7 SIGNS OF A WEAK IMMUNE SYSTEM AND HOW TO IMPROVE IT
Cuts that won’t heal, always running to the toilet, and muscle pain without exercise – these and other symptoms may be signs of a compromised immune system. Some may surprise you.
Stress is part of your routine
That dreaded ‘s’ word – many have come to accept it as inevitable and some are not even aware they’re suffering from its effects but the body knows and it will tell you. Stress can lead to inflammation, which impairs the immune system by suppressing lymphocytes, or white blood cells, that help you fight off infections. At high levels, stress can also lead to anxiety and depression.
Manage it Simply put, you need to chill. Meditation, yoga, forest bathing, sound healing … take your pick from a wide range of relaxing pursuits that will give your mind and soul that much-needed break.
Wounds take time to heal
When you’re injured – whether it’s a cut, scrape or scratch – your immune system will automatically step to the fore and take care of things. While lymphocytes help keep infection at bay, erythrocytes (red blood cells) build new tissues. Both are reliant on a strong immune system so if it’s weakened, they will take much longer time to get to work and you’ll find that your wounds need more time to heal.
Manage it Check if you’re getting enough of the essential vitamins (A, C, E, B6 and B12) and minerals such as zinc, iron, copper, folate and selenium. Vitamin C is particularly helpful for wound healing as it aids in the synthesis of collagen.
Your ears or sinus are frequently congested
You might think it’s due to your regular laps at the pool or poor air quality, but if you experience ear or sinus infections more than 3-4 times a year, you need to get them checked out. You could have an immunodeficiency disorder, which prevents the body from fighting off infections and diseases.
Manage it A diet that’s rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods could help. Citrus fruits, kiwi, spinach, berries, and green vegetables are loaded with the former while spices like ginger and turmeric help fight inflammation.
You commonly have the common cold
It’s not called the common cold or flu for nothing but if you find yourself catching it more than twice a year, it is a sign of a compromised immune system. Your body should be able to fend itself from most of the viruses and bacteria that cause colds, coughs and flus.
Manage it This could be a sign of Vitamin D deficiency so catch about 20 minutes of the morning sun everyday if you can, or take a supplement. The dosage varies from person to person, depending on age, skin tone, whether you wear sunscreen regularly, and even where you live (and how much sun exposure you get). Check with your physician for the right amount to take.
You’re tired, so tired
Do you yawn often throughout the day, crave for that mid-afternoon nap, or generally feel that you’re running on low battery? Feeling tired after, say, a high-intensity workout is normal and you’ll usually bounce back within hours. But if the fatigue is chronic and frequent, alarm bells should be sounding. Get checked for disorders like anemia, sleep apnea, and endocrine issues. If you get the all-clear on that, then the likely culprit is a weak immune system.
Manage it Sleep is an important yet often overlooked part of healthcare. Quality sleep empowers T cells to kill infected cells whereas lack of it causes more stress hormones that inhibit their efficacy. Regulate your sleep timetable, have a winding down ritual at least one hour before bedtime, and black out your room to get deeper slumber.
That gut feeling
Abdominal cramps, appetite loss, constipation, diarrhoea, gas – if you tick any or all of these boxes on a regular basis, they could be warning signs from your immune system. Specifically, it’s your digestive tract that holds the key as that’s where good bacteria lives and they’re the ones defending your gut from infections.
Manage it Your gut is home to 300-500 species of microorganisms – many of which are essential to your health while some can work against you – that altogether make up what is known as gut microbiome. You want to have enough of the beneficial bacteria in there while minimising the harmful ones. A helpful diet is one that’s rich in wide range of plant-based foods, fibre, and probiotics.
You have creaky, achy muscles and joints
… that are not caused by a strenuous workout, but how is that linked to the immune system? When an infection occurs, the body produces inflammation and along with that, a type of white blood cell called monocytes that help regulate things. As long as the immune system is robust, this natural process can take place without causing damage but if the inflammation continues unchecked, the monocytes eventually get depleted and leave the joints swollen and in pain.
Manage it Avoid foods that cause inflammation such as refined sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, transfat, vegetable and seed oils, refined carbohydrates, processed food, grain-fed meats, omega-6 fatty acids, and watch your alcohol consumption.