Effect Of Stress On The Immune System

Hans Selye (1907-1982) was the Hungarian endocrinologist who coined the phrase stress in 1936. His original definitions of stress were physical as a result of his work studying rats to find a new hormone. He noticed that when they were deprived of food, worked hard and had drugs injected into them, the rats had non specific symptoms of an enlarged spleen and a coated tongue. It would be ten years before he realized that these conditions applied to humans as well.

Today stress is likely to be described as mental rather than physical as our lives have become more complex nut nonetheless the body react to stress in three distinct biological phases.

The Alarm reaction to stress.

The first reaction is the body realizes that something is wrong and it has to make a decision, usually known as the fight or flight response. This reaction would go back to the very earliest of men, when faced with danger they had two choices either face it and fight or run away. This creates an adrenalin rush so that you can deal with the pressure.

Resistance to Physical Stress.

Unfortunately the human body is not capable or maintaining that level of stress for long and it resists the changes that the body is going through such as the rush of adrenalin.


If the body is exposed to a very high a level of stress for a time, it changes by aging in real terms it begins to burn out.

Good part of stress is if it does not go on for too long can energize us and motivate us to succeed. It increases the awareness of your physical surroundings as the body takes stock of the immediate challenges. Hans Selye definition of stress was

“Stress is the human response to changes that occur as a part of daily living..

Eventually Selye joined up the dots in his studies and applied the principle to humans and he found that although we all react to different things which stress us, we all have an identical physical reaction. It ages us and ultimately he proved a direct relationship between excessive levels of stress and cancer and coronary heart disease. Unfortunately the physical results of too much stress do not manifest themselves immediately even though the extra hormones pumped out leave you feeling physically drained.

Stress management is self explanatory. It is the effects of reducing the physical effects of the body of bad stress. There are various techniques to manage stress such as exercise and relaxation. However they both come down to the same thing getting the levels of mental and physical stress we face more or less equal. Relaxation means total relaxation, for instance watching the television is not relaxing, though we use it as such, the brain is still energized and engaged. Sleep is important as it allows the body to recuperate. Deep breathing and meditation can also relax the body and reduce stress.

That explains stress but it is also how it affect the immune system specifically. Stress has the same affect on the immune system as it does on the rest of the body. The act of a massive input of adrenalin allows the immune system to take action it effectively prepares our immune system to deal with infections or problems, arising from burns, cuts, and other injuries. It prepares the body to heal itself.

However the immune system cannot cope with elevated levels of stress anymore than the body can. In most cases, long term stress has a negative affect on the immune system as across the board it does not work as well. Specifically if you are elderly or your immune system is already under threat then the stress can cause the immune system to almost stop functioning fully.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *