7 Unexpected Things That Might Be Making You Sick Or Damaging Your Immune System

There's nothing worse than waking up in the morning only to find yourself with a lump in your throat, a feverish headache, and a sniffly nose. Getting sick is the worst, especially when you've been taking good care of yourself— or so you think. Sometimes there are unexpected things that are making you sick as well as the traditionally unhealthy culprits. Most of us know to eat healthy, get a lot of sleep, and frequently wash your hands to prevent getting sick, so it can be confusing why we somehow keep catching those colds. Keeping your immune system up is crucial, because it's not just a bad diet or a late night out that's making you ill. 

For instance, many people don't realize your emotions play a large role in your physical health. Studies have shown that cynical people tend to be at higher risk for disease, while optimistic people have healthier cardiovascular health. In addition to how we feel, there are other seemingly irrelevant habits we have that may actually be causing us some harm. Because our health is so multifaceted, it's important to know what is helping us versus what is making our immune system worse. To help keep you from doing things that may cause you to feel under the weather, I've come up with a list of seven surprising habits that may be making you sick. 

1. You're Working Too Much

Many of us come home from a full day of working and don't stop there. Whether you have kids, additional work, dinners, or meetings to attend, it seems like we are always on-the-move. 

"This doesn’t leave enough time to eat right, stay active, or give the brain and body some much-needed downtime," Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH tells Bustle over email. 

2. You're Not Exercising

According to Medline Plus, Frequent exercise causes a boost in your immune system, helping flush out bacteria, increases your levels of antibodies and white blood cells (which fight off disease), and slows down the release of stress-related hormones. Even taking daily 20 minute walks can help prevent you from getting sick. 

3. You're Not Going To The Dentist

You might think it doesn't matter to skip the dentist every few years, but getting your teeth checked and cleaned does more than just prevent cavities. 

"Poor dental health can contribute to a number of health problems, including heart disease," says McAllister. Your oral health can affect the rest of your body when it comes to sickness, including risk of bacteria and other diseases, so make sure you're scheduling those regular dental visits, no matter how scary they may seem. 

4. You're Stressed

"When we are in a stress response (that classic fight or flight response), our immune system is depleted," says Dr. Kathy Gruver to me over email. "Therefore anytime we are in a stressful state either from something external that is happening around us or from our own thoughts of dwelling in the past or projecting into the future, we are more prone to getting sick." 

Frequent stress can weaken your immune system, affect your digestive system, and increase your risk of infection. 

5. You're "Overcleaning" Yourself

"Bathing in anti-bacterial gels all day long and ridding your world of germs will only lead to a reduced ability for your immune system to fight off diseases and leave you prone to more colds, flus, and other diseases," health coach Clint Fuqua writes me.

Bacteria is important to build and strengthen your immunity, so stick to just plain soap and water when washing yourself to assure your body builds the strength to ward off unwanted microorganisms. 

6. You're Eating Too Little

"The first three letters in the word "diet" are there for a reason; you do actually die a little bit every time you go on an overly restrictive diet and cut out needed nutrients," says Fuqua. "The best thing to do is eat what your body needs for what you do every day so your health is supported instead of the scale being tricked." 

Studies have shown that diets with too little calorie consumption can weaken your ability to fight off diseases and infections, so make sure you eat enough to keep your immune system up to par. 

7. You're Drinking Too Much

Drinking a lot, even in the span of just one night, can weaken your body's ability to fight off infections for up to 24 hours. Consuming too much alcohol can also lower your white blood cell count, dehydrate you, and prevent absorption of important nutrients, reports Livestrong, all components that can lead you to catch an unwanted illness. 

Images: 39908901@N06josephmorriscalliopelindseygee, Alessandro Valli, Kirinohana, Transformer 18/Flickr

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