7 Ways You Are Harming Your Immune System
During the colder months of the year, lots of people look for ways of boosting their immune system to avoid the ubiquitous winter colds and coughs.
But what if your habits actually result in a weak immune system?
Let's take a look at these habits and how they can negatively affect your natural immunity.
Causes of a Weak Immune System
Lack of Sleep
The human body needs roughly 8 hours sleep per night to be functioning normally, but many people get much less than this – 70% of the population get less than 7 hours sleep a night. Lack of sleep is associated with a suppressed immune response, as disease-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced in sleep-deprived individuals, leading to a higher risk of illness. Aim to get 8-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.
Stress and Anxiety
When we are stressed or anxious, the immune system takes a hit – the stress hormone cortisol suppresses the effectiveness of the immune system by lowering the number of lymphocytes, or white blood cells which fight germs and viruses. Stress also places pressure on the digestive system and heart – which could also contribute to illness. Take steps to reduce any unnecessary stress in your life and try relaxing activities, such as meditation or yoga.
Drinking Too Much
Binge drinking, or consuming many alcoholic drinks in one sitting, can inhibit the function of white blood cells and lower your resistance to infection. Excessive drinking over time can also lead to kidney and liver problems as well as cardiovascular diseases. Stick to soft drinks and consume no more than 2-3 units a day for women, and 3-4 units a day for men.
The health problems associated with smoking have been well-documented for a long time, and research continues to show that cigarettes can have a detrimental effect on your health. Cigarettes smoke can constrict your blood vessels, meaning that wounds take longer to heal, thereby increasing the risk of infection, and also suppresses antibodies and cells that fight disease in the body. Ask your GP for practical advice about quitting smoking.
The body needs a variety of vitamins and nutrients to function as it should, and it gets these from food. A diet of high-fat junk foods, or food with a low nutritional value, can cause weight gain and it can leave you more prone to infections.
Sugar can also inhibit the effectiveness of white blood cells and their action again disease-causing microbes. Ensure you keep foods that are high in fat and sugar to a minimum and increase your intake of vegetables, fruits and whole grains to ensure you get all the nutrients your body needs.
Lack of Exercise
Studies have shown that people who regularly take exercise have better white blood cell function than those who do not. When you exercise, the brain releases endorphins – hormones that ease pain and promote feelings of well-being. Regular exercise also helps to reduce stress and can help you sleep better. You don't need an expensive gym subscription or fancy equipment - try taking a brisk walk 3 times a week to enjoy the various health benefits of exercise.
It is important to avoid becoming dehydrated, as water plays a vital role in nearly every bodily process, and being dehydrated for a long time can cause all kinds of health problems. Staying adequately hydrated helps the body eliminate toxins and waste materials, and helps to keep all the body's cells healthy. Aim to drink at least 2 litres of water a day. If you don't like plain water, try drinking sparkling water with a dash of lemon or lime juice to give it some flavour.
We all get ill from time to time despite our best efforts to stay healthy, and that's when a weak immune system can use a helping hand. Natural remedies for immunity such as Echinacea have been shown to increase the number of white blood cells in the body and boosts the activity of microphages, disease-fighting cells.
Taken at the first signs of a cold, they may help your body to fight more effectively.