If there’s one thing we’ve all become acutely aware of recently, it’s the importance of having a strong immune system. Our immune system is what protects us from infections and illness caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and other harmful pathogens. A strong immune system can help us resist infection or if necessary, mount a quick response to fight off any invading pathogens and prevent more serious illness or complications.
You don’t need to wait till you encounter a cold, flu or respiratory tract virus, or cut yourself in the garden to find out how strong your immune system is. Here are six common signs that could indicate your immune system is weak, along with six ways to strengthen your immune function.
1. You often have colds or pesky respiratory tract infections
Two or three colds a year is normal for most adults. Making a full recovery in seven to ten days is also normal. If you find yourself coming down with colds more often, taking longer than ten days to shake it, or developing secondary infections like sinusitis or bronchitis, then your immune function is likely to be weaker.
2. You’re stressed – a lot
Long term or chronic stress wreaks havoc on your immune system. High levels of cortisol, the hormone that’s released when you’re under stress, may decrease the number of infection-fighting white blood cells (lymphocytes) and interferes with normal white blood cell communication. Stress raises cortisol levels which suppresses your immune system’s ability to fight off invaders and viruses, leaving you open to contracting more infections like colds and flu.
3. You don’t sleep well or enough
Good and sufficient sleep is essential for a healthy immune system. Yes, we all know someone who boasts of how they can get by on just 4 or 5 hours’ sleep every night, but most of us need at least 7 – 8 hours’ sleep a night for good health. Our bodies perform a myriad of processes while we’re asleep, one of which is to improve the performance of T-cells which improves our resistance to colds, flu, cold sores and other diseases. These T cells are immune cells that fight against invading bacteria and viruses and studies have shown that getting good sleep is essential in improving the efficiency of these T cells.
4. You’re tired all the time
Say you’re getting enough sleep but still find yourself feeling exhausted and tired much of the time. First, it’s worth ruling out other conditions like stress-induced insomnia or sleep apnoea which can lead to daytime fatigue, but otherwise it could be your immune system. Simply put, if your immune system is weak, your body tries to conserve its energy to fight off germs and viruses, leaving you feeling constantly tired.
5. Cuts, scrapes and wounds take a long time to heal
If you notice that cuts and wounds take longer than normal to heal, your immune function could be running a bit below par. We all have an idea of what’s normal. Think back to the last time your finger accidentally met the sharp edge of the knife when cooking. It wasn’t anything too serious, definitely a slice through the skin and maybe a little blood. It hurt though. So you ran it under water, maybe applied some antiseptic ointment and a plaster and carried on. It was a tad sensitive the first day but two days later, you’d forgotten it had even happened. It had healed. If you notice a normal scrape or cut taking longer to heal, that’s a sign your immune system is struggling to keep up.
6. Your tummy’s not a happy place
Have you needed quite a few courses of antibiotics in the last few months? Experiencing frequent diarrhoea, flatulence (gas), bloating or constipation? You could have an imbalance in your gut bacteria (known as the microbiome). Healthy gut bacteria and microorganisms that reside in your gut support your immune system and protect you from invading pathogens. Around 70% of your immune system resides in your gut. Any imbalances in these gut bacteria populations that lead to common symptoms like diarrhoea, gas and bloating could also be indicating that your immune defences are compromised, leaving you open to chronic inflammation and viruses.
6 ways to support and strengthen your immune system:
- Eating a diet high in vegetables and fruits and good sources of protein, and low in processed and refined foods. Quick rule of thumb – if it comes in a packet with a list of ingredients you can’t explain, don’t eat it, or at least don’t eat it often.
- Avoid sugar. Sugar weakens the immune system.
- Get 7 – 8 hours’ sleep every night. You want to sleep enough every night that you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go, not dragging yourself out of bed after hitting the snooze button 10 times.
- Take a daily immune support product like A.Vogel’s Echinaforce . Echinaforce is backed by numerous clinical and scientific studies that show it not only helps strengthen the immune system but also actively protects against and treats colds, flu and respiratory tract infections. It also helps prevent their complications like bronchitis, sinusitis and pneumonia. The Echinaforce Forte variant is a three times concentrated variant of Echinaforce, which makes it ideal for people who need a little extra immune support. People in this group include those that are stressed out often, sleep deprived, the elderly, athletes and smokers.
- Support your gut (and immune) health. Eat foods high in fibre, again lots of fresh vegetables and fruits, and include a prebiotic, like A.Vogel’s Molkosan. Molkosan supports healthy gut bacteria populations, protects the lining of the digestive tract, reduces gut inflammation and promotes a healthy environment for good gut bacteria to thrive in. Then add probiotics, like those found in plain yoghurt, which introduce beneficial gut bacteria into this healthy gut environment.
- Manage and reduce your stress levels. We know it’s much easier said than done, but finding ways to switch off (your phone, laptop, news feeds and conversations about all the gloom and doom in the world) and unwind is incredibly important to your immune health and wellbeing. Reading, watching something amusing, playing with your child, cooking, going for a long walk or run, a round of golf, anything that removes you mentally and physically from your stress for a period of time is beneficial for your immune system and you.
This article originally appeared on A.Vogel and can be found here:https://www.avogel.co.za/health/immune-system/6-signs-your-immune-system-is-weak-and-6-ways-to-improve-it.php