Stress Relief Strategies to Ease Allergy Symptoms
Do daily pressures have your allergy symptoms spiking? Try these simple tips for stress relief.
If you suffer with allergy symptoms, you know all about the stress of having
a chronic condition. Not only is it difficult to breathe with allergy symptoms,
but poor sleep can lead to fatigue and problems concentrating. Allergy
medicines can cause appetite changes, low energy, and even irritability. All
you want is relief: from the stress, the symptoms, all of it.
How Is Stress Related to Allergy Symptoms?
Stress is your body's response to situations, inside and out, which
interfere with the normal balance in your life. Virtually all of the body's
systems -- digestive, cardiovascular, immune, and nervous system -- make
adjustments in response to stress.
When you're all stressed out, your body releases hormones and other
chemicals, including histamine, the powerful chemical that leads to allergy
symptoms. While stress doesn't actually cause allergies, it can make an
allergic reaction worse by increasing the histamine in your bloodstream.
Unfortunately, stress and allergies go hand in hand, says Los Angeles-based
ear, nose, and throat doctor, Murray Grossan, MD. Once the allergy season is
full-blown, the combination of miserable allergy symptoms, nights of fitful
sleep, and fatigue, definitely leave you in need of stress relief.
And to add insult to injury, "After weeks of sneezing, coughing, and
blowing your nose, your body's natural resistance is completely exhausted,
too," Grossan tells WebMD.
Chronic stress that persists for weeks or even months produces cortisol, the
body's main stress-induced hormone. When cortisol becomes elevated and remains
so for awhile, it affects the cells that comprise your immune system. The
immune system can't keep infections or diseases at bay as it would do normally.
Viruses or bacteria proliferate to the point where they can infect many cells,
leading to symptoms and increased chance of illness.
Does Stress Cause Allergy Symptoms?
Respected scientists have revealed groundbreaking evidence on the effect of
stress on immune function.
One study was performed on 45 medical students taking final exams to see if
stress negatively affected their resistance to disease. Specifically, these
students were studied three to four weeks prior to exams, then again during
exams to see how they responded to a hepatitis vaccine. Compared to students
who received the vaccine under relaxed conditions, the stressed students showed
much weaker immune system responses to the vaccine.
Allergy symptoms are an example of an overreaction by the immune
system to otherwise harmless substances, says Gailen D. Marshall, MD, PhD,
professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Mississippi.
Understanding the mechanisms of allergy is recent -- just over the past 35
to 40 years, says Marshall, who is director of the division of clinical
immunology and allergy at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
While allergic diseases have both genetic and environmental components
there's still so much about allergy we don't know.
"In the late 1960s, we'd ask people how many had allergies and an
estimated 1 in 10 people reported some form of allergy," Marshall says.
"Now compare that with 1 in 3 people in 2000 having some form of
So, what's changed? While genes don't change that fast, probably our
environment has. Marshall believes more air pollution, along with a
"squeaky clean society," each play a role in increasing allergies.