A healthy immune system is central to your body’s function; it is the mechanism which protects your body from infections and other diseases, facilitating healing from minor (and major) illnesses and injuries and allowing you to feel your best.
But various lifestyle factors can have a negative impact on your immune system, including diet and stress. When these factors prevent your immune system from performing its basic functions, your body is compromised in a potentially dangerous way.
Understanding the early warning signs of a weakened immune system can help you spot problems before they develop into crises. Read on for tips on how to tell if your immune system is on the fritz.
1. You’re Constantly Tired
There are many potential causes of fatigue, some more innocuous than others, but when you’re constant tired, to the point of being exhausted when you wake up on the morning, it’s time to see a doctor. Some chronic illnesses which affect the immune system can cause chronic fatigue – most notably chronic fatigue syndrome, or CFS(1).
2. You’re Always Fighting Off Infection
Frequent urinary tract infections, yeast infections, red and inflamed gums, and constant indigestion are all potential warning signs of a compromised immune system. An occasional infection is one thing, but a susceptibility to regular infections could be a sign that your immune system is not responding the way it should to various stimulation.
3. You’re Constantly Sick
Everyone gets sick occasionally, but if you’re catching several colds and flu’s a year, it may be a sign that your immune system has been weakened somehow. Most peoples immune systems are constantly fighting off potential mild illnesses like colds without them even noticing; if everything seems to make you sick, tell your doctor. They may need to check your white blood cell count.
4. You Have Terrible Allergies.
Allergies can be a completely normal response, and if you notice you get the same watery eyes every year during pollen season there’s probably nothing to worry about. But the development of new and severe allergies may be an early warning sign that your immune system is malfunctioning(2).
5. Your Injuries Take Too Long To Heal
Have you noticed that when you cut yourself, it tends to get infected easily, and takes forever to scab over and heal? This could be because your immune system is compromised in some way. Usually the immune system is in charge of making sure our injuries heal up properly – but a compromised immune system can lead to significant delays in the healing process for even minor injuries(3).
How To Strengthen Your Immune System
You know to get plenty of vitamin C, but a healthy, balanced diet that can help fuel your immune system is so much more complex than just popping a couple vitamin C tablets each day.
Fresh fruits and vegetables which are rich in vitamins (like vitamin C) and minerals (like iron) are central to a healthy diet – as are foods that are rich in lean protein and low in excess sugar and trans fats. Also limit your consumption of alcohol – too much booze can have a negative impact on your immune system(4).
Get More Sleep.
If you’ve noticed any of the warning signs above, it’s important to talk to a doctor, but there are also steps you can take on your own to support your immune system and help it recover.
Making sure you get plenty of sleep is at the top of the list – resting up is essential for keeping your immune system strong. Insomnia and other sleep disturbances can seriously compromise your immune system(5).
Learn to Relax.
This also plays in to how you handle stress – another factor which can lead to your immune system not functioning the way it should. While a certain amount of moderate stress from time to time is good for the body, too much of it – either physical or psychological – can make you sick(6,7).
Keep it Clean.
Finally, take care of your body – wash your hands before eating and handling food, as well as after touching animals and after getting in from outdoors. Wash your food well before preparing it to eat. These are all basic steps we learn as children, but it’s easy to forget them as adults! And the consequences of forgetting can be serious.