In this time of a pandemic, many people are experiencing uncomfortable feelings of anxiety. Every day there are reports about the rising number of fatalities and cases of coronavirus. Fear of contracting any type of virus, under these conditions, is a natural and rational reaction. However, excessive anxiety and fear can have a negative impact and further compromise the immune system.
“As most people are aware, our immune system is the main defense we have against the coronavirus,” says Michael E Platt, M.D. But what about the people who are already living with compromised immune systems? Chronic illnesses, including anxiety disorders, cause abnormal changes to the immune system.
“Anxiety is a natural response of the body to fear,” says Dr. Shuhan He a Massachusetts accident and emergency doctor. “It is normal to be fearful and therefore additionally cautious in a pandemic … Being anxious about current events will not compromise your immune system by itself.”
The people with highest risk of infection are those “who have been anxious and fearful for longer periods of time” [and] “have had higher levels of inflammation for longer periods are more at risk of developing infections than people whose fear/anxiety were short lived,” says Maria Vila, D.O.
Excessive anxiety and fear have an adverse physiological effect. Our body’s normal reaction to fear and other negative emotions is to release an upsurge of adrenaline and cortisone. These chemicals weaken the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off infections and viruses.
“Fear and anxiety initially lead to elevated cortisol; if they do not resolve, your cortisol will remain elevated,” Dr. Vila explains. “Over time if fear/anxiety persists, your brain will reset your cortisol level as a defense mechanism and you will end up with low baseline cortisol.”
Effects Of Anxiety On The Immune System And Body
Fear and anxiety can cause a range of health conditions, according to Dr. He, including:
Tissue inflammation and other immune system responses … chest pains, shortness of breath, and heart problems (namely arrhythmia and tachycardia). Besides the general health issues, the disease will influence the person’s ability to memorize and their capacity to have a long attention span.
Recent scientific evidence confirms that fear, through cortisol and other hormones, can contribute to the development of chronic inflammation, auto-immune diseases, and allergies. Fear and anxiety can also lead to fluctuations in brain neurotransmitters and depression. Another reason to avoid excessive fear and anxiety is that these emotions, combined with abnormal cortisol levels, “affect other hormones like your thyroid and sex hormones, leading to their suppression,” says Dr. Vila
Preventative Measures + Alternative And Natural Ways To Relieve Stress And Anxiety
Dr. Vila nams several ways to bring fear and anxiety under control without the use of traditional medications. These include: “cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, guided meditation, exercise, and even hobbies such as painting have been found to be therapeutic.”
At this time of the pandemic, the two most important things you can do are wash your hands and practice the concept of social distancing. By performing these two simple yet essential actions, you will give yourself a better chance of avoiding any type of virus.
Besides the above preventive measures, there are natural remedies you can try that will help you overcome the effects of any fear you may be feeling during the coronavirus pandemic.
Nutrients For Immune Boosting
Every single process and function in the body is powered by nutrients. To boost your immune system try adding the following regime into your daily life:
Vitamins B, C, D
Vitamins B, C, and D all play an important role in helping restore and regenerate our immune system, allowing it to fight bacteria and viruses. Fruit and vegetables are packed with these essential vitamins. HoneyColony‘s Immunity Boost Bundle includes a serum and a combination of Vitamin C and Lipoic Acid which you pump orally.
CBD oil can help relieve stress and anxiety by getting your body back to its natural balance between the brain and immune system. A recent boom in the past two years allows CBD oil to be added into various products such as serums, capsules, massage lubricants, and most notably hemp oils.
Lavender contains beneficial properties that help control overall mood, anxiety, and sleep. The delightful scent and calming effects is why lavender oil is used in massage oils, creams, and aromatherapy. It can also be as consumed as an herbal tea. Dried lavender sprigs can also be placed under pillows or in drawers as potpourri to freshen up clothes.
Passionflower boosts GABA levels in the brain and therefore enhances relaxation by easing generalized anxiety. Adding boiling water to a dried branch of passionflower makes a soothing herbal tea. Passionflower liquid extracts, capsules, and tablet forms can be found in many health stores.
Valerian root, used in conjunction with passionflower, has similar calming effects and encourages restorative sleep. It also helps increase the GABA levels in the brain. Valerian root extract is added to capsules and can be used as a tea.
Zinc, magnesium, spirulina, lipoic acid, and black elderberry extract are all helpful in reducing the fear and anxiety associated with a compromised immunity system. These can be taken in tablet or powder forms. Whole organic elderberries need to be cooked before eating and can be made into syrup. It can also be an ingredient in massage lotions, gummy bears.
Mood Enhancing Foods
Eating mood and immune-enhancing food is also important. Oily fish such as salmon, oysters, Brazil nuts, walnuts, eggs, and cacao are just a few of the recommended foods experts suggest you make part of your diet. Ben Warren, a leading clinical nutritionist and clinical director of BePure, says that when you make mood-boosting foods part of your diet, “you’ll be supporting your body and your mind with the nutrients you need to build a solid foundation for mental wellness.”
“Levels of excess adrenaline can be lowered in less than 24 hours simply by providing the brain with the two nutrients it requires, and with the use of a 5 percent progesterone cream,” Platt adds. Dr. He agrees that all of the techniques mentioned may be helpful yet:
We should [keep] in mind that the research for many of these treatments still offers inconclusive evidence. That is, these techniques are helpful under certain conditions and with some individuals but they are not always equally effective in all patients.
The best way to avoid compromising your immune system is by prevention. This includes practicing a healthy lifestyle for both your body and mind.
Kat is a freelance writer.
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