Have you ever noticed that you are most likely to get the common cold when you are stressed out? Stress from relationship problems, grief, and other traumatic events greatly influences your immune system negatively, making it unable to fight off infection. Now, another study reveals the effects of the stress hormone cortisol, further explaining why extreme stress is a bane to your immune system.
Stressed Out? You’re Twice as Likely to Get Sick
Researchers from the Carnegie Mellon University observed participants who were infected with the common cold virus and found out that those who claimed that they were stressed were twice as likely to get sick.
Dr. Joseph Mercola explains: “When you’re stressed, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol, which prepares your body to fight or flee the stressful event. Your heart rate increases, your lungs take in more oxygen, your blood flow increases and parts of your immune system become temporarily suppressed, which reduces your inflammatory response to pathogens.”
The problem is that when stress becomes chronic, your immune system becomes less sensitive to cortisol, which may heighten the inflammatory response. This increases your chances of becoming sick and getting cold symptoms, such as coughing and sneezing.
Dr. Sheldon Cohen, the lead author of the study and a psychology professor at the university, noted:
“Inflammation is partly regulated by the hormone cortisol and when cortisol is not allowed to serve this function, inflammation can get out of control. … The immune system’s ability to regulate inflammation predicts who will develop a cold, but more importantly it provides an explanation of how stress can promote disease.
When under stress, cells of the immune system are unable to respond to hormonal control, and consequently, produce levels of inflammation that promote disease. Because inflammation plays a role in many diseases such as cardiovascular, asthma and autoimmune disorders, this model suggests why stress impacts them as well.” (link)
Vitamin D Deficiency Also Makes You Vulnerable to Disease
Dr. Mercola says that like stress, vitamin D deficiency may also influence your chances of being susceptible to illnesses and chronic diseases. “Less than optimal vitamin D levels will significantly impair your immune response and make you far more susceptible to contracting colds, influenza, and other respiratory infections,” he warns.
There are numerous studies that prove that catching colds and flu may be an indication of an underlying vitamin D deficiency. The largest and most nationally representative study, which involved at least 19,000 Americans, revealed that colds and the flu were experienced by people with the lowest vitamin D levels. Individuals with chronic respiratory disorders like asthma have a greater risk.
“It’s not surprising that the average American gets so many colds each year, as current guidelines for optimal intake and normal vitamin D levels are far too low — and since most people do not get adequate sun exposure on a daily basis (which is what produces vitamin D in your skin) many are deficient,” says Dr. Mercola.
Vitamin D affects almost 3,000 of your 25,000 genes, making it a critical component of your immune response. This “miracle nutrient” also helps your body produce over 200 antimicrobial peptides, which are useful in fighting off a wide range of infections. By keeping your vitamin D levels in the optimal range, you can avoid getting colds and influenza.
Useful Recommendations to Avoid the Common Cold
It’s easy to become exposed to the cold virus because it can live almost anywhere, such as on computer keyboards, pens, and coffee mugs. But you should know that being exposed to the cold virus does not automatically mean you will be infected. It depends on how healthy your immune system is. This is why if you are stressed out and vitamin D deficient, then there’s a very large possibility that you will be infected.
If you want to avoid getting the common cold or the flu, you should reduce and eliminate stress from your life and optimize your vitamin D levels. Aside from those two strategies, try these other lifestyle changes as well:
- Optimize your insulin and leptin levels by avoiding sugar and fructose. Increased insulin and leptin levels put you at risk of sickness and premature aging. Elevated leptin levels cause leptin resistance, and may wreak havoc on your health. To avoid leptin and insulin, Dr. Mercola advises you to follow his nutrition plan, which is based on healthy, whole foods.
- Get regular exercise. Exercise helps promote the circulation of immune cells in the blood, which neutralize pathogens in your body. The better the circulation, the more efficient your immune system becomes at locating and defending against potentially harmful viruses and other pathogens. Dr. Mercola recommends a varied routine that includes high-intensity interval exercises, such as Peak Fitness.
- Eat plenty of raw food. As much as possible, eat foods that are in their unprocessed state – they should be organic, biodynamic foods that have been grown locally and are in season. Avoid denatured and chemically-altered foods that have no nutrients and may only put your health in jeopardy.