The immune system is the body’s natural defence system. A combination of organs, lymph nodes, white blood cells, and antibodies, the immune system protects us against dangerous pathogens and environmental risks.
The stronger a person’s immune system, the higher their natural resistance to foreign invaders. As such, people with weak immune systems are at a higher risk of frequent diseases and infections.
Below are signs and potential indicators of a weakened immune system.
Frequent Colds and Infections
According to the CDC, it is normal for adults to catch two to three colds a year and typically takes seven to ten days to recover from one. Bacteria and viruses are often responsible for the colds and coughs we get. When the body catches one, it upscales the production of white blood cells to combat the responsible microbes.
However, if you catch colds more often over the year or they persist for weeks, it may mean your immune system is struggling to meet up with the increased demand for white blood cells.
Aside from colds, you will be more susceptible to infections if you have a weak immune system. Moreover, the conditions may have more severe symptoms and be harder to manage. These infections include pneumonia, bronchitis, meningitis, ear infections, skin infections, sinusitis, etc.
Consistently High Stress Levels
Stress is inevitable in the body. In fact, acute stress can benefit the immune system in the short term. However, chronic stress can mean a weakened immune system. Per studies, the stress hormone cortisol can suppress the immune system’s effectiveness by lowering the number of lymphocytes.
Of course, there would be days where you feel your stress levels are high, possibly after intense physical and mental work during the day. That, in itself, does not mean your immune system is weak.
However, your immune system may be vulnerable if you are consistently stressed.
Slow Wound Healing
The immune system is critical in healing wounds and preventing microbial infection. There are four sequential phases of wound healing: hemostasis, inflammation, proliferation, and remodelling. All of these phases depend on immune system components and processes.
If your wounds take longer than usual to heal, it may result from your weakened immune system. Not all scars are the same, so there is no fixed healing time. Nonetheless, you should expect a wound to heal between 4 and 24 days.
It is perfectly normal to feel tired after a long day. But your immune system may be compromised if you constantly tire with muscle and joint pain. Here’s why.
The body is highly efficient in managing energy levels. If your immune system is weak, the body reserves a lot of energy to fight foreign invaders. Consequently, the available energy for regular use may reduce, causing tiredness.
There are tons of microorganisms in the digestive system. Many of these microorganisms support the immune system by sending necessary signals to white blood cells. Also, they prevent the growth of dangerous microbes. Furthermore, research has shown that alterations in gut microbial communities can cause a dysregulation of the immune system.
Therefore, frequent digestive problems, like appetite loss, diarrhea, and stomach upsets, can indicate a weakened immune system.
How to Boost Your Immune System
The immune system can be weak for diverse reasons. Fortunately, there are ways you can strengthen it, and we have outlined some of them below.
Your diet should be healthful and balanced if you have a weak immune system. That corresponds to a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes, and lean protein. Additionally, replace bad fats (industrial-made trans fat) with good (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) fats.
Many people turn to supplements for the nutrients they need to maintain a balanced diet. However, Brian Greenberg, founder of Insurist suggested that getting necessary nutrients from food is better than getting the same nutrients from supplements. Notwithstanding, some health coaches and dieticians may advise you to incorporate certain supplements into your diet plan.
Moreover, you should consider adding probiotics to your diet. Probiotics have an abundance of healthy gut bacteria, supporting the immune system. You can get probiotics in yoghurts and other fermented foods.
Moderate and regular exercise can improve your immune system in several ways. For starters, moderate exercise can help many people de-stress and help regenerate their immune cells.
A word of caution, though. Vigorous exercise can do more harm than good, increasing stress levels and suppressing the immune system. You can aim for moderate exercise for three hours a week, like jogging, brisk walking, biking, and swimming.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep plays an essential role in the body’s immunological processes. Studies have found that lack of sleep and stress have similar effects on the body’s immune response. Inadequate sleep alters white blood cell production in the body. In addition, deep sleep is the immune system’s best time for attacking pathogens in the body, suggested Martin Seeley from MattressNextDay.
What then qualifies as adequate sleep? For adults, seven to eight hours a day is enough. Adolescents need to sleep more – around eight to ten hours. Younger children need even more sleep than adolescents, Martin added.
Michael Dadashi from InfiniteRecovery suggested that Chronic stress is implicated in a suppressed, weakened immune system. Therefore, it only makes sense that stress management can help strengthen the immune system.
According to Michael, Different stress management techniques include meditation, yoga, prayer, breathing exercises, and even moderate exercise. Because we are all different, what works for us may not work for you. As a result, you need to be deliberate about finding the best ways you can minimize stress. This may even mean working fewer hours during the day.
The immune system has many components, including lymph, which helps circulate immune cells around the body. The lymph is 96% water. This implies that dehydration can affect the movement of lymph in the body, justifying adequate hydration for boosting the immune system.
One misconception many buy into is dehydration only occurs when you sweat or have digestive illnesses, like diarrhea. That’s untrue. You can lose water in normal body processes, like breathing, urination, and defecation. To combat this, ensure you never go extended periods thirsty.
Get Necessary Vaccines
There are different ways of building your immune system. All of what we have explored here are natural, but you can also artificially boost your immune system through vaccines, says Ryan Hetrick from Epiphanywellness.
In contrast to what many think today, vaccines hugely help the body’s immune system. There aren’t vaccines for all infections yet, but ensure you take available and necessary ones for you. Your doctor will advise you more on this.
A weak immune system leaves the body vulnerable to various infections and diseases. There are different ways you can identify a weak immune system. They include frequent infections, consistently high stress levels, delayed wound healing, constant fatigue, and digestive problems.
You can boost your immune system by making necessary dietary and lifestyle changes. However, ensure you speak to your health coach or doctor before making drastic changes to your diet or if you are on medications.