How Stress Makes You Sick

Did someone ever said to you, “Stop stressing out, it’s bad for you”? Whoever said that is actually right. Of course small doses of stress are something your body can handle. But we are not equipped to handle stress in long term without bad outcomes to our health.

Weaker Immune System

Internal factors such as stress cause a weakened immune system because of the nature of the body’s response in dealing with problems. Our autonomic nervous system is frequently activated when chronically stressed. The immune system becomes less capable of doing its role. Simply put, your immunity to sickness is downgraded.

The Body’s Response to Stress

The fight or flight response causes your body’s sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones such as cortisol. These hormones can elevate blood sugar levels and triglycerides (blood fats) that can be used by your body for fuel.


Stress-causing sickness such as colds occur because of an excessive activation of the stress response in the brain and in the endocrine (hormone) system in reaction to common, everyday sources of physical and psychological stress. The various daily stressors we encounter can affect our body’s stable balance of temperature, blood pressure and other functions.


But because the human brain is so well developed, we also tend to respond to imagined stress with the very same stress response that’s supposed to be fight-or-flight situations. Things such as pain, hunger, temperature or worry can trigger the stress response just as would happen if you were running for your life or fighting off an attacker.


Immune responses to stressful situations are a part of adaptive responses because, in addition to the risk natural in the situation, fighting and fleeing increases the risk of injury and subsequent infections.

Chronic Inflammation

Cortisol suppresses inflammation during a response to stress. If it is present in the blood for long periods, the body becomes resistant to cortisol and does not respond to it properly. The body tends to produce substances that promote inflammation. This puts you in a state of chronic inflammation.

Cytokines, which are substances that promote inflammation, are associated with numerous chronic inflammatory and autoimmune conditions. Autoimmune conditions happen when your body mistakes itself as a threat and attacks itself.

Body’s Defense

Long-term stress also leads to decreased amounts of protein that is vital to signaling other immune cells. Without these, your body becomes weaker against illnesses and it takes longer time for your body to heal.


Lymphocytes are a main component of the immune system. They kill invading organisms that would cause disease and they recognise harmful substances and help defend the body against them. Cortisol and corticosteroids, however, suppress lymphocytes. If your body is low in lymphocytes, you’re at higher risk of infections and diseases.


As for now, there are a lot of reasons to convince us that we should practice healthy ways to keep stress at right levels. If your grandmother says that you should eat right, exercise and get enough sleep, she’s definitely right!
When you’re stressed out, just relax. Breathe in. Breathe out. Do your yourself a favour and stay healthy.


If you want less stress in your typical week – book an appointment with us today!