September is here and it is time to go back to campus for many young adults. Sure, the perspective of seeing friends, learning new things, and moving one step forward towards the dream job sounds great. Though for some students, the start of a new semester is inherently stressful, with the excessive pressures of combining underpaid work and finding time for studying. Debts accumulating. Managing workload. Meeting deadlines. Taking tests. Sleepless nights. Nightmares! In the US, 87% of Gen-Z adults (18-24 years old) in college report their education is a significant source of stress. 82% said uncertainty about the 2020-2021 school year caused them stress. 67% said the coronavirus pandemic makes planning for their future feel impossible. (Source: American Psychology Association: Stress in America™ 2020, 3409 American Adults)
The impact of Occasional and Chronic Stress
These very demanding circumstances predispose students to stress, causing both mental and physical issues. Most students will agree, a little stress is sometimes necessary to get things done. But too much pressure can lead to dropping out and poor health conditions. There are two main types of stress: occasional (acute) and chronic. Students can experience acute stress which comes and go or chronic stress, which is the kind of stress building up over a long period of time and causing damage.
Both occasional and chronic stress can have physical outcomes on the body and the immune system. The immune system is a collection of billions of cells and molecules that travel through the bloodstream. They move in and out of tissues and organs, defending the body against foreign bodies such as bacteria and viruses. When an individual is stressed, for example around the exams period, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced. Over the past 30 years, more than 300 studies have been conducted on stress and immunity in humans, and together they have shown that psychological challenges can modify various features of the immune response [Segerstrom, 2004]. Stress can influence the response of the immune system to activation, whether by decreasing the immune responses to vaccines or reactivate latent herpes viruses.
Documented Solutions for Immunity in Stressed Students
Solutions exist to support an immune system during occasional periods of stress. For example, the probiotic strain B. bifidum Rosell®-71 has shown to increase the proportion of healthy days in students stressed by academic exams periods as proven by a large randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled probiotic study [Langkamp-Henken, 2015]. Moreover, in a post hoc analysis, it was also demonstrated that B. bifidum Rosell®-71 had a positive effect on self reported stress scores (p=0.0086) and reduced stress-induced occasional diarrhea (p=0.006) [Culpepper, 2016]. A similar study has been conducted with the strain L. helveticus LAFTI® L10 [Eccles, 2008]. For more info, please visit our website.
Segerstrom, 2004. Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry NIH Public Access. Psychol Bull (Vol. 130, Issue 4).
Langkamp-Henken, 2015. Bifidobacterium bifidum R0071 results in a greater proportion of healthy days and a lower percentage of academically stressed students reporting a day of cold/flu: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. British Journal of Nutrition 113(3): 426-34.
Culpepper, 2016. Bifidobacterium bifidum R0071 decreases stress-associated diarrhea-related symptoms and self-reported stress: a secondary analysis of a randomised trial. Beneficial Microbes: 1-10.
Eccles, 2008. A study on winter infections in students to determine if oral treatment with the probiotic Lactobacillus acidophilus LAFTI® L10 helps to support the immune system. Unpublished.