Relation of Stress and Allergies

Stress is an everyday pressure that we experience as our body adjusts to the changes in our environment. The effects are both physical and emotional, thus creating both positive and negative feelings.

The death of someone you love, the birth of a child, a job promotion, a new relationship, winning a game, giving a speech at a conference, migrating to another country, relocating to another town, fatigue from work, financial limits, and unrealistic expectations are all instances where we have to readjust our lives. In these situations, stress will help or hinder us depending on the way we react to it.

On a positive note, stress can influence us to take action and can open our minds to new and exciting ideas about things. On the negative side, stress can evoke feelings of distrust, rejection, anger, and depression, which can lead to health problems such as headaches, upset stomach, rashes, insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and even allergies.

An allergy is our immune system’s reaction to foreign substances that come in contact with any part of our body. Our immune system would normally fight off infection and other harmful substances, but sometimes, it would react to things that aren’t really dangerous. This hypersensitive response is an allergic reaction.

How are stress and allergies related?

The nervous system decides how the body responds to “stressful” events. Negative emotional responses tend to tip the balance of routine brain functions and induce some parts of the body to become overactive and other parts to be passive. When feeling stressed, the body releases high amounts of histamine into the bloodstream, increases the adrenal gland’s production of cortisol, and orders the nervous system to make more epinephrine and norepinephrine. An oversupply of these hormones lessens the immune system’s effectiveness. The result is stress-induced allergic rhinitis, eczema, and asthma.

Acute stress is the body’s response to danger or an immediate threat, thus boosting your adrenalin to protect yourself. On the other hand, chronic stress is something that occurs everyday and the reaction goes on too long, and the body may not be able to cope and respond in appropriately. It is during these times that a person’s allergies act up, or get worse.

There is also such a thing as oxidative stress which occurs when allergic individuals are unable to detoxify oxygen molecules from the body’s normal metabolism or from outside toxins such as smoke and air pollution. Another is psychological stress which is an environmental factor that triggers feelings of tension and anxiety, which suppresses the immune system resulting in an increased frequency and duration of colds and flu, skin allergies, and asthma.

How are stress-induced allergies managed?

Learning to stay calm and focused is the best way to manage stress and keep allergic symptoms at bay. Everyday, each individual experiences all kinds of stress. Our lives are so hectic nowadays that we try very hard to balance work and our personal lives.

Physical exercise, meditation, relaxation exercises, massage therapy and counseling are some methods of stress management which are known to improve our physical and mental health.

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