In a healthy stress response your heart rate increases, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, and blood pressure rises. You are ready for action – This response is known as “fight or flight”. It is how you protect yourself! Levels of stress hormones rise to meet the demands of the situation and fall once the situation is resolved. Our bodies are designed to handle small doses of stress. We are not, however, equipped to handle long term chronic stresses without ill effects. Stress is linked to headaches, muscle tension and pain, mental health problems, infectious illnesses (i.e. cold and flu), cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, asthma, gastric ulcers, and more.
When we’re stressed the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful foreign bodies (antigens) is reduced. The immune system is a collection of billions of cells that travel through the bloodstream. These cells move in and out of tissues and organs defending the body against antigens, such as viruses, bacteria, and cancer cells. Ongoing stress makes us susceptible to illness and disease, because the brain continually sends defense signals to the endocrine system. In response, this system releases a collection of hormones that not only prepares us for emergency situations but severely depresses our immunity at the same time. One stress hormone called corticosteroid can lower the number of white blood cells circulating in our bloodstream. These cells are critical in fighting off illnesses. During prolonged periods of stress corticosteroids are continually being released and white bloods cells count continually lowered. With a lower than optimal white cell count our immune system becomes suppressed and less effective in performing its job. That is why we are more susceptible to infections in stressful times.
In addition, our choices in times of stress often include comfort measures in the form of unhealthy behavioral coping strategies such as poor food choices, decreased activity/exercise, increased tobacco and alcohol use, excessive electronic use and TV watching. These behaviors impair our ability to attain a healthy sleep state which is imperative during high stress levels to allow for normal brain activity and immunity. Therefore, ultimately, when we are under long periods of stress our immunity is suppressed and our bodies are fatigued from lack of sleep. This means we are functioning in a severely compromised state.
There is hope, however. Receiving care that restores the body to its natural alignment reduces unnecessary stress on muscles and joints. Proper mobility of the rib cage, neck, and head can equip the body to facilitate increased bloodflow. This increased bloodflow allows white blood cells to move more efficiently throughout our tissues and organs.
Furthermore, proper head, neck, and trunk alignment improves lung expansion for increased respiration depth. Deeper breathing releases muscle tension, soothes irritated nerves, and lowers blood pressure. These changes can often inform the brain to switch off the fight or flight response so the body can return to a calmer and more comfortable state.
In addition, alignment of the body stimulates an overall sense of wellbeing that has long lasting outcomes. Feeling better results in an improved emotional state leading to positive food and lifestyle choices and sleep patterns. All of which boost your immune system. Take Care of You!!