Immunity is on the minds of all of us these days, for all the reasons. If you’re looking to give your immune system a bit of a boost — in addition to getting your vaccine and following all of the current CDC guidelines — read on for a guest article from Laura May, digital editor at Just Another Magazine, about five things you might be doing that’s actually making your immune system weaker.
5 Things That Are Making Your Immune System Weaker
By Laura May, digital editor at Just Another Magazine.
Cultivating a strong immune system is a smart objective, and the events of the COVID-19 pandemic have provided a sharp reminder of why you should make it a priority. The lower your body’s defenses are, the more easily you can have your life derailed by whatever ailment happens to be going around — and while COVID-19 has done an immense amount of damage, we’ve always been surrounded by diseases that have the potential to hit us hard.
Unfortunately, at a time when it’s more important than ever to be capable of fighting off infections, many of us have weaker immune systems than our ancestors. There’s no need to panic, though, because your immune system isn’t set in stone: if you address the issues that are making it weaker, you can shore up your guard and be ready for whatever may attack you.
In this post, we’re going to look at five things that are negatively affecting your immune system. If you can take suitable action, you can give yourself a boost. Let’s get to them:
1. Everyday Stress
Stress is something we all have to deal with, but to varying degrees. Light stress is fine: it challenges you to excel, keeping you motivated. But heavy stress, or stress that you go through on an everyday basis, is a different prospect altogether. That kind of stress can cause no end of problems, disrupting your bodily systems and leaving you struggling to get anything done.
If you can address the things that are causing your stress, do so. If you can’t, though, you’ll need to figure out ways to change how they make you feel. Learning to let go of what you can’t control isn’t easy (there are few things harder, in truth), but it can be done if you commit to the process and stay open-minded about things like introspection and meditation. Therapy is also awesome for this!
2. Insufficient Nutrition
During tough times, it’s easy to fall into bad less-than-nutritious habits, whether you’re regularly grabbing fast-food after a long workday or overindulging on alcohol at the weekend — those habits can impact your immune system. Try to work more fruits and vegetables that you like into your regular meal rotation. Nothing extreme: just do whatever you can manage. (Remember, all good things in moderation!)
And if for whatever reason you can’t get everything you need through your eats, consider supplements. You may largely have heard about vitamins and supplements for immune support in the context of providing supplements for school children (getting them to eat sensibly is often a major challenge), but they’re useful for adults as well. Even the occasional multivitamin will help, though you may want to see a nutritionist to find out if you have any clear deficiencies that need to be addressed.
3. Excessive Cleanliness
Due to the pressing need to keep COVID-19 at bay, we’ve all become accustomed to washing our hands very frequently (particularly when we’ve been in stores), so it might seem odd — and even dangerous — to consider dialing back your personal hygiene. But allow me to explain why it’s something you should take seriously (and, yes, you SHOULD wash your hands often). Our immune systems develop through exposure to the world around us: by fighting off numerous low-level threats, they become more well-rounded.
When you start making a concerted effort to avoid anything muddy or dirty, you prevent your immune system from getting the experiences it needs to develop. Then, when something big comes along, you struggle to fight it off. So what should you do? Well, let’s be clear: washing your hands is never the problem. You should wash your hands regularly. The problem also isn’t showering or bathing too often (though that isn’t great for your skin).
No, the problem is a lack of exposure to environments that aren’t mostly sterile (it’s particularly a problem for children these days). In other words, not getting muddy and dirty in parks and fields, or even developing germaphobic tendencies. So if you’re spending too much time indoors, find the time to get out, enjoy some exercise, and trudge through some mud (before washing off when you’re done). It’ll be a big help.
4. Poor Hydration
We need water. We are water to a great extent: over half of you is water, believe it or not. So if you’re not staying hydrated, that’s obviously going to have significant repercussions, affecting your health in general and reducing the efficacy of your immune system. Thankfully, and for clear reasons, this is the easiest problem to address.
Simply start drinking more water. Don’t pay any attention to trite assertions that there’s a certain number of cups of water you should drink every day, though. The amount you should drink on a given day will depend on what you’re doing and how you’re exerting yourself. If you feel thirsty, drink some water. Every time you eat, have some water.
5. Inadequate Sleep
It can be very tempting to burn the candle at both ends, and it’s unfortunately associated with success. How many stories have been told of how great entrepreneurs made their fortunes through working 120-hour weeks? But let’s not conflate success with health, because that kind of schedule is tremendously damaging both physically and mentally. And when the human body is pushed to its limits, the immune system suffers.
Now, you can’t guarantee eight solid hours of sleep every night, even with sleep medication. That just isn’t how things work. But you can improve your chances of sleeping well by doing things like getting light exercise in the evening, installing blackout blinds, and keeping the use of electronic devices to a minimum in the hour before you go to bed. The better you sleep, the better you’ll feel, and the more easily you’ll fight off infections.
What are some of the ways you’re boosting your immunity these days? —Laura May
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