A properly operating immune system is like a puzzle. There are many pieces fitting together to help you cruise through the season, avoiding the coughs, colds and flus that seem to sideline so many.

Managing stress, getting enough rest, eating right, and dialing in the proper amount and types of exercise all play a significant role.

What many people don’t realize is that runaway stress and inflammation, when not addressed, can completely neuter any attempts you have made with supplements, vaccinations, and medication therapy.

Both inflammation and stress can provide great benefits to our health, in the short-term, strengthening and rebuilding muscles, vessels, making us stronger, healthier, and more resistant to disease.

It’s when inflammation or stress become chronic that they throw a wrench into our metabolic, hormonal, and immune systems.

Cortisol plays a direct role in regulating inflammation, although when stress becomes chronic, the effectiveness of cortisol to regulate inflammation wanes.

Immune cells also become insensitive to cortisol's regulatory effect, promoting the development and progression of many diseases.

Research out of Carnegie Mellon University has found that stressed people’s immune cells become less sensitive to cortisol. They are unable to regulate the inflammatory response and, therefore, when they are exposed to a virus they are more likely to develop a cold.

The same researchers also found that a shorter sleep duration accompanied by viral exposure was associated with increased susceptibility to the common cold.

As far as inflammation is concerned, chronic stress leads to elevated inflammatory markers. Sustained levels of what is known as IL-6 have been linked to persistent infections, impaired healing, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, type II diabetes, and cancer.

In one study, individuals who reported more stressful symptoms showed increases in serum IL-6 levels for two weeks following a vaccination of the flu virus, while there was little change in IL-6 levels in those who reported little or no symptoms of stress.

Research has shown, under various types of stressors; students had a weaker response to the Hepatitis B vaccine. Caregivers of dementia patients exhibit a weaker antibody and T-cell response to the flu, pneumococcal and meningitis vaccines.

As you can see, managing stress is a major piece of the puzzle. Stress management techniques include meditation, prayer, breathing exercise, and adequate rest balanced with proper exercise.

One of my favorite supplements is Relora, which has a unique ability of balancing the stress response while providing a sense of calm, helping to “take the edge off,” without making you tired.

As far as a supplement to help manage inflammation, my go to is curcumin, especially Curcumasorb by Pure Encapsulations, for its guaranteed authenticity and high bioavailability. Research has also shown the ability of curcumin to help elevated moods, which is never a bad thing as we enter the seasonal affective disorder time of year.

Both Relora and Curcumasorb can be found at any Martin’s Pharmacy, and are 15% off with your Martin’s Advantage Card.