Suzanne Norman

Enlightened Living Articles

Protect And Defend

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Everyday habits can have a negative effect on your immunity

Your lifestyle can affect how well your immune system can protect you from germs, viruses, and chronic illness.  Replacing bad health habits with good ones can help keep your immune system healthy.

It should come as no surprise that washing your hands often, getting enough sleep, and eating a healthy diet are effective ways of protecting yourself against viruses and other germs. What you may not realize is that other factors in your life could be compromising your body’s ability to protect itself.

How you spend your free time, your level of stress, how often you drink, how much physical activity you get, and even the air you breathe can take a toll on your immune system.


Everyone has some stress; it's part of life, but If stress drags on for a long time, it makes you more vulnerable to illness.

Chronic stress exposes your body to a steady stream of stress hormones that suppress the immune system.  You may not be able to get rid of your stress, but you can get better at managing it.  Stress makes the brain boost the production of the hormone cortisol, which impairs the function of infection-fighting T cells.

The top stress busters?  Yoga, meditation, exercise, meaningful connections.   


Feeling lonely could impair your immune system, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroimmunology in December 2014. The research, done on rats, found that increased anxiety associated with loneliness leads to greater suppression of the immune system and more oxidative stress, or damage caused by free radicals.   Having strong relationships and a good social network is good for you.  People who feel connected to friends - whether it’s a few close friends or a large group - have stronger immunity than those who feel alone, studies show.  In one study, lonely freshmen had a weaker immune response to a flu vaccine than those who felt connected to others.  

Research published in Psychological Science in February 2015 suggests that simply hugging someone can have a stress-buffering effect and reduce susceptibility to illness.

Sedentary Lifestyle

Over time, too much sitting and avoiding exercise can affect your body’s ability to fight infection, according to a January 2012 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Regardless of age, gender, and other harmful habits like smoking and drinking, a sedentary lifestyle is tied to an increased risk for premature death. Eventually, inactivity can lead to an impaired immune system, inflammation, and other chronic diseases.  Exercise can boost your body's feel-good chemicals and help you sleep better. 


You may have noticed you’re more likely to catch a cold or other infection when you’re not getting enough sleep. Studies help bear out that well-rested people who received the flu vaccine developed stronger protection against the illness.  Not getting enough sleep can lead to higher levels of a stress hormone. It may also lead to more inflammation in your body.


Eating or drinking too much sugar curbs immune system cells that attack bacteria. This effect lasts for at least a few hours after downing a couple of sugary drinks.   A diet high in saturated fat impairs the immune system, and salt and sugar might also have negative effects, according to a review published in Nutrition Journal. Obesity affects the immune system by reducing the number and function of white blood cells needed to fight infection, according to a review in Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics stresses that good nutrition is essential for a healthy immune system.
Eat more fruits and vegetables, which are rich in nutrients like vitamins C and E, plus beta-carotene and zinc. Go for a wide variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, including berries, citrus fruits, kiwi, apples, red grapes, kale, onions, spinach, sweet potatoes, and carrots.  Other foods particularly good for your immune system include fresh garlic, which may help fight viruses and bacteria, and old-fashioned chicken soup.  Some mushroom varieties -- such as shiitake -- may also help your immune system.


Alcohol & Nicotine

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.

Whether you’re smoking traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes, you’re still being exposed to nicotine, which can have harmful effects on your immune system. Nicotine increases cortisol levels while reducing B cell antibody formation and T cells’ response to antigens. Researchers cautioned that e-cigarettes are unsafe because their vapor contains free radicals that can cause airway inflammation and impaired responses to bacteria and viruses.

This one may surprise you....

Too Much Exercise

Being a couch potato impairs your immune system, but the opposite extreme can also take a toll. Too much strenuous exercise, called overtraining syndrome, can be debilitating for the body and make it more vulnerable to infection, according to December 2012 in Acta Clinica Croatica. But a 2014 study suggests that regular, moderate physical activity can make you less susceptible to viruses.


A sudden or tragic event can weaken your body’s immune response, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.  Losing a loved one, for example, can boost the production of nerve chemicals and hormones that increase your risk for more frequent and severe viral infections.  Bereavement is associated with increased cortisol response and immune imbalance, according to a June 2012 review published in Dialogues in Clinical NeuroSciences. Certain vaccines, including the flu shot, may be less effective for those coping with profound loss, according to the NIMH.


Laughing is good for you. It curbs the levels of stress hormones in your body and boosts a type of white blood cell that fights infection.


So in summary, Laugh a lot, get just the right amount of exercise (I would add - do it outdoors for a healthy dose of vitamin D),  limit or avoid alcohol and nicotine, get good sleep, adopt a healthy diet, connect with people, and reduce stress.    

At Enlightened Living, we can offer you all of that!!  Stay healthy and happy







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