Everyday Mistakes That Kill Your Immunity
- 4 mins read
- Health Conditions
- Written by: Dr. Pramod Mane
Common mistakes like not prioritizing self-care, eating processed foods, physical inactivity, not sleeping enough, and smoking and drinking can harm your immune function.
Every human body is gifted with a natural defense mechanism, commonly known as immunity. Our body takes care of itself through several different processes.
At the same time, it is our responsibility to provide adequate support in every possible way, for the body to perform its functions effectively and keep us healthy.
There are a number of ways to achieve a strong immune system. These include eating nutrient-rich food, exercising regularly, reducing stress, staying hydrated, etc. But did you know that there are certain daily lifestyle habits that may have a negative impact on your immunity? Yes, most of us may not realise these simple mistakes, but they do cost us our immunity and lead to a weakened immune system. This article will help you identify some of these and explain why it necessary to avoid them.
Here are five common mistakes you can avoid, to improve your immunity:
1. You do not prioritise self-care!
Self-care is anything you do for yourself to maintain your physical and mental well-being. Unfortunately, majority of us fail to understand the essence of self-care.
Stress is one of the most common consequences of lack of self-care. Several studies have shown that stress directly impacts the immune system. During stress, your body produces certain hormones which may lower the number of white blood cells (immune cells). As a result of this process, your body struggles to fight off infections due to compromised immune system.
Self-care may include eating healthy, staying physically fit, keeping a check on your mental health, balancing your professional and person life, etc. After all, you know your body the best, so give it the care it needs.
2. You are a couch potato…
The WHO identified sedentary lifestyles and physical inactivity as one of the leading causes of deaths and many diseases. Prolonged inactivity of the body may lead to production of fewer immune cells, thus resulting in low immunity, and the body’s ability to protect you from infections and diseases.
A sedentary lifestyle not only impacts your physical health but also takes a toll on your mental health. Staying physically active increases your energy, helps in proper absorption of the nutrients you take, improves your body metabolism and increases the production of immune cells and antibodies against infections.
Even with busy lifestyles you can avoid sedentary behaviours with simple tips like taking a walk to work, standing up and stretching during your breaks, spending sometime in house-chores, setting reminders to take walks around your workplace, taking the stairs, playing outdoor sports, etc.
3. You prefer processed and junk food.
Why are processed and junk foods bad for health? Because these foods are:
- High in trans and saturated fats (bad cholesterol)
- Loaded with sugar and salt
- Loaded with chemical preservatives
- High in chemical flavour enhancers
- High in calories
- Low in nutrients
Prolonged consumption of these foods can increase the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels that clog the blood vessels and get deposited in the liver, interfering with its function. These poor dietary choices along with a sedentary lifestyle can result in a suboptimal functioning of the body systems, including the immune system.
Maintaining a balance of your gut bacteria is one of the most effective ways of improving your immunity. This balance can get disrupted when you regularly eat processed and junk foods.
There is nothing better than eating freshly cooked, home-made food. Adding foods which facilitate the growth of good bacteria in the gut can be beneficial. Yogurt is one such example. You may include citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, gooseberries, vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and spices such as turmeric, ginger, garlic, etc. All of these fresh foods serve as excellent immune boosters and also add a touch of tasty flavours in your food.
4. You are a night owl!
Your body needs enough rest just like how it needs enough energy to function properly. The most effective form is getting the right amount of sleep. Your sleep cycle has a strong influence on your immunity.
Studies showed that a normal sleep cycle increases the production of immune cells such as cytokines and T-cells which help to protect the body against infections. The activation of immune cells is maximum during sleep periods. Sleep deprivation or not getting the recommended amount of sleep (6-8 hours), can make your body become weak and its capacity to produce immune cells decreases.
You can try and have a fixed sleeping time, reduce afternoon naps, avoid distractions and have a calm mind before you go to bed to ensure you get a good amount of sleep and prevent any effects of sleep deprivation.
5. You are a habitual alcoholic and smoker!
Drinking and smoking are well known factors for harmful effects on the body. Alcohol destroys protective mechanisms in the body by damaging immune cells. It also causes various nutrient deficiencies and an imbalance in the gut bacteria, which are important factors for the immune system.
Smoking or any forms of tobacco involves a component called nicotine which suppresses immunity. Smoking increases stress on the body to eliminate chemicals produced by tobacco. Thus, it makes the body weaker and its ability to remove toxins and fight infections is impaired.
The best way out is to avoid consumption of alcohol and smoking by all means.
These are some important factors that you could keep in your mind and act accordingly to avoid causing immune deficiencies. You need your body and your body needs you too. So, try to inculcate healthy habits, make simple changes and you will see the results.
1. Segerstrom S, Miller G. Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry. 2006; J APA; Psycholl Bull; 130(4): 601–630. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/
2. Morey J, Boggero I, Scott A, Segerstrom S. Current directions in stress and human immune function. 2015; Curr Opin Psychol;1;5: 13–17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4465119/
3. Myles I. Fast food fever: reviewing the impacts of the Western diet on immunity. 2014; Nutr J;13:61.
4. Besedovsky L, Lange T, Born J. Sleep and immune function.2012; Pflugers Arch; 463(1): 121–137. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3256323/
5. Dipak S, Katherine J, Joe W. Alcohol and the Immune system.2015; J Alcohol Research; 37(2): 153–155.
6. Qiu F, Liang C, Liu H et al. Impacts of cigarette smoking on immune responsiveness: Up and down or upside down? 2017; J Oncotarget; 8(1): 268–284. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5352117/
7. World Health Organisation; 2002; Physical inactivity a leading cause of disease and disability, warns WHO; Dep News; WHO https://www.who.int/news/item/04-04-2002-physical-inactivity-a-leading-cause-of-disease-and-disability-warns-who