The immune system is your body’s number one defense mechanism. In fact, your immune system and your health are directly related.
The stronger your immune system is, the more protection you will have against colds, viruses and other illnesses that could attack your body.
On the other hand, a weak immunity can make you more vulnerable to frequent colds, sinus infections, recurring infections and slow wound healing, as well as causing anemia, fatigue and lethargy.
This is why health experts strongly advise making choices that promote a strong immune system.
Your diet and regular exercise play a key role in how well your immune system functions. But you may be surprised to learn that many common daily habits actually harm your immune system.
In fact, most of your daily habits directly impact your immune system, especially as you age. To keep your immune system strong, it’s important to adopt healthy habits and quit the bad ones.
Here are the 10 daily habits that harm your immune system.
1. Being a Night Owl
If you work nights or like watching television or doing projects late into the night, you may have a weak immunity.
Poor sleep habits lower the immune system’s functioning and reduce your level of killer cells that fight germs.
Sleep deprivation also reduces the production of protective cytokines. While you sleep, your immune system releases different types of cytokines that help protect your body against infections and diseases.
In a 2017 study published in Sleep, researchers took blood samples from 11 pairs of identical twins with different sleep patterns and found that the twin with shorter sleep duration had a depressed immune system compared with his or her sibling.
Avoid scrimping on sleep. Be sure to get 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep daily.
2. Neglecting Personal Hygiene
When it comes to a good immune system, proper hygiene is a must. If you neglect your personal hygiene, your immune system will surely suffer.
Unhygienic habits increase the risk of being exposed to harmful germs, which in turn makes you susceptible to more infections and diseases.
Practice good hygiene by brushing your teeth twice daily, washing your hands before eating and after using the bathroom, keeping your nails clean, taking a shower daily, cooking food in a hygienic manner, wearing clean clothes and more. It can go a long way in boosting your immunity.
Avoid using other people’s belongings, as germs and viruses can be transmitted by sharing things that are for personal use only.
3. Using Public Objects
You may try your best to keep your home clean and hygienic. But what happens when you go out?
Some of the dirtiest public places and items are restaurant menus, condiment dispensers, restroom door handles, soap dispensers, grocery carts, communal pens like at the bank, airplane bathrooms and so on. They can all be intermediaries, transmitting viruses and bacteria from person to person.
Avoid touching public objects to cut your risk of picking up easily spread cold and flu germs. Carry your own pen, paper, tissue papers, water bottle and other important things when you go out.
Also, disinfect your hands when you leave a public space.
4. Overdosing on Sugar
If you often eat or drink something sweet to satisfy your sweet tooth, you can suffer from a weak immunity.
Refined sugar can reduce the ability of the white blood cells to kill germs. Sugar prevents vitamin C from getting into the white blood cells, resulting in weakened immunity.
Interestingly, the immune-suppressing effect of sugar starts within 30 minutes after ingestion and may last for hours.
If you need to eat something sweet, opt for fruits like oranges, apples, mangos, kiwis, watermelon, strawberries and others that contain natural sugars to satisfy your craving. The vitamin C in these fruits also will help your immune system work properly.
5. Forgetting to Drink Water
When you are busy working, you may be like many people who forget to drink water.
The human body is mostly made of water, and if you don’t drink enough to replenish what your body needs, it will surely affect your immune system. Proper hydration is essential for a strong immunity.
In a 2013 animal study published in Frontiers in Zoology, researchers concluded that depending on the life history of an organism, osmotic state may have a greater influence on immune function than energy availability.
A healthy person should drink about 8 to 10 glasses of water daily. However, the amount of water you need to drink may depend upon the climate in which you live, how physically active you are, and your overall health.
6. Drinking Alcoholic Beverages Daily
If you like to have a few drinks at the end of each day, it’s a habit that is harming your immune system.
Drinking too much alcohol actually weakens or kills some of the antibody cells needed to destroy virus-infected cells. Excess alcohol consumption also impedes the production of white and red blood cells, which weakens your immune system over time.
Alcoholic drinks have a lot of negative health effects, since alcohol inhibits your body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients, which can lead to deficiencies.
In a 2015 study published in Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, researchers found that alcohol disrupts immune pathways in complex and seemingly paradoxical ways. These disruptions can impair the body’s ability to defend against infection, contribute to organ damage associated with alcohol consumption, and impede recovery from a tissue injury.
If you need to drink, do it in moderation and keep track of the number of drinks consumed.
7. Being around Secondhand Smoke
Everyone knows that smoking is injurious to health, but exposure to secondhand smoke is also bad for your health and immune system.
Secondhand smoke is highly toxic and can wreak havoc on your immunity by suppressing immune cells. The toxins that you inhale when exposed to secondhand smoke alters the number of various immune cells and impairs the functioning of others.
Exposure to secondhand smoke can make you more prone to respiratory infections, asthma, allergies and even lung cancer.
You must try to avoid secondhand smoke as much as you can. Avoid spending time with people who smoke. Avoid public places that permit smoking, and stay at smoke-free hotels when traveling to avoid residual smoke from previous patrons.
Encourage anyone in your everyday life to quit smoking.
8. Eating Junk Food
Junk food tastes good and is readily available. But eating junk food in excess can be bad for your immunity.
Junk food is often high in fat and eating excess fat is one of the key reasons behind obesity. A diet high in saturated fat can harm the immune system even before the weight gain begins to show.
Saturated fats trigger the immune system to start attacking healthy cells.
Moreover, obesity can affect the ability of white blood cells to multiply and produce antibodies, thus making you more prone to infections.
A 2014 study published in Nutrition Journal reports that the Western diet, characterized by an overconsumption and reduced variety of refined sugars, salt and saturated fat, has a negative impact on immunity. It can lead to increased inflammation, reduced control of infections, increased rates of cancer, and increased risk for allergic and auto-inflammatory diseases.
9. Consuming Too Much Caffeine
Drinking too much coffee and other caffeinated beverages is also not good for your immunity. Excessive caffeine stimulates your nervous system by increasing the stress level in the body. A high stress level causes the release of stress hormones like cortisol.
Cortisol is known to suppress the immune system, and make you more prone to infections and other health problems. Elevated cortisol is also linked to health issues related to the heart, blood sugar and high cholesterol.
When taken in moderation, coffee provides many benefits. So, limit yourself to just 1 to 2 cups of coffee a day.
10. Not Using Sunscreen
A little bit of sun exposure helps your body produce vitamin D, which in turn strengthens your immunity. But when you spend a long time out in the sun without sunscreen protection, you are harming your immune system.
In fact, unprotected sun exposure can aggravate annoying problems like herpes or yeast infections. This happens as ultraviolet light causes immunological changes in the body. It can even damage or kill certain cells near the skin’s surface, which are the first line of defense against infectious agents and chemical toxins.
So, whenever you need to go out in the sun, always wear a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Do not forget the sunscreen even during the rainy or winter months.
Other things that may harm your immune system include:
- Avoiding people or human connections can also affect your immunity.
- Being a pessimist can result in more stress-related damage to the immune system.
- Bottling up your emotions can also weaken your immunity.
- Chronic stress can significantly reduce your immune system functioning.
- People who are too serious can also have a weakened immune system.
- If you lead an inactive lifestyle, your immunity may suffer.
- Taking antibiotics at the first sign of a sniffle can make you resistant to the drugs and suppress your immune system.
- Living in a highly polluted area can leave your immune system in a vulnerable state.
- Traveling frequently exposes you to germs and bacteria not normally found in your home environment, which can affect your immune system functioning.