Age, lifestyle, nutrition, and genetics affect your immune response, which varies throughout your life.
While you cannot change your age or genetics, you can make nutritional and lifestyle changes to bolster your immune system. If you have signs of weakened immunity, a doctor can do blood tests to see if you’re lacking infection-fighting proteins or having other issues like autoimmune disorders.
Is your immune system struggling to keep you well? Read on to find out.
Signs of a Struggling Immune System
You catch colds all the time (more than 2-3 a year) – It’s normal to catch a couple colds a year and have them last up to 10 days. But if you seem to always have a cold or it never goes away, that’s a sign of a weakened immune system.
You have a lot of stomach and digestion problems – Constipation, diarrhea, and frequent gas can indicate that you’re lacking the good gut bacteria needed to fight infection. Between 70-80% of our immune cells are in the gut – an estimated 100 trillion microbial cells! The gut microbiota impacts many biological processes including digestion, mood, memory, concentration, and cognitive function.
You’re super stressed all the time – Stress affects all your body’s systems including your cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, nervous, musculoskeletal, and reproductive systems. Research shows that both acute stress like an argument or narrowly avoiding a car wreck, and chronic stress like worrying about a situation for months, can trigger stress hormones. Acute stress might cause heart racing, muscle tensing, fast breathing, or digestive distress.
Chronic stress like feeling overwhelmed for a long time can wreak havoc on your body’s systems and cause serious problems as stress hormones continually flood the body. Ongoing stress can interfere with immune function and drastically elevate risks of heart attack and stroke.
Your wounds heal slowly, or your skin is itchy and inflamed – While a majority of our immune cells live in the gut, many also live on the skin and in mucous membranes. When you get a cut or burn, your immune system sends white blood cells to heal you and fight infection. If a wound doesn’t close, scab, or look better after a few weeks, a weakened immune system may be to blame. Eczema and fungal infections may also be signs of overactive or compromised immunity.
You get frequent infections that require antibiotics – Frequent ear infections, chronic bacterial sinusitis, recurrent pneumonia (more than one bout in a year), or needing antibiotics more than twice in a year can all indicate your (or your child’s) immune system isn’t working properly.
You’re tired all the time – Healing from a sickness, running a fever, and fighting infections all take energy and calories from your body. Chronic sickness or stress can leave you feeling tired and sluggish even if you’re getting enough sleep (7-9 hours a night for adults). If you feel like you don’t have any energy, it may be zapped because your immune system is struggling. Plus, studies show that lack of sleep weakens the immune system, causing you to be sick more often and longer.If you’re noticing any of these signs in yourself or a loved one, evaluate your diet, lifestyle, stress levels, sleep patterns, and medications. Be honest when you see your health care provider so they can help you strengthen your body’s natural defenses. You deserve to be well!