The Effects of Chronic Stress on the Immune, Endocrine and Nervous Systems

Updated: Sep 21, 2021


Stress reduction is one of the most common reasons people begin a meditation and yoga practice. Achieving balance in our mental and physical health is becoming more important than ever. Between demanding work schedules and reading fear inducing headlines in the media, most people are under constant stress and the effects on the physical body are evident. When the mind is in a constant state of fear, the body produces a molecular cascading event to counterbalance the stress, which then leads to disfunction in multiple systems of the body. This creates the perfect environment for many types of tumor cells to grow and weakens the ability to fight viruses and bacteria. Check out this scientific study below and a laymen summary after.

A 2021 study from Brain Behavior Journal finds molecular links between chronic stress and important molecules in our central nervous system, endocrine system and the immune system. The signaling of complex molecules, during stressful events, cause a specific reaction named “sickness behavior”. The main biomarker in this study, interleukin-1-beta (IL-1B) is an inflammatory cytokine, that contributes to tumor growth and suppression of the immune system. The body then signals to the endocrine system to produce cortisol to counterbalance the IL-1B. The high level of cortisol causes a loop which imbalances the immune system, endocrine system and nervous system. The cascading event could explain how chronic stress plays a role in tumor development as well as many other diseases.

To simplify this data even more... The body produces high levels of hormones when we are under constant stress. Additional molecules are then produced to counter the high levels of hormones- causing the body and its systems to become out of balance. One of these molecules also causes tumors to grow at a faster rate!


Meditation and yoga are great tools to help lower the effects of stress on a molecular level and boost the bodies natural immune system. Find a qualified meditation/yoga teacher at a local studio or watch free videos on Youtube to begin a yoga and meditation practice. Check out JoannaGraceYoga.com for information about the art of yoga and meditation.

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