What have you done for your immune system today?
Feeling run down and lethargic? It might be time to check in with your immune system. For those who are not on immunosuppressive medication, there can be many contributing factors to why you might be in a weakened state. Below, I’ll break down what’s keeping you down and ways you can build yourself back up.
Four signs your immune system might be weak
It’s important to understand that germs live everywhere—cold germs, staph, so many of them. They’re on doorknobs, refrigerator handles, TV remotes, and indeed anywhere you could touch. Your body encounters many of these germs daily. Your body also requires itself to be at a specific level of health, so it doesn’t fall victim to every germ it encounters. That said, if you become susceptible too often, it might be worth looking at different possible contributing factors:
- You're stressed. Stress can be a real doozy for your immune system. According to Penn Medicine, this is because stress decreases the number of white blood cells in your body, which are responsible for fighting off infection.
- Your stomach is acting up. Most of your immune system lives in your gut, so if you're experiencing frequent cramping or stomach discomfort, this could explain why.
- You're always sick. File this under obvious, but if you always have a cold/sinus infection/ear infection/bronchitis, your body is speaking to you. So, listen up!
- You're exhausted. The body does much of its healing and repair while unconscious. Go figure; it's trying to get you to sleep more.
While we aren’t immuno-experts, we have discovered ways to give your system a little extra boost possibly. These days, when a cold immediately spins you into a COVID-panic, it’s worth taking every step to staying healthy.
How to help your immune system
As always, your habits inform your health in so many ways. Working a high-stress job while caring for two kids under age five and getting four hours of sleep a night? Well, of course, your body is pissed! When you experience the aforementioned symptoms, your body is trying to give you a message. It’s evolutionary, and it’s saying, “Hey, pay attention to me!” Below, I'm sharing six ways you can give your immune system some love when it’s crying out for help.
1. Get vaxxed
We can’t stress this one enough. Some germs and viruses (hello, COVID!) are too much for your body to handle. Getting a vaccine is the smartest way to make sure you stay healthy.
2. Wash your hands
Remember all those people telling you to sing “Happy Birthday” twice while washing your hands? That’s because 20-seconds of warm hand washing does the trick. (Fun fact: According to the CDC, one in four Americans don’t wash up when they should.)
3. Quit smoking
And vaping, too, while you’re at it! Take it from Harvard, which says smoking can lead to an increase in respiratory tract infections.
4. Eat your fruits and veggies
Or take a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement—not megadoses of Vitamin C—to help your body. It’s about consistency, not quantity.
5. Get good sleep
Regular, consistent sleep is essential. Stay on schedule and keep off the booze for deeper, better sleep. I've got tips here.
6. Move your body
Exercise is a wonderful and natural way to burn off extra stress and anxiety. It also improves your cardiovascular health overall. Whether you’re unwinding with yoga or getting pumped with spin, your immune system will thank you.
Blair Smith is a lifestyle and beauty writer who currently resides (and will likely stay forever) in Brooklyn, New York.