Bad Habits That Are Hurting Your Immune System
Our bodies are marvellous equipped with numerous defensive mechanisms. Take our skin, for example, it’s all well and good if it's nice and smooth in selfies but it also functions as the first barrier to billions of germs that we encounter every day. And one of our last protective defenses is our immune system. It’s a truly flexible defense system that can provide targeted and widespread attacks against those nasty bugs that cause sickness. For most people, the immune system is quite effective, but many unhealthy practices can weaken its strength. Shall we take a peek at what these habits are?
Lack of Sleep
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Factoring out infants and children, most people are guilty of skipping out on our much-needed beauty sleep. For some, the cut down on sleeping time may be due to high workload, stress, and health conditions. For others, it may just be that you started watching that Netflix drama and lost track of time. But the fact is, getting an adequate amount of sleep helps your body to prepare to fight infections. Furthermore, lack of sleep itself can increase the risk of developing conditions such as diabetes, depression, and obesity, all of which are not exactly going to boost your already weakened immune system. While everyone may have their sleep time requirements, the average sleeping time for many adults is 7-9 hours nightly.
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Taking a puff of that cigarette can weaken your immune system thereby making you more susceptible to infections such as the flu. When you smoke, you are damaging your first lines of defense such as the linings of your nose and mouth, which all constitute a part of your immune system. Another concern is that smoking can lead your immune system to turn against you instead. Moreover, the nicotine inhaled reduces certain levels of immune cells and decreases their response towards foreign particles. Additionally, a study has found that when you smoke, it may incite your immune system to attack the lung tissues and worsen respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). Do note as well that even vapor from e-cigarettes can damage the lungs and increase susceptibility to infection.
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Drinking alcohol may be a part of a culture, a tradition, or simply just a way for your family to bond. However, constant overindulging in alcohol can negatively affect your immune system. This is because excessive drinking can damage the lining of your mouth and the food tract down your throat which makes it easier for unwanted viruses and bacteria to invade your body. High amounts of alcohol can also suppress the ability of our immune cells to multiply and interfere with their function. As such, it would be best to limit your alcohol intake. For women, the recommendation is to limit their intake to one drink per day, while men should have no more than two in a day.
“You are what you eat,” said philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach. Eating too much sugar or insufficient amounts of fruits and vegetables can disrupt the function of your immune system. You need the minerals and vitamins in fruits and vegetables to make those crucial immune cells. Furthermore, an unbalanced diet can lead to obesity, which in turn makes us more susceptible to diseases. Try to always incorporate a good amount of fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk, and whole grains. Plant-based food may also help increase the fiber you consume thereby decreasing body fat percentage and in turn, strengthens your immune system. And when in doubt, you can always consult a nutritionist to get a personalised diet plan for you!
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Who isn’t stressed out nowadays? Stress from work, personal commitment, studies, or other sources can reduce the strength of our immune response. For example, cold sores don’t only tend to show up when you are feeling chilly, but it also appears when you are feeling pressured. While pressure is an inescapable part of life, there are many things we can do to minimise it and stay healthy, for instance, exercising for around 30 minutes daily or practicing mindfulness.
Unsafe Sexual Practice
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Risky sexual behaviour is a risk factor for conditions such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which is essentially a condition that reduces the number of immune cells thereby dampening the ability to fight infections. In particular, this risk is higher for individuals with multiple sexual partners and having vaginal, oral, or anal sex without using condoms.
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Numerous studies have shown that exercising can enhance your immune system. It always promotes your body's ability to form immune cells and protective proteins such as antibodies. But did you also know that overdoing it in your gym can also be detrimental to your body? Excessive strenuous exercise can actually be harmful to the body and make you more susceptible to infections. Hence, while it is important that you exercise, it is also just as vital that you don’t overdo it. Exercising as little as 20 minutes daily for most days of the week can already do the trick!
Depression and Anxiety
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Untreated depression can increase the likelihood of succumbing to conditions such as cold and flu. A study has even proven that individuals with depression, they are more likely to have imbalances in certain immune-system substances which increases the risk of developing conditions such as heart diseases. Similarly, anxiety or having constant worrying thoughts can weaken your immune response in as quickly as 30 minutes.
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One of the easiest, effective and safest ways to avoid some illnesses is by getting vaccinated against them. Common examples are the flu and shingles. While we understand that you may have a different opinion regarding vaccines, it would definitely be worth it to discuss with your doctor to iron out your concerns and see if it is suitable for you.
Trying to fix or alter our habits can be extremely challenging. It takes an enormous amount of staying power and determination to even continue on the journey. But always remember, you are in charge of your health and fate!
References:Deborah Lee. (2020). 10 Habits That Weaken Your Immune System. Retrieved from https://www.eatthis.com/habits-weaken-immune-system/
Hansa D. Bhargava. (2020). Things That Suppress Your Immune System. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/ss/slideshow-how-you-suppress-immune-system
Jennifer A. Scott. (2013). Helping Your Immune System. Retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/cold-flu-pictures/better-immune-system.aspx
Long Island Spine Specialist. (2016). 7 habits that are destroying your immune system. Retrieved from