your body, too. When you have long-term stress, your body’s stress response stays activated, and you begin to see the effects throughout your body.

Signs That Stress Is Affecting You

Signs and Effects of Chronic Stress Infographic

While you might not immediately notice how stress is sabotaging your immune system, you might notice other signs that stress is affecting your body, your mind, and your entire life. And if you are noticing that stress is affecting you in other ways, it’s likely weakening your immunity, too. Here are some of the physical, mental, and behavioral signs that your chronic stress can bring.

Physical Manifestations of Stress

When you think of stress, you might not connect it with sickness. Yet, there are several effects you should watch for when you’re under stress.

  • Weak immune system
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Chest pain
  • Racing heart
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness or tremor
  • Muscle tension
  • Clenching your jaws
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Difficulties having sex

Stress can cause inflammation, which can turn into chronic inflammation and all the diseases that go along with that. Even if you already have these diseases, stress will make them worse.

  • Psoriasis
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Lupus
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

Emotional Stress Symptoms

Certainly, stress can have a major impact on your emotional and mental health. What you might not realize is that chronic stress can trigger severe mental and emotional problems.

  • Anxiety and anxiety disorders
  • Sadness or even clinical depression
  • Panic attacks

Of course, many of these symptoms are also signs of other illnesses or disorders. For this reason, it might make sense to talk to a professional who can sort out what is happening to you. Our functional medicine doctor can assess your condition and determine the root cause.

Behavioral Problems

Those who are chronically stressed often engage in self-destructive or risky behaviors. They want to feel better, and these things might help, at least temporarily.

  • Drinking or using drugs
  • Gambling
  • Overeating or binge eating
  • Eating disorders
  • Unsafe sex
  • Excessive shopping or internet browsing
  • Smoking
  • Video gaming

Unfortunately, these habits cause more trouble in the long term. If you find yourself dependent on doing the above things, it might simply be a sign of stress from multiple factors. In that case, treating the root cause is the best approach. Our doctor of functional medicine in Tennessee can help with a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses all the signs of chronic stress.

Stress Triggers Stress Hormones

Stress also plays havoc with your hormones. When stress arises, your stress response kicks in. When the stress doesn’t go away quickly, your immune system continues to weaken. The following hormones are released during stressful times. The longer you have significant stress, the more your immune system, as well as your entire body and mind, can feel it.

  • Cortisol – In normal bodily conditions, this natural steroid is an important part of the immune response. It is normally an anti-inflammatory. But, when this hormone is constantly being released, you can become resistant to it. All that stress hormone building up begins to weaken your immune response.
  • Antibodies – Antibodies are blood proteins. When your immune system is working well, they bind to invaders like viruses, parasites, and bacteria. Once they’re bound, the other immune cells kill the invaders or inactivate them. However, when you’re under stress, the number of antibodies present decreases, leaving your immune system incapable of fighting the invaders as well as usual.
  • Cytokines – These proteins organize the immune response. Stress can make them fail in this task.

Decreased White Blood Cells

Stress can also diminish your body’s production of white blood cells. These cells usually help your body fight off infection. Therefore, when there are too few white blood cells, you’re at risk of getting a cold or another virus.

Ways to Improve Your Immune System

There are many ways to improve your immune response. At Tri-Cities Functional Medicine in Tennessee, Dr. Radawi and his team can provide lifestyle coaching to help you create healthy habits based on your own unique physical, mental, and behavioral condition. The following activities could help you minimize or manage your stress more efficiently.

  • Prayer and Meditation
  • Deep Breathing
  • Healthy Food Choices
  • Exercise
  • Supplements
  • Hormones

Just knowing that these changes are healthful is not enough. You also need to know how much and how little of these options you need to add to your health routine. Also, you need to make the right choices. For example, you need to know which supplements are best or how much you should exercise. With functional medicine and health coaching, you get support and suggestions that are based on you as an individual and the health consequences of stress that you are experiencing right now.

Want to know more about the long-term effects of stress? Read the blog: How Does Stress Affect Your Body? Let’s Talk Long-Term

How Functional Medicine in Tennessee Helps

Do you have frequent bouts of sickness? Are you under constant stress? Would you like to get to the source of the problem and get back to a healthier life? If so, we invite you to come to Tri-Cities Functional Medicine for evaluation and treatment. We provide patient-centered programs, so you will always be treated with respect as the unique individual you are.

Dr. Radawi finds the root cause of your health problems and, together with our Tri-Cities team, provides expert care and health coaching. Together, we can work with you to improve your health so that your body’s immune system performs as it should.

If you are constantly feeling stressed and sick, we welcome you to Tri-Cities Functional Medicine to find the holistic, personalized care you need most. You can get started by watching our free webinar. Then, if you’re interested, schedule a free discovery call with us.

Here’s how you can take the first step:

  • Watch our free webinar to learn about our approach to the health concerns you are facing.
  • Schedule a free discovery call to discuss your health concerns and goals to see if our practice is a good fit for you.
  • After your discovery call – if we are a good fit, you’ll schedule a consultation with our doctor to dive deeper and formulate an individualized treatment plan for you.

Tri-Cities Functional Medicine is located in Johnson City, Tennessee, and serves patients throughout East Tennessee and into Virginia and NorthCarolina. These areas include but are not limited to: Washington County, TN, Sullivan County, TN, Carter County, TN, Greene County, TN, Knox County, TN, Bristol, TN, Holston Valley, TN, Tri-Cities, TN, Walnut Hill, TN, Elizabethton, TN, Greeneville, TN, Morristown, TN, Blountville, TN, Bluff City, TN, Kingsport, TN, Jonesborough, TN, Colonial Heights, TN, Limestone, TN, Knoxville, TN, Bristol, VA, and Abingdon, VA