Spring season is here and anybody that has struggled with allergies knows what that means, spring allergy season. Yay (sarcasm)! Sore throat, watery eyes, coughing, sneezing… It’s a constant battle that can easily get frustrating and have an adverse effect on a person’s overall quality of life, potentially creating unhealthy levels of strain and stress on the body.
Understanding the Process of Allergy Symptoms
If you deal with allergies, what you’re dealing with is an overactive immune system. Allergies are just the resultant reaction to harmless foreign substances, such as plant or tree pollen. Your immune system is attempting to fight off what it perceives as a threat to your body. Allergens are the substances that cause your allergies.
To understand what all that means, you have to understand what happens with you breathe in these tiny pollen particles or other allergens. When this happens, the immune system cells inside your nose release certain chemicals that initiate a response. Allergy symptoms are triggered by these chemicals, of which then more immune system cells are recruited to fight off the perceived attack to the body. And the more your immune system wages upon this battle, the worse off you’re going to feel.
Allergies and Stress
Bringing undue stress upon the body can affect allergies in one of several ways. One of those ways is psychologically. Stress is a reaction to a challenge or demand, and it has a tendency to amplify our emotional response to any particular allergy symptoms we may be experiencing. The worse the symptoms get, the more bothered by them we typically become (thus leading to more stress). When people are under any amount of stress, they become increasingly anxious about their health or any other part of their life.
The other way that stress can affect those with allergies is by affecting their physical well-being. Being stressed out can actually have a negative effect on allergic response, causing symptoms to become worse than they would have otherwise been. It isn’t exactly clear as to why this happens, but it is widely believed that stress hormones do stir up the exaggerated immune system reaction to allergens. In other words, more stress reaction to your symptoms could be affecting the intensity (and possibly even the frequency) of those symptoms.
Why is Stress so Physical?
Stress, good or bad, is the body’s unique way of keeping itself safe. If or when the brain senses any dangerous stimuli, it will alert the adrenal glands. These glands will then release levels of stress hormones that cause things like a pounding heart, a rise in blood pressure, and a constriction of blood vessels that will cause more blood to be sent to your brain and muscles. Stress hormones will also cause quicker breathing, to send oxygen to your muscles, as well as boost energy levels by releasing fat and sugar into the bloodstream.
Typically, stress gets a bad rep, but it actually isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, stress can be very helpful in short term scenarios. It aides in getting through difficult situations. But if triggered too much, it can contribute to more complicated issues over time (things like depression, severe anxiety, diabetes, heartburn, heart disease, and spiked blood pressure). And in the case of allergies, this type of triggering can also magnify allergy symptoms.
Ways to Manage Stress
There are different ways a person can manage or reduce their stress levels, but keep in mind that it is always recommended that you first consult your physician beforehand to find out what would be best for your individual circumstance. Exercise is probably the more widely common form of stress relief for most people. Certain forms of exercise gets the heart and lungs pumping, eliciting the relaxation response – a physiological change that can help lower a person’s heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, blood pressure, adrenaline levels, and various amounts of cortisol (stress hormone). Vigorous forms of exercise aren’t the only way to elicit this particular response, however. There are things like meditation, yoga, tai chi, deep breathing techniques/exercises, and guided imagery that are also great for helping to reduce stress.
Managing stress isn’t widely regarded as a treatment option for allergies, but it is important to consider the role stress plays in affecting your body. If stress is a contributing factor to escalating allergy symptoms, it’s important to find ways of alleviating any unnecessary psychological stressors. Improving your your quality of life could go a long way toward improving your quality of condition.
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