The impact of stress on health is undeniable. Stress is not a disease, however, but a normal element in the weather of life. It’s like rain. With too little, life is barren. With too much, you get flooded.
For people with allergies, the stress clouds hang a bit thicker and lower than usual. Along with the usual stresses of everyday life – temperamental children, money worries, job hassles -people with allergies have additional concerns. Changing your habits or diet to side-step allergy triggers is fraught with stress. Plus there’s the strain sometimes created by trying to get other people to accommodate you.
The other people you live with may resent being asked to go outside to spray their hair, or having to remember not to polish their shoes around you,’ says Dr Bell.
All that stress may have a direct effect on the immune system, aggravating allergic reactions.
‘Any period of stress may weaken the immune system so that you react more easily to foods or chemicals,’ explained Dr Bell. ‘But if you have yourself in better control of stress, when something does happen — when you encounter an allergy trigger — your symptoms won’t get as bad.’ In other words, managing stress helps you weather allergic encounters.
‘An important approach I use to alleviate stress is some form of relaxation therapy,’ says Dr Bell. ‘There are a variety of approaches. One is imagery, in which I tell people to imagine themselves in a safe environment whenever they find themselves exposed to a threatening food or chemical. That takes advantage of what the mind can do for the body; a message is sent from the brain to the rest of the body, putting you in a stronger biological state.
‘The relaxation method you choose is not all that important, as long as it works for the individual,’ she adds. ‘All achieve the same basic goal – reducing stress.’ They do that, she explained, by putting your body in a state that is the exact opposite of how it operates when you feel tense and under stress.