With all of the talk about coronavirus, most of the focus has been on avoiding contact. Some have taken supplements, like thymus tissue, vitamin A, vitamin C, and other substances to enhance immunity. Reducing stress can also benefit the immune system.

Stress harms immunity. That includes the stress of worrying about infection or wrestling someone for an 8 pack of toilet paper at Costco. Keep calm and get plenty of rest. Psychological stress is known to have profound effects on immune function and to promote inflammatory conditions. Elevated circulating levels of cytokines associated with stress are known to increase the risk to several diseases (Cytokine. 2019 Jan;113:256-264). Stress exposure causes the dysfunction of peripheral T lymphocytes (Cell. 2019 Oct 31;179(4):864-879.e19).

Researchers from the University of Florida and the University of Iowa reported in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine (May 2001). Students who reported having a lot of pain and stress were more likely to become sick that those who claimed to have only a little pain and stress. Stress reduction is important for the immune system. One study (Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Jun;93(6):1305-11) linked stress to the severity of cold or flu symptoms. Treatment of the GI issues reduced the severity and duration of cold or flu. Another study showed that reducing stress improved lung function (J Physiol Anthropol. 2017 Jan 13;36(1):10).

Stress hormones can reduce secretory IgA (Horm Behav. 2018 Jun;102:55-68). Animal studies have shown that stress can even undermine cancer therapies (Nat Med. 2019 Sep;25(9):1428-1441). Breathing exercises, meditation, or even light exercise can help reduce stress and strengthen your immune system.