With the pandemic still raging, a robust immune system has never been more important. Plus, the winter months are just ahead here in North America. How strong is your immune system? Here are 10 signs it may be struggling, along with strategies you can implement to stay healthy all season long.
How Strong Is Your Immune System / Red Flags To Be Aware Of
The immune system is a specialized group of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect against incoming invaders. Take precautions to fortify your immunity if you have any of the symptoms below:
1. You Catch Every Cold And Flu That Goes Around
Your immune system is struggling if you’re constantly sick. Or if you’re sick longer than a week – that’s about how long it takes a common virus to run its course. A healthy immune system’s function is to stop bacteria and viruses in their tracks before they take hold and cause an infection.
It’s normal to get a couple of infections a year, any more than that is an indication that your immune system needs some tender loving care. People with inhibited immune function are more apt to come down with secondary infections, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, sinusitis, ear infections and skin infections.
2. You’re Constantly Tired
It’s normal to feel tired after a long day. However, if you’re always dragging and fatigued, even after a full night’s rest, your immune system may not be up to snuff. Your body is sending an alert that it’s trying to converse energy in order to boost immune function. Hence, the constant exhaustion. Immune function and energy levels are directly correlated.
Oxygen and nutrients depend on good circulation to be delivered to the cells, tissues, and organs of the body. When this doesn’t happen, you’ll feel tired and sluggish. Energy production is dependent on both oxygen and nutrient-delivery.
3. Your Digestion Is Less Than Optimal
Bowel problems, such as diarrhea and constipation can be indicators of depressed immune function. Gut bacteria, within the gastrointestinal tract, closely corresponds with healthy digestion and immune function. In fact, the immune system is in constant interaction with the microbiome to keep the body in homeostasis, or balance.
A significant portion of the immune system resides in the gut, with bacteria in the intestines secreting huge quantities of protective antibodies. Unbalanced bacterial flora can shift immune function into an inflammatory state, resulting in intestinal permeability, or leaky gut.
4. Poor Circulation
Are your extremities, including your hands and feet, always cold? Poor circulation impacts blood flow, and can lead to reduced immune function because the cells and tissues of the body are not receiving adequate nourishment. Amino acids and minerals, which are carried in the blood, are necessary for the immune system to function as it should.
Faulty circulation impedes nutrients from getting to where they’re needed for repair and healing. An optimally functioning circulatory system is also imperative for proper brain function, memory recall, and concentration. The brain suffers when blow flow is impeded.
5. You Have An Autoimmune Disease
Autoimmune diseases are on the rise, with millions of people having some form of autoimmunity. Autoimmunity occurs when the immune system mistakenly targets the body’s own tissue as foreign, mounting an attack on it, which damages tissue. In such cases, the immune system can be either inhibited or overactive.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Celiac disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome, Addison’s disease, Grave’s disease, type 1 diabetes, scleroderma, and psoriasis are all diseases where the immune system attacks healthy tissue that it’s targeted as non-self.
There are over 80 diseases that are autoimmune in nature. It’s not uncommon for a person to have more than one autoimmune disease – for instance, Hashimoto’s and Celiac disease are often seen together. Autoimmunity reduces immune function, increasing the likelihood that infections can take hold. Autoimmune diseases are also associated with inflammation, which depresses immunity.
6. You’re Always Stressed
Have you ever noticed that stress makes you more susceptible to infections? This is because being stressed (particularly chronic stress) reduces the number and function of lymphocytes, white blood cells found in the bloodstream and lymphatic system.
When you’re stressed, you’re also anxious. Both stress and anxiety impact immune function via the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic branch is the flight or flight system that is activated during times of acute stress.
When stress becomes chronic, however, and the system is activated for long periods of time, hormonal changes can lower the body’s resistance to infection. For instance, high cortisol levels weaken the immune system by reducing white blood cell count and increasing inflammation.
Chronic stress also fosters the development and growth of tumors. It doesn’t help matters that in times of stress, people often resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as eating poorly, not exercising, not getting enough sleep, and drinking alcohol, all of which inhibit immunity.
7. Poor Wound Healing
The immune system plays a vital role in orchestrating the repair, regeneration, and healing of tissue.
Impairments in immune function, coupled with excessive immune reactions impede wound-healing.
Macrophages, immune molecules, are responsible for regulating and mediating the proliferate phase of the immune system, which is involved in healing.
This is in opposition to the inflammatory phase, which does the opposite. Changes in macrophage activity, specifically the switch from M1 macrophages to M2, correlate with reduced wound-healing.
8. Shortness Of Breath
Anemia, that is autoimmune in nature, can be the result of malfunctions in the immune system that produce auto-antibodies. These antibodies can then attack red blood cells, which carry life-giving oxygen throughout the body. When this process is impaired, it can lead to fatigue, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, and jaundice.
Our skin is the first line defense against foreign microorganisms. Abnormal symptoms that involve the skin may be an indication that immune function is compromised. Rashes, inflammatory skin disorders, and allergic reactions can all be the result of the immune system overreacting. Itching, red, scaly skin is a symptom of inflammation, a sign that the immune system is struggling.
Food sensitivities, reactions to medications, along with hypersensitivity reactions, can all cause rashes brought on by immune-system dysregulation. Autoimmune diseases involving the skin, including scleroderma, lupus, dermatomyositis, and vasculitis can also cause inflammatory skin rashes.
10. Lack Of Nutrition
Malnutrition, caused by poor nutrient-assimilation, depresses immune function, promotes inflammation, increasing the likelihood that infections. can take hold. Immune defects are seen in both over-nutrition and under-nutrition. Many times poorly-nourished children die of common infections that a healthy immune system would otherwise fight off.
Healthy intestinal function is dependent on a steady supply of nutrients. The structure and function of the gut are altered when this doesn’t happen. Inadequate nutrition also directly affects monocytes and memory T-cell function. Poor immunity, in turn, leads to malabsorption, decreased growth hormone production, and HPA-axis dysregulation, along with an increase in metabolic demand.
Ways To Boost Immune Function
There are things you can do on a daily basis to optimize the function of your immune system:
- Eat right for your metabolic type. The right mix of macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrate), and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) will keep your immune system balanced. It will also optimize the production of ATP, which corresponds to healthy energy levels.
- Exercise: Movement is necessary for detoxification, good circulation, and proper immune function, however, don’t over do it. Overexercising can dysregulate hormones and endocrine function. More is not better, in this regard.
- Get enough sleep: Rest when you feel like it. It’s not a crime to take a nap when you’re tired. Listen to the signals your body sends.
- Say “No” to things you don’t want to do to. Doing things that don’t resonate with your vision, your schedule, or your energy levels is a surefire way to compound your stress.
- Keep sugar to a minimum: It depresses immune function, and is hard on blood sugar and insulin levels. It’s also inflammatory.
- Practice self-care consistently: Do things that nourish your body, soul, and spirituality. Never underestimate the power of downtime.
- Surround yourself with people who support you and validate your feelings. Isolation and loneliness diminish immunity, whereas community, communication, laughter, and friendship fortify immune function.
- Support your liver: Good liver function is essential for maintaining a healthy weight, for balancing the endocrine system, and for strong immunity. And that’s just for starters. Healthy liver function is absolutely paramount for good immune function. Implementing detoxification strategies on a consistent basis is a foundational pillar of health that often gets neglected.
- Keep your weight within a healthy range : Excess body fat is inflammatory, which negatively impacts immune function.
- Don’t smoke: This goes without saying. Also, keep alcohol to a minimum. It imbalances blood sugar and wreaks havoc on the liver.
- Supplementation: Flood your body with nutrients that build it up and replenish what’s missing. Liposomal vitamin C, vitamin D, ozone, hydrogen water, and magnesium are a few of my favorites. Red light therapy is amazing for reducing inflammation and pain.
- Find ways to deal with stress: Stress affects the automatic nervous system, which in turn, directly affects immune function.
- Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands throughout the day, cover your mouth while coughing or sneezing, stay home when you’re sick, and disinfect household surfaces regularly.
Click the links below to learn more about my favorite immune-boosters.
The immune system is a primary component of good health. It’s by far your best defense against getting sick. Keeping it in tip-top shape is paramount if you want to enjoy great energy levels, sleep well, have good mental function, and not catch every virus that’s going around.
Be cognizant of how your immune system is functioning. If you have any of the symptoms above, it may be time for a system overhaul. Lifestyle strategies you implement on a daily basis make a huge difference in protecting yourself against infections and disease.
What are your favorite immune-boosting strategies? Let me know in the comments:)
(1) John Hopkins Medicine: Autoimmune Disease: Why Is My Immune System Attacking Itself?
(2) MedlinePlus: Autoimmune disorders
(3) Penn Medicine: 6 Signs You Have A Weakened Immune System
(4) MedicalNewsToday: How to stay healthy with a weak immune system
(5) WebMD: 16 Symptoms of Immune System Problems
(6) US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Introduction to immunology and autoimmunity
(7) Merck Manual Consumer Version: Introduction to Hypersensitivity and Inflammatory Skin Disorders
(8) John Hopkins Medicine: The Gut: Where Bacteria and Immune System Meet
(9) US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Immune Dysfunction as a Cause and Consequence of Malnutrition
(10) US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Immune Regulation of Skin Wound Healing: Mechanisms and Novel Therapeutic Targets
(11) US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: The Innate Immune System in Acute and Chronic Wounds
Disclaimer: “I am not a medical doctor, and therefore, cannot diagnose or treat any medical condition, nor do I claim in any way to cure disease. Please be diligent and always do your own research in regard to any material I present on this site. I claim no responsibility for any distress, whether it be physical or emotional, that may occur as a result of the information you obtain from my blog.”