We all know about the things we can do to help avoid catching a cold or getting the flu. But just as there are things we should do to bolster our immune systems, there are things we do that diminish the ability of our immune systems to protect us.
We protect ourselves against viruses and germs that can lead to cold, flu and infection by doing the common sense things; we wash our hands, eat healthily, get our vaccinations and make sure we get the right amount of sleep. But just as there are good things we routinely do to stay healthy, there are many bad habits we hold-on to that compromise our immune systems.
How we spend our free time, how we manage our stress levels, whether we drink alcohol in excess, how much exercise we get, even the air we breathe, all of these things and more can serve to compromise or weaken our immune systems.
Stress is a critical factor when considering how efficiently our immune systems work. John Spangler, MD, a professor of family and community medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina, explains that when we are stressed our bodies produce more cortisol, which negatively affects the immune system.
Another factor that affects the performance of our immune systems is loneliness. A study published in the Journal of Neuroimmunology determined that rats that experienced increased anxiety associated with loneliness had greater instances of suppression of the immune system and more oxidative stress, or damage caused by free radicals.
A January 2012 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that over time, too much sitting and avoidance of exercise – a sedentary lifestyle – can affect your body’s ability to fight infection. In fact, the research pointed to a connection between a sedentary lifestyle and an increased risk of premature death.
Additionally, the habits are also debilitating to our immune systems:
- Too much exercise
- The consumption of nicotine
- Too much exposure to UV rays
- A poor diet
- The excessive use of alcohol
- The sudden onset of grief
Eliminating or decreasing these habits in our lives is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system. The bottom line is this. If we take care of our immune systems, they are better equipped to protect us when we need the protection.
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