We have all probably experienced headaches when we are stressed out but did you know that stress can also increase the likelihood of catching a cold? This is especially true for those dealing with chronic stress, says one recent study. Researchers found that high levels of stress can weaken the body’s response to the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands when we feel stressed. The hormone is supposed to temporarily weaken our immune system in order to give us energy to deal with the stress. However, our immune systems can become sensitive to cortisol when dealing with high amounts of stress which in turn opens the door for cold symptoms.
During the study, researchers first interviewed 276 healthy adults about sources of stress in their life over the past year. This included work situations, conflicts with family and friends, and legal or financial problems. They then gave each participant nasal drops that contained a common cold-causing virus and quarantined them for five days. During this time, 39% came down with a cold. Those who were stressed-out were twice as likely to become ill as those with less stress.
Lowering your stress can not only help your emotional and mental health, but can keep you healthy physically as well.
Source: Cohen S, Janicki-Deverts D, Doyle W, et al. Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. April 17, 2012; 109 (16): 5995-5999.