A strong immune system is your body's first line of defense against infections. Consisting of a massive and complex network of white blood cells, hormones, proteins and antibodies, it's responsible for neutralizing infection-causing pathogens. While your body's immune system works around the clock, its strength vary depending on certain lifestyle choices that you make. Below are five common things that can weaken your immune system.
Stress can weaken your immune system. A report published by Stanford University research explains that stress causes the production of hormones -- known as stress hormones -- that interfere with the immune system. When you are stressed, you'll have higher levels of stress hormones that counteract the "good" hormones and chemicals produced by your immune system. As a result, you are more likely to sick.
#2) Lack of Sleep
If you don't get enough sleep, your immune system will become weaker and, therefore, less effective at preventing infection. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that about one in three U.S. adults don't get a sufficient amount of sleep. When you sleep, your immune system goes into overdrive so to speak. It becomes stronger and more active, allowing it to defend against infections more easily. Conversely, lack of sleep has the opposite effect: it slows down your immune system. For a stronger immune system, you must prioritize sleep, aiming for at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
Smoking cigarettes can weaken your immune system as well. While rates of cigarette smoking are declining, millions of Americans continue to practice this bad habit. Smoking, however, is one of the worst things you can do for your immune system. Cigarette smoke contains thousands of chemicals, many of which disrupt the activities performed by your immune system.
#4) Poor Diet
The foods you eat, as well as the beverages you drink, can affect your immune system. The immune system is powered by nutrients. If your diet consists mostly of junk food, your immune system won't have the nutrients it needs to stay strong. In turn, you're more likely to catch a cold, flu or other infectious illnesses.
#5) Lack of Exercise
You might be surprised to learn that lack of exercise can weaken your immune system. Regular exercise has been shown to boost the immune system. It causes the immune system to produce antibodies and T-cells that are able to attack infection-causing pathogens. If you spend little or no time exercising, your immune system won't benefit from these pathogen-fighting compounds.