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Ways you are weakening your immune system

Do you get sick often and take sick days off from work? Chances are you may have a weak immune system. The immune system defends the body from developing potentially harmful diseases and conditions. It also restricts tumors and cancerous growths. Here’s why your body is not fighting illnesses to the maximum

1. Medications

Some prescription and non-prescription drugs are major toxins that many people put into their bodies. Excessive use of antibiotics and cold and fever medications weakens the immune system.

One study found that some people taking antibiotics had reduced levels of cytokines—the hormone messengers of the immune system. You are more likely to develop resistant bacteria or become sick in the future when your immune system is suppressed.

2. Being too clean

Over the past few decades, doctors have arrived at a counterintuitive hypothesis about our modern, ultra-sanitised world. Too much cleanliness may be causing us to develop allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel diseases, and other autoimmune disorders.

The idea is that for many, lack of exposure to bacteria, viruses, and allergens prevents the normal development of the immune system, ultimately increasing the chance of disorders.

3. Radiation exposure

Rising levels of certain air pollutants are depleting the ozone layer, increasing the level of harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. This could lead to higher rates of skin cancer, cataracts, and weakened immune systems.

The World Health Organisation warns that exposure to environmental UV rays could also affect the cells responsible for triggering immune responses, increasing the risk of infection and possibly lowering defenses against skin cancer.

4. Dehydration

It is vital to maintain a good level of hydration to assist in eliminating by-products of any illness and help the immune system fight off infection. Dehydration can affect your energy and your sleep, and the ability to get toxins/waste material out of the body.

5. Stress

People like to ignore it, but stress has a major influence on your immune system. Chronic stress caused by stressful situations or events that last over a long period of time raises cortisol levels of the body, which decreases the production of ‘good’ prostaglandins.

‘Good’ prostaglandins are localised hormone-like cellular messengers that support immune function, dilate blood vessels, inhibit ‘thick’ blood and are anti-inflammatory.

Chronic stress can make you more susceptible to colds and flu as well as more serious health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases. By practicing stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation, and laughter, you can keep your body from going into chronic stress mode.

6. Poor diet

Prolonged and excessive consumption of refined sugars and highly processed foods containing pesticides, chemical additives, and preservatives can weaken the immune system and make you vulnerable to developing chronic conditions.

One US study found that the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria is significantly hampered for up to five hours after eating 100 grams of sugar (equivalent to three cans of sweetened soft drink). A healthy diet should include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat milk.

7. Excessive alcohol

Even one bout of excessive drinking can reduce the immune system’s response to invading pathogens. Alcohol’s major metabolite, acetaldehyde, likely impairs ciliary function in the lungs, making them more prone to bacterial and viral invasion.

Alcohol also impairs the process of attacking and breaking down bacteria and viruses and that puts people who abuse alcohol at higher risk of infection.

8. Grief

A sudden or tragic event can weaken your body’s immune response. Losing a loved one, for example, can boost production of nerve chemicals and hormones that increase your risk for more frequent and severe viral infections, such as flu. Bereavement is associated with increased cortisol response and immune imbalance.

9. Lack of sleep

Lack of sleep impairs the function of cells and proteins that fight infection and disease and may also increase the production of inflammatory markers that contribute to common cold and flu.

People who suffer from sleep deprivation are often more likely to develop serious medical conditions such as heart disease and cancer.

Without adequate sleep, the immune system doesn’t get a chance to rebuild, and therefore it gets weakened. Many studies show that people who don’t get a good night’s sleep or who don’t get enough sleep (sleeping under seven hours a night) are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as the common cold.

10. Feeling lonely

Loneliness is found to alter immune system cells in ways that promote inflammation, which increases the risk of diseases such as cancer when left untreated.

People who suffer from loneliness, especially if they also live alone, tend to have weakened immune cells that lack the ability to effectively fight viruses, so they become more prone to viral infections.

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