Poor diet, anxiety, stress: they can all make you feel run down – and they can all contribute to a weak immune system. Learn to heed your body’s warnings. If you’re in tune with your immune system, you’ll know when it’s telling you that something’s not right. This means that you can better defend yourself against invaders such as viruses, bacteria and disease.
How to recognise a weak immune system
Your immune system acts as a fortifying wall against illness. It’s your First Response Unit and tries to defend against external attacks. It’s an intricate network of cells, tissues and organs that collaborates to protect your body. Leukocytes – your white blood cells – are your primary defence against invading organisms that can cause disease. They’re found in your lymphatic organs: the thymus, the spleen and your bone marrow.
When your leukocyte levels fall, you become almost powerless to resist outside elements that collude to make you sick. This is why it’s so important to be aware of the specific signs and symptoms of such a decline. If you visit your GP as soon as you suspect that something’s gone wrong, he or she can diagnose the trouble and help you to address it at its roots. Let’s take a look at the hallmarks of a weakened immune system so that you’ll know the signs when they present themselves.
1. Constant fatigue
While it’s true that fatigue can have various causes, you should pay attention if it’s continuous or you wake up every morning in a state of total exhaustion. If the slightest exertion makes you want to collapse into the duvet or temperature changes make you feel low or nauseated, you’d do well not to just try to ignore it. Consider that there may be more serious and deeper issues to address.
2. Frequent infection
Urinary tract infections, stomach irritation, inflamed and red gums or regularly occurring diarrhoea often act as warnings that your immune system is not able to cope as it should with outside attacks. If you’re experiencing more frequent colds or tummy upset, it could be that your immunity is compromised and is unable to defend you against viruses and bacteria.
3. Colds, sore throats and flu – oh, my!
How often do you have a cold? If it’s every other month or so, it’s advisable to make an appointment with your GP. Don’t ignore a throat that’s always painful. Likewise, if you seem to suddenly be stricken down with influenza, take it seriously. Your doctor can have a look at your white blood cell count just to ensure that your immune system is performing adequately.
4. Allergic reactions
It’s true that environmental irritants affect people differently. There are some who are more susceptible than others to allergic reactions. When pollen counts are high, they find it difficult to function normally because their mucus membranes suffer under a barrage of swirling contaminants in the air. If you’ve had similar reactions, it could be that your immune system is not as strong as it should be.
5. Injuries that refuse to heal properly
We’ve all had those nigglesome domestic mishaps: a slip of the knife here or a collision with the hot kettle there. For those whose immunity is strong, these are not major setbacks. Resulting wounds tend – with the proper treatment – to resolve themselves fairly quickly. If that’s not the case with you, ask yourself why. When injuries hang around for weeks or months, it’s a sign that somethings amiss with your immune system. Your GP will be able to help you get to the root of it. Book an appointment sooner rather than later.
Here’s how to boost your immune system
1. Get the right nutrients
It’s no secret that a good diet usually means increased health and wellbeing. Sadly, we still sometimes forget this simple rule until we are already sick. Always strive to have varied diet that is nutritionally balanced. Make sure that it includes a wealth of whole fruits and vegetables. Get some lean protein from plant foods such as quinoa or tofu. Go easy on the alcohol, added sugar and unhealthy fats. Citrus fruits are especially conducive to hearty health, as they’re brimming with antioxidants. Feel free to stuff yourself (not literally!) with oranges, clementines, papayas, grapes and tomatoes.
2. Rest well
You need a good night’s kip. Surely, this is common knowledge – and, yet, so many of us struggle to achieve this seemingly simple task. Even though you might need less sleep than the next person, you need to ensure that you’re not just squeaking by. Ample, peaceful rest is essential to a strong immune system. It allows your cells to renew themselves and it gives your body time to recover and store energy so that it can perform vital functions. Insomnia and anxiety take a great toll on your health…so, zed it up! Try to put your problems to one side. Remember that a well-rested you will deal with your worries tomorrow.
3. Cleanliness is next to healthiness
Here’s another one of those things that we all know, but still sometimes neglect. We’re going to say it again, though: keep it clean. Wash your hands after going to the toilet. Wash them before eating, before preparing or touching food, after stroking your dog or cat and upon returning home from work or being outdoors. Pay attention to food hygiene, as well. Make sure to wash fruits and vegetables before eating them raw or cooking them. Submerge them in water to loosen dirt, grime or pesticides. You’d be amazed how much bearing these things have upon the strength of your immune system.
4. Get a grip on stress
It’s scary, but all too true: stress can be a killer. If yours is chronic and you do nothing to control it, results could be fatal. This is because stress produces toxins that accumulate in your body and weaken your immune system, making you vulnerable to attack. Learn how to keep anxiety and stress-inducing situations at bay. Be good to you. It’s not selfish. It’s healthy!