You need to know how you are weakening your immune system because having a strong immune system has never been more important than it is now. With cold and flu season upon us and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is plenty to be concerned about. Many of us take extra precautions to stay healthy such as washing our hands more and social distancing, but it is also important to have a strong immune system. A strong immune system helps us stay healthy and fight back against germs, bacteria or viruses, especially in times of great stress.
If you have noticed that you are getting run down easier, feel fatigued or have vague symptoms that just don’t make you feel right, it may mean that your immune system is weakened. The primary symptom of a weak immune system is susceptibility to infection along with other disorder symptoms.
Most Common Signs of a Weakened Immune System
- Stressed or anxious?
- Get colds or infections a lot?
- You may have digestive issues – lose of appetite, gas, constipation or diarrhea.
- Is your skin is slow to heal after a cut or a scrape?
- Cold sores – you get them frequently.
- Are tired all the time?
- Do you have an autoimmune disorder such as Lupus or Anemia?
Many of your everyday habits could be putting you at risk of illness, so it is important to look at those and make changes, if possible. Here are 6 things you could be doing to weaken your immune system and how you can change them for the better.
How Are You are Weakening Your Immune System?
1. Too Many Processed Foods
If you eat a lot of processed foods then you are eating added salt, sugar and refined carbs which can impair your immune system. Health begins in the gut with healthy gut bacteria. Processed foods attack all your good bacteria, making it possible for bad bacteria to enter your gut and weakening your immune system, starting with the intestinal immune system.
Chemical additives including thickeners, stabilizers, sweeteners and emulsifiers found in processed foods disrupt the microbiome in the gut. Fast food and deli meats are full of sodium and the added sodium is associated with immune deficiencies.
A high sodium diet can impair the ability of your body to kill bacteria. You may associate a high sodium diet with problems such as fluid retention or high blood pressure. But a new study from the University Hospital of Bonn determined that too much salt can lead to a compromised immune system. Researchers found that when the kidneys excrete excess sodium, a domino effect occurs that reduces the body’s ability to fight bacterial infections.
What to do about it: Fill your plate with foods that boost your immune system. Whole foods are best, including leafy green vegetables. Aim to consume as much as 28 grams of soluble fibre per day for women and 36 grams for men. Some of the best sources of soluble fibre are nuts, oats, seeds, apples, lentils and barley. Be sure you are getting the best vitamins and minerals for your immune system especially Vitamins A, C and Z, along with Zinc
These immune system booster foods will give you the nutrients to fight off infections and stay healthy. No need to “pass the salt” either. Try to use salt substitutes to add more flavor if necessary.
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2. You Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep
It is very important to get between seven and eight hours of good quality sleep every night or. If you do not sleep well or enough, you may find that you become ill more often. Another direct result of weakening your immune system. A good night’s sleep helps your body to release special proteins called cytokines that protect against infection and inflammation.
If you are not getting adequate sleep your body does not produce many cytokines and this means your body will have a difficult time fighting off viruses and bacterial infections. In addition, Chronic sleep loss and even make the flu vaccine less effective by impairing your body’s ability to respond.
What to do about it: Make sleep a priority by heading to bed earlier than normal to give yourself time to unwind, relax and fall asleep. Remove all technology, particularly smartphones and television one hour before turning in to bed. The use of electronics before bed can be disruptive to your circadian rhythm by suppressing your natural production of melatonin, making it that much harder to fall asleep.
If your sleep schedule is interrupted, try to take two 30 minute naps—one in the morning and one in the afternoon if you can. Naps will help to decrease your stress levels and do a great job to offset the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on the natural defenses.
3. You Smoke Cigarettes
Smoking releases a lot of chemical compounds into the sensitive mucosal lining of the respiratory tract which runs from your nose down to your lungs. Smoking causes your body to produce a massive amount of mucous which makes it difficult for your lungs to clear toxins out and causes your airways to become narrow.
This increases your risk of infection because your body works overtime to try to remove the chemicals released into your system from cigarettes and this compromises the ability of the body to fight infection. Smoking lowers the normal protective antioxidants which are normally in your blood, which increases the risk of many respiratory illnesses, from pneumonia to bronchitis and weakening your immune system.
What about e-cigarettes and vaping? Vapor from e-cigarettes can still damage the lungs and make them more susceptible to infection, according to the results of a study on mice published in PLOS One. The researchers warned that e-cigarettes are unsafe because their vapor contains free radicals that can cause inflammation in the airway and weakened responses to bacteria and viruses.
What to do about it: Quit smoking.
For many, this is easier said than done and the average smoker attempts to quit as many as 8 times before they are successful. You may find more success by choosing a specific quit date and then quitting cold turkey instead of trying to cut back daily. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medications that can assist you in quitting.
4. You Consume Too Much Alcohol
Alcohol disrupts your sensitive gut microbiome by stripping the healthy bacteria so that more bad bacteria pass through the bloodstream, which causes your liver to become inflamed. Once the liver becomes inflamed, it cannot properly cleanse the body of the environmental toxins in the body, including the antigens which can cause illness.
What to do about it: Stop drinking or reduce the amount that you drink to safer levels. The safe amount to drink is one drink per day for women and two for men.
5. You Don’t Exercise
Working out regularly enhances your immune system and it increases white blood cells and antibodies which enhance your immunity. Exercise raises your body temperature which prevents the growth of bacteria, eliminating the infection. In addition, the benefit of exercise is that it boosts your mood. Exercise helps to reduce stress, which reduces illness and stops weakening your immune system.
What to do About it: Creating routines and following them is an important way to ensure that you get the proper amount of exercise every day. Try to get in around 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of intense activity each week and include a couple of strength training sessions into the mix.
Be sure to not over do it because too much exercise can have the opposite effect on your immune boost. Constantly exercising too much can result in over training, which actually suppresses immune function and increases the likelihood of contracting upper respiratory tract infections. The number one reason to exercise is for your health, and if you exercise too much, you’ve defeated the purpose of doing it. Be sure to include a post workout self-care routine.
And speaking of self-care….
6. You Don’t Take Time for Self-Care
You can easily have a compromised immune system due to stress. Your mental state and emotions can have a direct effect on the function of your immune system. People who live with chronic stress are more likely to develop a cold or flu after being exposed to viruses and bacteria. It is now time to view self-care differently. The best advice? Take care of yourself. Taking care of yourself is vital for health and well-being, if you don’t take care of yourself, your body will let you know.
What to do about it: Do small things each day such as these immune system boosters. Take time out for yourself to relax and get away from stressful situations. Start by taking some time each day to pause. We all need activities that promote inner peace and calm. Activities that allow us to unwind from stress and get in touch with our needs.
Do something that you really enjoy, have a bath, read a book, call your best friend. Be kind to yourself. Eat a meal you love (with no guilt). Alternatively, head outdoors. Take a brisk walk, walk your dog or hop on your bike. The fresh air will make you feel better. Watch a funny movie and laugh. Self-care doesn’t have to be fancy and it doesn’t have to be an escape from daily life. We can all benefit from practicing simple self-care activities on a more regular basis.
Some research has suggested that compounds in some herbs and supplements can enhance immunity. For example garlic, milk thistle, ginseng, green tea, turmeric, and licorice are just a few herbs that have been reported to have immune boosting benefits. Talk to your doctor of pharmacist before including herbs and supplements into your regimen.
Your good health has never been more important. In today’s trying times, you have the best chance of staying well if you look after yourself by following these simple guidelines. Practice mindfulness, smile often and remember that you are amazing.