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Stress has long been known to affect various aspects of human health, including the immune system and nutrition. Recent research has shed new light on the complex relationship between stress, immune function, and nutrition. Here are some of the key findings:

Stress can impair immune function: A growing body of evidence suggests that stress can have a negative impact on immune function. Stress can suppress the production of certain immune cells, such as natural killer cells, and weaken the body’s response to infections. This can increase the risk of developing various diseases, including viral infections, autoimmune disorders, and cancer (1).

Stress can affect nutritional status: Stress can also affect food intake and nutrient absorption, leading to nutritional deficiencies. Stress can alter the balance of hormones, such as cortisol and ghrelin, which regulate appetite and satiety. This can result in overeating or undereating, depending on the individual. Chronic stress can also cause inflammation, which can interfere with the absorption of certain nutrients, such as iron and zinc (2).

Nutrition can modulate the impact of stress on immune function: While stress can have a negative impact on immune function, a balanced and nutritious diet can help mitigate these effects. Nutrients such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc are essential for proper immune function and can help improve the body’s response to stress. In contrast, a diet that is high in saturated fat and refined sugars can worsen the impact of stress on the immune system (3).

Lifestyle factors can also influence the impact of stress on immune function: Physical activity, sleep quality, and social support can all play a role in modulating the impact of stress on immune function. Regular exercise has been shown to boost immune function and reduce the negative impact of stress on the body. Good sleep hygiene is also essential for proper immune function, as sleep deprivation can impair immune responses. Finally, social support can help reduce stress levels and improve mental health, which in turn can benefit immune function (4).

In conclusion, stress can have a profound impact on immune function and nutrition, which can increase the risk of developing various diseases. However, lifestyle factors such as a balanced and nutritious diet, regular exercise, good sleep hygiene, and social support can help mitigate the negative effects of stress on the body’s immune system.


  • Segerstrom, S. C., & Miller, G. E. (2004). Psychological stress and the human immune system: a meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psychological bulletin, 130(4), 601.
  • Chrousos, G. P. (2009). Stress and disorders of the stress system. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 5(7), 374-381.
  • Calder, P. C., Carr, A. C., Gombart, A. F., & Eggersdorfer, M. (2020). Optimal nutritional status for a well-functioning immune system is an important factor to protect against viral infections. Nutrients, 12(4), 1181.
  • Cohen, S., Doyle, W. J., Turner, R. B., Alper, C. M., & Skoner, D. P. (2003). Emotional style and susceptibility to the common cold. Psychosomatic medicine, 65(4), 652-657.