7 Habits That Hurt Your Immune System

by Carina Wolff
Originally Published: 
A woman lying on a couch covered with a blanket reading a newspaper

If you're someone who gets sick often, you know you'll do anything to prevent catching a cold. You may load up on cold medicine and take your vitamins, but you should also consider your habits that could be hurting your immune system, as perhaps some of your daily routines could be making you sick, unbeknownst to you. What we do every day, including what we eat, how often we move, and even our way of thinking, have an impact on our physical health, so it's important to avoid any habits that could potentially be making us ill.

"Daily habits can play a huge role in immune system function, both positive and negative," says physician Dr. Scott Schreiber over email. "The more 'stress' you place on it, the harder it works, eventually being overcome by a virus or bacteria."

Keeping your body in optimal shape by staying healthy is crucial for your immunity, so it's not surprising that generally unhealthy habits make us more likely to get sick. However, some habits are not as obvious, but they are just as important to pay attention to as how well you eat and how often if you exercise. If you find that you're sick often, you may want to consider ditching these seven habits that can hurt your immune system.

1. Stress

Multiple studies show that stress can have a negative effect on your immune system, including slowing the healing of wounds, an increased chance of contracting a cold, and weakened levels of antibodies to fight infectious diseases, according to Health Day. "When people are under significant stress or depressed, their immune system can also be depressed, and they may have difficulty fighting infections," says Dr. Joseph Russo, MD over email. "Stress produces the hormone cortisol which impairs the function of infection fighting T-cells."

2. Staying Inside

If you spend too much time indoors, you may find yourself feeling under the weather more often, as the sun provides you with much-needed vitamin D, which is crucial for activating our immune system, according to research from the University of Copenhagen. "Vitamin D deficiency causes immune suppression," says Schreiber. "Over 80 percent of the population is deficient. Many will require a supplements, but sun exposure is the most natural method to produce it."

3. Eating Processed Foods

"Quality of food is very important and often overlooked cause of immune depletion," says Schreiber. "Our food supply contains many unhealthy, toxic chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, and GMOs, which can cause havoc in our bodies. Over time this depletes the immune system, and, if not corrected, will continue to get worse."

4. Drinking In Excess

"While alcohol can make someone feel more relaxed, it is tremendously stressful on the body," says "It causes the adrenals to work overtime as well as the liver, since the liver needs to break down (or detoxify) the alcohol. Over time this makes the immune system function less effectively." Drinking alcohol also can have an immediate effect on your immune system. According to the journal Alcohol, binge drinking weakens your immune system within just 20 minutes of consumption.

5. Sitting On The Couch

If you're not one to exercise often, you may want to think again. "Exercise is critically important, as this is a very powerful stimulant of the immune system," says Russo. Exercise causes changes in white blood cells so they circulate more rapidly, making them able to detect illnesses earlier than before, according to the National Library of Medicine.

6. Staying Up Late

Multiple studies show that lack of sleep makes you more prone to colds and viruses, according to WebMD. "Your body repairs and restores itself at night," says Susan Blum, MD over email. "A lack of sleep puts stress on the body and your immune system leaving you open to illness and exhaustion."

7. Smoking

"Smoking depletes your body of many vitamins and minerals," says Schreiber. "Similar to alcohol, the body uses up its stores of vitamins and minerals and cannot keep up with the burden the cigarettes are putting on the body. This will cause you to get sick more frequently and possibly develop cancer."

Eliminating as many of these habits as you can will help to strengthen your immune system and hopefully prevent you from getting sick as frequently.

Images: Pixabay (8)

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