Health & Fitness

Avoiding stress and anxiety can help strengthen immune system

People today are often wracked with anxiety caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and concerned with the need to strengthen their immune system.

The immune system is the body’s first line of defense against bacteria and viruses. When a person is exposed to anxiety and stress, the body’s ability to resist diseases is reduced.

Recent studies have confirmed that patients who have negative thoughts about their illness also have a low probability of recovery.

According to Dr. Sami al-Tahan, immunology consultant at Cairo’s Al-Hussein University Hospital and a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, exposure to stress and anxiety weakens the immune system, making the body vulnerable to disease.

The immune system is like a soldier that protects the entire body, he added.

Stress and anxiety can cause a person to suffer from insomnia and interrupted sleep, which directly affect the immune system, blood pressure, heart rhythm, and can even lead to heart disease, atherosclerosis or angina.

They can also affect the digestive system, and can cause stomach ulcers and disorders in the colon. They can also cause headache, dizziness, tinnitus, shortness of breath, cognitive problems, and pain in the neck and back, Tahan added.

Stress, anxiety and psychological pressure also have a clear effect on the skin, he said, and can cause blue spots, scratching, or acne. In some cases, they can even cause psoriasis, which can be difficult to treat.

To boost the immune system, Tahan recommended eating foods rich in minerals, antioxidants and vitamins — especially vitamins C, D and A and omega-3 — as well as drinking water, orange and lemon juice in appropriate quantities. He advised against consuming soft drinks, saying that they increase anxiety and stress.

Tahan emphasized the importance of altering one’s environment to avoid anxiety and stress. He advised that people not to keep to themselves, but to sit with other people, and to avoid taking about subjects that cause anxiety or tension.

He advised discussing happy topics that reduce stress, and urged that people maintain faith in a better future. He also advised exercising right before bedtime because it helps reduce sleep interruptions, and suggested taking breaks during long working hours.

He also advised practicing relaxing exercises, such as taking deep breaths while closing one’s eyes and imagining landscapes or something else that brings joy.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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