Stress is an extremely subjective concept. For some, the word conjures up a loud party with blaring music and bright lights; for others, stress looks more like piles of laundry, a sick relative, or an overly demanding workload.
No matter what causes stress in your life, this is a topic that’s often discussed on the Save Our Bones blog and in the Program. That’s because stress can wreak havoc on your bones.
In today's post, you'll discover that stress can also lower your immunity. Plus you'll learn five proven ways to reduce stress so you can save your bone density and keep your immune system strong.
‘Tis The Season For Stress
The holidays coincide with cold and flu season here in the Northern Hemisphere, so it’s a bad time of year for stress to be ravaging the immune system.
Savers know better than to get the flu shot, so it’s important to seek other, safer ways to help your immune system fight off the viruses that are so prevalent during the winter months.
A good way to start is by reducing stress.
Why Stress Is A Problem
The research clearly shows that stress damages your bones, and it’s equally well-established that stress suppresses the immune system.
First, let’s take a closer look at stress – what it is and how it works in the body.
An Attempt To Define Stress
As I mentioned above, it is hard to define “stress” because it is so subjective. Taking the loud party example a step further, some people would find that sort of event fun and exciting, while others would find it unpleasant and uncomfortable. So we can’t say definitively that loud parties are stressful; but we can say that some people experience them that way.
Some of the confusion comes from early scientific experiments about stress. Back in 1936, a scientist named Hans Selye coined the term “stress” to refer to the body’s response to a demand for change, which is not exactly how most of us think of stress.
Selye had performed extensive animal experiments and found that a wide variety of stimuli (such as blaring lights, loud noises, and constant frustration) actually caused the same physical symptoms and diseases that we see in stressed individuals today: stomach ulcers, heart attack, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, and even pathogenic diseases like tuberculosis. Today, we generally recognize that stress does not actually cause pathogenic disease directly; rather, it makes you more susceptible to it by suppressing the immune system. (More on that later.)
Selye’s research resulted in the term “stress” becoming a popular term to refer to just about anything negative or unpleasant. So Selye created the term “stressor” to differentiate between the actual thing causing the stress (such as the loud party) and the result of that stressor’s stimulation, which is stress itself.
As most of us are aware, stressors can motivate and inspire you to greater productivity. There is a peak where stressors are the most beneficial…but it’s a delicate balance, and if the stressors continue without relief, they will push you over the peak, from which point your productivity plunges downward rapidly.
Regardless of all the individual variations and definitions, one thing is certain: no matter what you consider a stressor in your life, if it continues unabated, the effects of the resulting chronic stress on your body are damaging.
Stress And Your Bone Health
Stress increases levels of cortisol, a “stress hormone” produced by the adrenal glands located atop the kidneys. (It’s noteworthy that Selye observed adrenal enlargement in his animal studies.)
Cortisol is a natural steroid, and it is highly acidifying. Like all steroids, cortisol decreases bone density, and stress-induced cortisol has been scientifically shown to lower bone density.
A study published in Biological Psychiatry analyzed the cortisol levels and bone density of 29 postmenopausal women, some of whom were depressed and anxious. The analysis concludes that “Cortisol hypersecretion in response to stress may, in part, explain the impact of depression on bone density in post-menopausal women.”1
Notice that depression played a role in the connection between stress and low bone density, something Savers have known for some time.
Next I want to explain that stress and cortisol affect more than just your bone density.
Stress Also Affects Your Immune System
Mainstream medicine is just starting to figure out what Savers have always known: there is a distinct connection between mind and body. Although what constitutes a stressful situation differs among individuals, the effects of stress have commonalities on a cellular level.
A meta-analysis of 30 years of research shows a consistent connection between chronic stress and immune suppression: the more chronic the stress, “the more components of the immune system were affected in a potentially detrimental way.”2
Here’s what happens when you experience ongoing stress. Cortisol and other stress hormones disrupt the crucial communication between the cells of your endocrine, nervous, and immune systems. This happens because stress hormones directly affect the thymus, the gland where immune cells called lymphocytes are produced. In addition, stress hormones inhibit cytokine and interleukin production, and these important substances stimulate white blood cell activity.
In other words, stress stops your body from communicating effectively with your immune system, setting the stage for illness when you are exposed to pathogens like cold and flu viruses.
So it really makes sense to get your stress levels under control.
5 Ways You Can Reduce Stress
While you can’t always change your circumstances, you can change your response to them. That’s where these five techniques come in.
1. Eat Plenty Of Foundation Foods
Nutrition is an excellent weapon against stress. All Foundation Foods provide important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to combat stress; but foods like apricots, crunchy, raw vegetables, mushrooms, walnuts, yogurt, and dark chocolate are particularly effective. Not only do these foods alkalize your system; they also contain specific nutrients that decrease stress and improve mood.
2. Drink Chamomile Tea
This herbal tea is a natural tranquilizer thanks to its apigenin content. It also contains a flavonoid called luteolin that has been shown to reduce blood pressure. A soothing cup of chamomile tea is a relaxing way to end a stressful day.
3. Engage In Stress-Reducing Exercises
It’s been shown time and again that regular exercise reduces stress. Progressive relaxation exercises like this Weekend Challenge are very effective, because they directly address and correct the tension and systemic effects of stress on the body.
4. Count Your Blessings
Feeling grateful can go a long way toward relieving stress. Try this: every evening, write down 3 positive things that happened that day. They can be big or small. Keep these lists and read over them periodically, taking a moment to think about the meaning of these simple things. It’s amazing how effective this is!
5. Practice Deep Breathing Regularly
Deep, full breathing alkalizes the body and reduces stress. It also improves your mood, cleanses toxins from your body, and offers a host of other benefits. The best way to take a full breath is to sit up straight (but not stiffly), and relax your abdominal muscles. Then, draw in a deep, slow breath while expanding your rib cage outward all the way around. Don’t focus on raising your chest; it will rise naturally somewhat. Exhale slowly and completely.
The Osteoporosis Reversal Program Is Good For The Whole Body
As noted above, the mind-body connection is undeniable, and so is the interconnected nature of our various body systems like the immune and endocrine systems.
Thus, you can rest assured that your quest for stronger, more youthful bones will benefit many other aspects of your health. Taking care of your bones means taking care of yourself!
Till next time,
1 Furlan, Patricia M.. et al. “The role of stress-induced cortisol in the relationship between depression and decreased bone mineral density.” Biological Psychiatry. March 10, 2005. Vol 57, issue 8, pages 911-917. Web. http://www.biologicalpsychiatryjournal.com/article/S0006-3223%2804%2901376-9/abstract
2 Segerstrom, Suzanne C. and Miller, Gregory E. “Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry.” Psychol Bull. Jul 2004; 130(4): 601–630. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.130.4.601. Web. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/