How would you know if you have a weakened immune system?
With the global pandemic still raging on today, we have all become much more aware of the need to have a healthy and balanced immune system. This is the invisible yet mighty police force that keeps your enemies (viruses, bacteria and other microbes) at bay every single day, without you even realising it. As a result, we often take it for granted or at the very least we do not give it the support that it needs from us. However, as a result of this negligence, we can end up with a weakened and dysregulated immune system.
The COVID pandemic has made it really clear for most of us why we need a robust immune system which reacts in a balanced manner in the presence of the virus so that we can recover from the infection faster and experience less severe symptoms. A balanced immune response also helps avoid a widespread and uncontrolled immune response. You can read more about it here.
As we head into winter we need to be more careful with flu viruses spreading more easily during this season since the air is dry and chilly. The days are short and we are unable to get proper sun exposure to make vitamin D naturally. Since vitamin D is (apart from zinc and vitamin A) essential for a robust immune system, you may need to take some extra precautions to make sure that you are supporting your immune system the best that you can.
This blog post is less about COVID and more about making you aware of the need to assess your immune health so that you can navigate these difficult times more proactively and in a less damaging manner. Given below are some very simple ways of figuring out what your immune health status is currently so that can take the steps that you need to support it.
You catch colds very easily and/or they last longer
Research shows that most people usually have about 2-3 colds in a year and bounce back within 7 to 10 days. If you are constantly catching a cold and taking much longer to recover each time then this can be a sign of a weak immune system.
Your stress levels are very high
Long term stress weakens the immune system. This is because higher levels of chronic stress release the stress hormone cortisol as a natural immune response.
However, the long term effects of cortisol are the lowering of the lymphocyte T-cell response of your immune system. Since these lymphocytes (a component of the white blood cell) are the main fighters of infection in your body, this makes you vulnerable to infections and even chronic inflammation.
Your wounds take a long time to heal
Your skin health reflects what is going on inside your body including the immune system. Research shows that the immune system plays a central role in the skin wound healing and a proper immune response is required when you get a burn, scrape, cut or a wound. Your immune system springs into action and protects the wound by sending nutrient rich blood to protect, repair and regenerate new skin.
When the immune system is weakened, it can show up on the skin in various ways as eczema, skin allergies, bacterial, fungal and viral skin infections. The area that is affected could be localised or widespread. This is because your immune system regulates inflammation and affects the skin barrier function and the microbiome of your skin.
You have poor gut health and digestive issues like chronic diarrhea
70-80% of your immune system resides in your gut. The microbes residing in your gut have a critical role in regulating your overall immune balance. Hence if you have poor gut health where there is an imbalance between bad and good bacteria (and other microbes), then the pathogenic microbes can cause tummy ache and/or chronic diarrhea.
Chronic diarrhea can be due to parasites which have a strong hold due to a weak immune system. At the same time, chronic diarrhea can prevent you from absorbing nutrients. This usually includes fat soluble nutrients like vitamin D which plays an important role in immune health
You are often exhausted and your sleep is not consistent
If you don’t have a good sleep hygiene and you consistently sleep less than 8 hours a night, you are missing out on supporting and strengthening your immune system. Melatonin, the sleep hormone which your body releases when it gets dark is an important immune mediator and helps boost your immune system so that it can fight infections.
However, if your stress hormone like cortisol remains high in the evening due to poor sleep hygiene, your body does not produce adequate amounts of melatonin. And when your immune system struggles, so does your energy level. If you are getting enough sleep and still suffering from exhaustion, you may want to delve deeper into the status of your immune health.
Sleep and your immune health
Good quality and adequate sleep is infact one of the most critical component’s of good health and is something many of struggle with. Unfortunately, most of us are not simply aware of the long term effects of that poor quality sleep has on our immune and overall health. I see this lack of awareness creating a kind of thinking that we can get away by taking out bodies for granted and keep pushing it beyond it’s limit without ever taking steps to help is restore and rejuvenate on a regular basis.
My hope is that after reading this post you are convinced that supporting your immune health is critical during these times and even for your overall health. One of the best places to start is by ensuring good quality and restful sleep. This is best accomplished by having a sleep hygiene in place so that you create a routine which helps you to go to sleep and stay asleep.