Immune system under stress: How nutrition and stress management strengthen our immune system

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In today’s fast-paced world, stress is omnipresent and can have far-reaching effects on our health. Our immune system is particularly affected. In the following, you will learn how stress hormones regulate the immune response and how a targeted diet with the right micronutrients can strengthen your defences.

When stress becomes a burden

Stress is not only a mental burden but also has a physical effect on our body, especially on the immune system. The main players in this stress reaction are the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. In stressful situations, the production of these hormones increases, which in the short term leads to an increased readiness of the body to react to challenges.

Long-term stress and its effects on the immune response

However, if stress becomes chronic or persists over a longer time, it can have negative effects on the immune system. Cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone”, affects the immune response by reducing the number of certain immune cells and slowing down the production of anti-inflammatory substances. As a result, the immune system reacts less effectively to invading pathogens. Adrenaline, another stress hormone, intensifies this reaction.

Tips for coping with stress:

Stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline can weaken the immune system. It is, therefore important to integrate stress management strategies. Here are some practical tips:

Relaxation techniques: regularly try relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga or breathing exercises to reduce stress.
Exercise: Sporting activities not only promote physical fitness but also reduce stress. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy.
Get enough sleep: Restful sleep is crucial for the regeneration of the immune system. Make sure you get enough sleep.
Micronutrients in focus: the building blocks of a strong immune system

The optimal functioning of our immune system depends largely on an adequate supply of various micronutrients. These essential micronutrients play a crucial role in regulating and supporting various immune functions:

Vitamin A: This vitamin is central to the production and function of white blood cells, the main players in the immune system. It also helps to maintain healthy mucous membranes, which act as a first barrier against invading pathogens. Foods rich in vitamin A include carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach and mangoes.
Vitamin C: A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C supports the formation and function of immune cells. It protects cells from oxidative stress and, therefore, helps to maintain an effective immune system. Oranges, peppers, broccoli and strawberries are excellent sources of vitamin C.
Vitamin D: Essential for the regulation of the immune system, vitamin D helps to reduce inflammation. Fish, eggs and mushrooms are natural sources of this important vitamin.
Iron: A key mineral for the formation of haemoglobin, which helps transport oxygen around the body. A sufficient iron content is, therefore, essential for the defence against diseases. Pulses, nuts and wholegrain products are excellent sources of iron.
Zinc: This trace element is involved in numerous immune processes and supports the normal functioning of the immune system. Chicken, nuts and seeds are good sources of zinc.
Conclusion

Chronic stress weakens the immune system as cortisol, among other things, impairs the immune response. As a countermeasure, stress management strategies such as relaxation techniques, exercise and adequate sleep are essential. In addition, micronutrients such as vitamins A, C and D, as well as iron and zinc, play a crucial role in regulating and supporting various immune functions. A targeted diet and stress-free lifestyle habits can, therefore, make a significant contribution to strengthening the immune system.

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