Stress: a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.

Stress is a part of life. There is healthy stress that prompts us daily to live productive lives, and there is unhealthy stress that can lead to physical illness. Stressful situations will surely come, but it is how we handle the stress that is key to living a healthy life. Currently, the world is experiencing the Sars-Cov-2 pandemic. It has caused chaos and fear across the globe. Sadly, the most affected by the virus are the immunocompromised and the elderly.

Obesity is an immunocompromised state and it seems those who are obese have not fared well during the pandemic: (https://www.news-medical.net/news/20200820/Research-finds-link-between-COVID-19-mortality-and-morbid-obesity.aspx). Obesity causes chronic inflammation and inflammation can suppress our immune system. Obesity is a growing problem in the nation and the world, affecting 650 million people per a World Health Organization report from 2016. The same report said that there are 1.9 billion people, 18 and older, who are overweight. Sadly, 38 million children under 5 years of age were either overweight or obese the study reported. Obesity is a major risk factor for chronic illness and it has a negative impact on the immune system. Chronic inflammation is most likely at the root:

“Unlike acute inflammation, which benefits health by promoting healing and recovery, chronic inflammation is characterized by persistent increases in inflammatory proteins all throughout the body and can damage health and promote several major diseases,” says George Slavich, associate professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA, referring to small proteins called cytokines that the immune system releases at the site of an injury to promote recovery.

Individuals often learn they have chronic inflammation when they develop an autoimmune disease, such as Crohn’s disease, lupus, or Type 1 diabetes, since inflammation is a hallmark of autoimmune disorders. But experts believe chronic inflammation also plays a role in developing heart disease, cancer, kidney disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, neurodegenerative disorders, cognitive decline and mental health illnesses, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia. (//www.washinghealthtonnic-inflammation-is-long-lasting-insidious-dangerous-and-you-may-not-even-know-you-have-it/2020/01/post.com//chro17/93ab0fa2-316f-11ea-9313-6cba89b1b9fb_story.html)

In other words, chronic inflammation causes the immune system to stay active, slowly wearing out the immune cells, making them less able to fight when hit with a virus or other pathogens. Our body is so amazing. God has surely wonderfully and fearfully made us. When our body is attacked by a virus or bacterial infection, our immune system goes to battle to fight off the offending agent. If our immune system is not healthy, then the fight may be harder or worse yet, be lost.

I have noticed in my practice, that many of my patients are gaining weight during this stressful time. I believe stress and inactivity are to blame. The underlying stressor is fear- Fear of getting sick, fear of one of our family members getting sick, and fear of the future. Other stressors include caring for the sick and the stress of losing loved ones to the virus and other tragedies. These times are very stressful and trying on our emotions and our physical bodies.

Shalom is an amazing Hebrew word. It means peace, wholeness, harmony, tranquility, completeness, prosperity and welfare. Studies are showing that our internal state, or the state of our inner self, is one key to health. In other words, if our inner being is not peaceful or at rest, it can lead to physical and mental illness. This is what medical science is now revealing to the world. But guess what. The bible revealed this to us long ago.

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in every way and [that your body] may keep well, even as [I know] your soul keeps well and prospers. 3 John 2:3

As children of God, we are Kings and Priest unto Him. I was reading about Asa, the King of Judah. Asa did right in the sight of the Lord and the land had rest (no wars) for 10 years. He removed all the high places and foreign altars and tore down the idols and the symbols of the goddess Asherah. He also commanded Judah to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, to inquire of and for Him, and to crave Him as their vital need and to obey the law and the commandments. Asa built fortified cities because there were no wars during his reign and the Lord gave him peace. The people built and prospered during this time.

Therefore he said to Judah, Let us build these cities and surround them with walls, towers, gates, and bars. The land is still ours, because we sought the Lord our God; we have sought Him (yearning for Him will all our desire) and He has given us rest and peace on every side. So they built and prospered. 2 Chronicles 14:7

The people and the cities prospered when they made it their goal to seek the Lord as their vital need and to follow His commandments. The key to health, prosperity, wholeness, completeness, and tranquillity is found in resting in the arms of Jesus, the King of Peace, seeking His guidance, and following his directions.

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore. Psalms 16:11

What I am about to disclose will probably be offensive to some, but food to many has become an idol. Food has become the comfort we seek to ease our anxiety instead of seeking the Lord for our emotional and physical needs. Many use food just like an alcoholic uses alcohol: to numb emotional pain and trauma. On the flip side rejecting food to the point of starvation or physical decline is just as destructive. Both reveal a deeper emotional issue.

I have been a Physician Assistant for almost 21 years. Each year, our practice is seeing more and more mental health issues. Chronic illness is also on the rise. I am not a psychiatrist, but a person who has experience emotional and physical trauma. I used food as my emotional comfort for most of my life. It was experiencing the love of God that transformed my life. The more emotionally healed I became, the less food was my choice to numb my anxiety or settle my stress. In His presence and His love, I let go of past hurts, anger, and old mindsets about myself and others. My journey has been much like the peeling of an onion, one layer at a time. I love this scripture in the book of Psalms:

Who satisfies your mouth [your necessity and desire at your personal age and situation] with good so that your youth, renewed, is like the eagle’s [strong, overcoming, soaring]! Psalms 103:5

If you have gained weight or loss weight due to this stressful season, do not spend time beating yourself up, but go to Him, go to Jesus, and allow Him to pour the healing balm, the healing oil on your wounds for he deeply cares for you:

Casting the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully. 1 Peter 5:7

Jeremiah ask two questions in chapter 8:2- Is there no balm in Gilead? Why then is not the health of the daughter of my people restored? The amplified bible gives the answer–because Zion no longer enjoyed the presence of the Great Physician. Jesus is the Great Physician, and he knows exactly what you need. Isaiah 61:1-3 tells us what he came to do:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed and qualified me to preach the Gospel of good tidings to the meek, the poor, and afflicted; He has sent me to bind up and heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the [physical and spiritual] captives and the opening of the prison and of the eyes to those who are bound,To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord [the year of His favor] and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,To grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn in Zion—to give them an ornament (a garland or diadem) of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit—that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

Invite Him to come and show you the path to life. He died to give you life more abundantly. It’s time for us to seek Him as our vital need and follow Him in His instruction, so that we can live healthy, peaceful, and prosperous lives even in the midst of any storm. It is possible. God has given us everything we need for life. He has made our bodies so wonderfully, and when cared for it properly, no weapon formed against it will prosper! Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you (2 Thess 3:16).

Shalom!

2 thoughts on “Stress and Diet is the Greatest Threat to the Immune System

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