Digestion issues, chronic fatigue, constant infections, slowly healing wounds … If these problems sound at least a little bit familiar to you, it’s possible that your immune system isn’t working in the highest gear. While there might be several complex health reasons as to why your body’s defence mechanism is underperforming, it’s also possible that you can turn the tide by simply changing some of your habits. As we live in times when our bodies need the best protection they can get, it pays to learn about and then deal with weak immune system causes before it’s too late. Ready to change your lifestyle for the better? Let’s roll.
Why is my immune system weak?
If you’re familiar with our article Top 5 natural ways to boost your immune system, you already know how your body deals with various outside threats. But for all those who need a recap – the immune system comprises various organs and tissues tasked with detecting and neutralising substances that can harm our body. One of its key players are white blood cells, constantly circulating through our bloodstream and looking for dangerous invaders to protect us from their harmful effects.
Normally, white are able to protect the organism without issues. However, there are certain illnesses that can affect their efficiency. Among them are chronic conditions, such as diabetes or cancer, autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, and infectious diseases such as HIV.
While some people are already born with a weak immune system, others acquire the so-called immune deficiency due to diseases or even medication they are required to take. Among them are chemotherapy medications and corticosteroids, which are prescribed to patients with inflammations.
As we’ve already explained several times on this blog, boosting one’s immunity is a misleading concept. Causing our immune system to work in overdrive would only lead to inflammation or autoimmune disease, which means that your body would actually attack its healthy tissues. What is more, scientists agree that there is no evidence that one can actually make its immune system work better. However, it’s possible to give our natural defences the best possible support to do their best job. And just like we can give our immunity some help, we can also put some obstacles in its way.
There are several weak immune system causes, but before we tackle those, let’s take a closer look at what having low immunity even looks like …
Low immune system signs
So, how do you even know that it’s time to take a closer look at what makes you have a weak immune system? Well, some signs are pretty obvious. Just think about a common cold. While it’s perfectly normal for healthy adults to be under the weather a few times a year, constantly catching colds is a signal that something is awry.
Besides the coughing, a runny nose and fever, people with a weak immune system also often suffer from digestion issues. They might often feel constipated or even have to deal with frequent diarrhea.
This is no coincidence as researchers will tell you that approximately 70 % of your immune system is actually located right in your gastrointestinal tract. Yes, this is the place where the good bacteria as well as microorganisms that support your immunity reside. And if their amount is low, your organism will also find it harder to protect itself from viruses, chronic inflammation or autoimmune disorders.
Slow healing wounds are the third major sign or a sluggish immune system. Don’t get us wrong, we understand that a broken heart needs time to heal, but if your skin has a hard time regenerating itself after you cut or scratch it, you might want to pay more attention to your health. Normally, your body will send nutrient-rich blood to the damaged area to help new skin grow faster, which is how your wounds normally heal. If, however, you have a low immune system, your skin won’t regenerate itself as quickly as in healthy individuals.
You should also seek for some weak immunity causes if you suffer from several infections per year (for example if you develop pneumonia more than once yearly) or if you constantly feel tired, even when getting just the right amount of sleep.
So, what can you do if you notice these signs when going about your daily business? Well, you should first determine what is causing your issues. And sometimes, weak immune system causes are plain simple and easy to get rid of.
Physiological reasons for a weak immune system
Tell us what you eat …
… and we’ll tell you how well (or how poorly!) you’re treating your body’s defence mechanisms! A cheeky little burger or a few slices of pizza surely won’t make your body prone to every single infection out there. However, a diet high in saturated fats, sugar and salt is considered one of the main low immune system causes.
By enjoying lots of processed foods and carbohydrates, you won’t only be impairing your immunity but also gain weight, which is further linked with lower resistance to various infections. But how does being overweight weaken your immune system? By reducing both the number and function of white blood cells in your system, preventing them from multiplying and producing antibodies needed to fight infection. Thus, gaining too much weight weakens your first line of defence against harmful substances.
On the other hand, a balanced diet including lots of fruits, vegetables and nuts is known for its ability to keep your immunity in check. What’s more – fresh fruits, delicious nuts or even vegetables present a great alternative to your usual processed snacks. Being rich in antioxidants as well as vitamins A, B, C and E, they are vital for maintaining the strength of your body’s defence system.
And then there are also those nasty habits
Yes, we’ll bother you with drinking and smoking again. And we won’t stop until you quit (if you haven’t already – in this case, we salute you!).
We’ll cut you some slack this time and spare you the details on how smoking ruins your lungs, focussing instead on another important reason why it causes a weakened immune system. Tobacco smoke doesn’t only irritate your airways, it also hampers the exchange of impure and healthy air when you breathe. This makes smokers more susceptible to infections of the respiratory tract. This is especially dangerous in the autumn or winter time, when your body’s natural defences are already weakened.
Shall we proceed with excessive amounts of alcohol? Of course! Too many people still don’t know that when you’ve had too much to drink, your body’s ability to fight pathogens can be reduced. The reason lies in acetaldehyde, a major metabolite in alcohol, which is believed to impair your lungs’ natural defence against bacteria and viruses. Besides, alcohol also interferes with the process of attacking and breaking down harmful invaders. When asking yourself what makes you have a weak immune system, don’t forget to think about your drinking habits, especially in winter, a time of celebrations and festivities.
Too little exercise can lead to weak immunity
Being a couch potato also belongs to weak immune system causes. By regularly including some sweating in your daily routine, you help your antibodies circulate faster, thus enabling them to catch invaders before they cause some real damage. It also releases hormones that make you happier, which prevents stress. Since this is also one of the reasons for low immunity, being active is a win-win scenario for your body.
However, if you couple a sedentary job with a relatively lazy, TV-bound lifestyle, you risk weakening your immune system. The latest research suggests that no matter your age, gender or other unhealthy habits, being inactive is a shortcut to inflammation and other chronic diseases. Do your immune system as well as your whole body a favour and try to be active at least for 30 minutes a day. Anybody should have enough time to do this!
But you might also be training too much!
First we tell you how beneficial it is for your immunity to go out and break a sweat, then we say you might be weakening your body’s defence by training too much. Hear us out, it’s not that confusing!
What we want to stress is that if you go out and train (hard), your body also needs resting and recuperation. Doing too many strenuous training sessions with too little rest may otherwise cause the so-called overtraining syndrome, which is often the cause for a weakened immunity system.
If you feel that your natural defences are down despite not pushing yourself too hard? It might be that you spend too little time in the company of your bed. Getting enough sleep helps your body to release more cells and other antibodies that are vital for your immune system. If you don’t take care for rest and recuperation, you have higher chances of getting ill.
Are you washing hands regularly?
Yes, we know that you’ve heard that a million times already. Please don’t get mad, we promise we’ve got something new to tell you. And yes, before you ask, we also know that not washing your hands isn’t one of many weakened immune system causes. But there is always a but!
If you don’t take care of your hand hygiene often enough, your immune system might need to work harder to protect you from outside invaders, being challenged to do this more often than it should. If you, however, take care of always having clean hands means preserving the immune function of your body until its intervention is actually really needed, for instance when the body must fight off a new virus that has virtually made the whole world stop for a moment.
Psychological factors affecting your immune system
Stress is a greater issue than you think
Are you constantly stressed about your job? Do you worry too much about your relationship? Is someone close to you driving you crazy? These things might be the cause for your weakened immune system.
If you’re battling stress on an almost daily basis, your immune function is actually suppressed as your body cannot produce as many infection-battling white blood cells. And the story goes on! When you suffer from excessive stress, you might also put aside some other habits that help your immune system to work flawlessly. Your meals might be less healthy and you lose sleep. Watch out and relax before it’s too late.
Think about meditation, take short walks or treat yourself with your favourite meal. We know that stress is unavoidable and that there is no switch to simply get rid of it. However, if you notice that your health is the victim of constant worrying, you should try to relax and protect your body from further damage.
Emotional trauma also weakens your immunity
Recent studies show that a tragic event can have a very similar effect on your immunity as too much stress. Some studies suggest that a sudden break up or even death of a loved person can weaken your organism’s immune response, thus increasing the risk of more frequent or even more severe viral infections like flu.
Just like in the case of stress, bereavement is linked to increased cortisol production. This hormone actually prevents our immune system from responding too quickly, for example when we are in a fight-or-flight situation. However, if high cortisol levels stick around for longer, this can start affecting your immunity.
Everybody needs a friend sometimes!
Do you spend most of your free time alone and aren’t too happy about it? Chances are that you are already paying the price of loneliness … with poor health. Experts warn that anxiety that is related to living a pretty much solitary life leads to more stress, which naturally leads to a weakened immune system. On the other hand, even a short hug can have an incredibly positive effect on your emotional wellbeing and thus on your susceptibility to illnesses.
If you’re too serious, stop it ;)
How often do you laugh? Can you take a joke? Do you get excited about future events?All these things can have an immensely positive impact on your stress hormone levels and thus also on your immune system.
Don’t believe us that taking life too seriously can actually have an effect on your immunity? Well, let us tell you that laughing, joking and having fun in general will give the white blood cells a proper boost. Scientists say that even anticipating something funny or exciting can reduce your stress levels and thus help you avoid a weakened immune system.