We think you’ll agree with us when we say:
We have all been stressed at some point. Whatever type of stress that we have felt, it made it much easier for us to get sick or made our pre-existing health conditions even worse.
The main reason for that is that our stress SUPPRESSES our immune system and function.
In this article, we’ll be telling you about the close relationship between stress relief and Vitamin C supplementation.
What Is Stress?
Stress could be defined as a sequence of events that consists of a stimulus, otherwise known as a stressor, that causes a brain reaction called stress perception. This reaction activates fight-or-flight systems, which is the body’s stress response. The stress response results in the release of neurotransmitters and hormones, which is how the brain sends alarm signals to the various parts of the body.
But how does this work?
For the body to decide whether a stimulus is stressful, it must rely on sensory input and processing of the stimulus, as well as stored memories of what happened previously when a similar stimulus was encountered. If the body decides that the stimulus is a stressor, then that stressor activates the hypothalamus, which sends signals to the pituitary gland and the adrenal medulla.
Let’s dig a little deeper:
The sympathomedullary pathway, or SAM, is involved in the fight-or-flight response to short-term stress. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, or HPA axis, is the main driver of the stress response to chronic stress.
Acute stress, or short-term stress is defined as stress that lasts anywhere from several minutes to hours. Chronic stress, or long-term stress is defined as stress that lasts for several hours daily for a period of weeks or months.
Stress intensity can be measured by several factors:
- The peak levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol
- Physiological changes such as increases in heart and blood pressure, and
- The amount of time for which these physiological changes last during and after stress.
The HPA axis increases the production of steroid hormones called glucocorticoids, including cortisol, which is commonly called the “stress hormone.” Usually, cortisol levels will increase in concentration after waking up and gradually decrease over the day, which provides a cycle of energy to fuel the body during the day.
How exactly does cortisol response to stress?
When you experience a stressor, cortisol levels will increase in concentration in order to provide the necessary energy to deal with the challenging situation. Cortisol and glucocorticoids in general help regulate the immune system and decrease inflammation. This is valuable during stressful or threatening situations in which an injury could lead to increased activation of the immune system.
But when stress is chronic, then communication between the HPA axis and the immune system will be impaired. This impaired communication has been positively correlated to the future development of health conditions including those previously mentioned, as well as chronic fatigue, diabetes, and immune disorders.
How Stress Affects the Immune System
What’s the real story about stress and the immune system?
Effective immune function depends on the rapid recruitment of leukocytes, or white blood cells, into sites of wounding, infection, surgery, or vaccination. The immune cells continuously circulate from the blood through various organs, and back to the blood, through surveillance pathways. This circulation helps maintain an effective immune defense network.
So how does acute stress affect white blood cells, then?
In humans, acute stress will initially increase, then decrease blood leukocyte numbers. The increase comes from the stress conditions activating the sympathetic nervous system. Stressors either last for a short period of time or are relatively mild. The stress- or catecholamine-induced increases in granulocytes and NK cells also increase the total leukocyte numbers.
Granulocytes are a type of white blood cell that has small particles called granules with enzymes that are released to help deal with asthma, allergic reactions, and infections.
NK cells, or natural killer cells, are white blood cells that kill infected cells or tumors according to the innate immune response. Stress- or pharmacologically induced increases in glucocorticoid hormones cause a significant decrease in blood lymphocyte and monocyte numbers.
Monocytes are a type of white blood cell that travels into the tissues and organs, which are differentiated or converted into a macrophage or myeloid lineage/bone marrow tissue dendritic cell.
Going back to what we were talking about:
Chronic stress, which leads to a significant, long-term activation of the HPA axis, results in the decrease of blood leukocyte numbers. This may occur in the later stages of the stress response, with acute stressors that last for hours, or severe physical, psychological, or physiological stress.
The decrease in blood leukocyte numbers comes from the redistribution of leukocytes from the blood to the skin, lung, gastrointestinal and urinary-genital tracts, mucosal surfaces, and lymph nodes, in preparation for immune challenges that may come from the actions of the stressor. This results in improved immune function in these areas of the body during stress. Several studies have shown that this stress-induced redistribution of leukocytes to the skin showed significantly enhanced skin immunity.
In contrast, chronic stress has been shown to suppress skin cell-mediated immunity. Chronic stress-induced suppression of blood leukocyte redistribution is believed to be a factor in mediating the immunosuppressive effect of chronic stress. Studies have shown that chronic stress increased vulnerability to ultraviolet radiation (UV)-induced squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) in mice by suppressing skin immunity, type 1 cytokines, and protective T-cells, and increasing active immunosuppression through regulatory/suppressor T-cells.
So you know what all these terms mean:
Ultraviolet radiation-induced SCC in mice comes from the cells in the hair follicle, which suggests that ultraviolet radiation penetrates the surface of the skin sufficiently enough to cause irreversible DNA damage to the cells beneath it.
Cytokines are small proteins that help immune cells and host tissue cells communicate with each other. They help regulate the immune response in the body. Type 1 cytokines, more specifically, help increase the cellular immune response to infection.
Regulatory T-cells are white blood cells that decrease the activities of other lymphocytes to prevent the immune system from becoming over-active. Both human and animal studies have shown that chronic stress suppresses several immune parameters, including antibody production, NK activity, the increase in the numbers of leukocytes in the body, and virus-specific T-cell and NK cell activity.
How Does Stress Relieve Relate to Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is well-known for its antioxidant properties and immune function-boosting effects in the body. What is NOT as well known, is how Vitamin C AFFECTS stress. When the adrenal glands are signaled to do its part in responding to stress in the body, nutrients such as Vitamin C are depleted in order to help maintain the continuous production of cortisol. Vitamin C is crucial in ensuring that the adrenal glands function smoothly.
Let’s dig a little deeper:
Vitamin C helps decrease both the physical and psychological effects of stress in people. It has been demonstrated in many studies to help stop the secretion of cortisol in animals that have been subjected to repeated stress. The effects of Vitamin C on stress relief go EVEN FURTHER than that. In studies involving rats undergoing stress, the supplementation of Vitamin C prevented the natural increase in cortisol concentration and stopped the rats from showing signs of stress, such as:
- The loss of body weight
- Enlarged adrenal glands, and
- The decreased size of the spleen and thymus gland.
The thymus gland is an organ in the body that produces T-cells for the immune system.
What other effects does Vitamin C supplementation have?
Vitamin C supplementation also increased the levels of circulating IgG antibodies. IgG or immunoglobulin G is the most abundant antibody in our body, making up about 75% of our total immunoglobulin. It helps fight off bacterial and viral infections. In the control group, which consisted of rats that were not subjected to stress, Vitamin C supplementation increased the production of circulating IgG antibodies to a higher degree than in the experimental group of stressed rats. The researchers believe that this indicates that stress may create a tolerance for Vitamin C.
For that reason, it may be necessary to seek higher dosage amounts of Vitamin C supplementation in order to strengthen and protect immune function against the immunosuppressive effects of stress.
It should be noted that the rats in these studies were administered 200 mg of Vitamin C daily which, in humans, would be the equivalent of several grams daily. This dose is much higher than the Recommended Daily Allowance amount of 60 mg daily, which is based on the amount required to prevent Vitamin C deficiency, also known as scurvy.
Liposomal Vitamin C Supplements
If you are looking for ways to increase your Vitamin C blood levels, you should consider a Vitamin C supplement.
More specifically, we would highly recommend you to do more research on Liposomal Vitamin C. Liposomal Technology uses micro-sized fluid filled liposomes to protect and deliver nutrients directly into the cells and tissues of the body. These liposomes are very similar to human cells, which makes it easier for them to be transported within the body. As a result, nutrient absorption is greatly increased, and there is less intestinal discomfort than with using standard oral supplements.
Liposomal Technology provides several different advantages, including:
- Micro-sized encapsulation that protects against the harsh acidity of the gastrointestinal tract
- Increased delivery to cells, tissues, and organs
- Higher absorption rates and bioavailability than other standard oral supplements
- Noninvasive compared to intravenous supplementation
- Lower doses provide the same effects as high-dose standard oral supplements
- Helps put nutrients to use by the body faster
- Prevents gastrointestinal distress usually experienced with standard oral supplements
Clearly, Liposomal Vitamin C supplement deserves serious consideration as a potential stress reliever.
Top 10 Vitamin C Foods
- Orange Juice
- Sweet Red Bell Peppers
- Black Currant
- Sweet Yellow Peppers
- Rose Hips
- Acerola Cherry Juice
- Kakadu Plum
Why You Should Consider Vitamin C Supplementation for Stress Relief?
Chronic stress leads the body to go into overdrive to try to relieve it, but leaves the body more vulnerable to infection, and suppresses the immune system.
High doses of Vitamin C supplementation stop the production of cortisol and increase the production of immunoglobulin G antibodies to promote protection against bacterial and viral infections.
Higher doses of Vitamin C supplementation are necessary due to the depletion of the vitamin during the stress response, which may increase the body’s tolerance for it.