How Does Anxiety Affect the Immune System?

How Does Anxiety Affect the Immune System?

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As you get older, it becomes more and more important to take care of your immune system, as it’s your body’s last line of defense between you and infections, viruses, and bacteria. One of the ways you can ensure your immune system is functioning at 100% is by taking care of your mental health. Anxiety, stress, and depression have all been linked to a decrease in our immune system’s functionality. 

Can Anxiety Affect Your Immune System?

We all know the impact anxiety and stress can have on our mental wellbeing but it also plays a big role in our physical well being. More specifically, it isn’t at all uncommon to see a weakened immune system due to stress. Excess levels of stress can lead to hormonal changes that lower the body’s resistance to colds and other infections (1). 

This isn’t even taking into account the effect anxiety can have on your immune systems in other ways. For example, a heightened level of stress or anxiety can lead to a lack of sleep, which in turn can lead to a weakened immune system. Stress also often leads to a change in dietary patterns, more often than not resulting in an increase in foods that can weaken the immune system. 

Can Anxiety Cause a Low Immune System?

While stress and the immune system have a direct relationship, it is important to note that there are many different types of stress, and only one wreaks havoc on the immune system. In fact, our body can withstand a great deal of stress if we feel we can control it or compartmentalize it. It’s chronic or sudden and unpredictable stress that messes with our bodies and in turn, our immune systems. 

This is because our bodies respond to sudden stress by sending defense signals to the endocrine system, which triggers the release of various hormones. These hormones are designed to prepare the body for an emergency. One of the main hormones produced, cortisol, depressed the immune system because it decreased white blood cells and inflammation while increasing tumor development and the rate of infection. 

What Causes Your Immune System To Be Low?

At this point in time, experts aren’t quite sure what causes autoimmune disease but it is widely accepted that several different factors contribute to a low immune system. An immune system disorder is when your immune system doesn’t work the way it should. There are several different things that can cause an immune system disorder:

  • Primary immune deficiency - Born with a weak immune system
  • Acquired immune deficiency - A disease weakens your immune system
  • Allergic reaction - This may cause your immune system to be too active
  • Autoimmune disease - Your immune system may turn against you

There are other factors that can decrease the strength of your immune system over time and most of them have to do with lifestyle choices. Here are some lifestyle choices that can weaken your immune system:

  • Poor diet
  • Sediment lifestyle
  • Overexerting during workouts 
  • Lack of sleep
  • Smoking
  • Drinking

You can help protect your immune system by living a healthy lifestyle. Of course, this isn’t an overnight thing. You will need to implement long-term lifestyle changes to see the results. 

Can a Weak Immune System Cause Depression?

We know the impact of stress on the immune system and the way our mental health affects the health of our immune system, but can a weak immune system cause mental health issues such as depression? Despite a recent boost in mental health research, researches are still unsure. It is not definitively known whether or not a weak immune system can lead to depression. 

A recent study tried to determine if Major Depressive Disorders (MDD) could be the result of immune system abnormalities. The study aimed to determine the relationship between inflammatory signaling, which can be common in weak immune systems, and cytokines in the pathogenesis of MDD. Ultimately, the study led to unclear results. 

Can Depression Make Your Immune System Weak?

While we can’t definitively say that a weak immune system can lead to depression, we can definitively say that depression can make your immune system weak. Cytokines, which can be markers of inflammation, have been known to skyrocket in people with depression. This places the body, and the immune system at risk when someone is overcome with depression. 

Mental health disorders are not the only disorders causing stress on the body. Everyday occurrences that drastically affect emotion and cognition can also create stress, thus weakening the immune system. Toxic relationships with friends, lovers, co-workers, and family members can drastically take a toll on the mind and on the body. This is why living a healthy lifestyle, both mentally and physically is incredibly important for your long-term health. 

Supplements Can Help Your Immune System
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It’s important to note that there is no definitive research that points to supplements boosting the immune system directly. However, it is believed that supplements play a role in boosting your immunity. For example, supplements such as spermidine supplements can induce bodily functions that can improve immune system effectiveness. 

Spermidine achieves this by inducing autophagy throughout the body. Autophagy is the body’s process of replacing old, potentially damaged cells with newer, healthier cells. Unfortunately, most Americans fail to get their recommended daily intake of spermidine through their diet. Supplements can help ensure that you get the vitamins, nutrients, and minerals that you need on a daily basis. 

 

 

Resources:

1. Is Depression the Result of Immune System Abnormalities?