The cooler weather is starting to roll in across the country. And like every year that means challenges to your immune system as cold and flu season begins to ramp up too.
But, of course, this year is different. It ISN’T like every other one. Staying healthy is more critical now than ever before. And a robust immune system that’s running on all cylinders is the key.
Your body depends on this complex network of cells, tissues, and organs, all working in harmony to help keep you healthy. Your immune system typically detects foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses and defends your body against them. It fights off the trespassers to help keep you healthy or recover from illnesses faster should you become sick.
But a weakened immune system can’t do its job as effectively. It leaves you far more vulnerable to all kinds of infections, from the common cold to the flu. And without even knowing it, you could be doing things to weaken yours.
Which means it’s time to cut out any habits that could be secretly sabotaging your immune system.
Stop THIS to support a healthy immune system
Following are three accidental immunity killers you should quit starting TODAY.
Over-indulging your sweet tooth:
Gobbling down too much sugar harms your health in many different ways. But one of the most surprising may be the negative effects it can have on your immune system’s ability to battle invading illnesses.
Research has revealed the sweet stuff can rob your immune cells of their ability to do their job well. In one study, after an overnight fast, volunteers were given 100 grams of sugar… and something disturbing happened.
The participant’s sugar-exposed immune cells became significantly impaired. They weren’t able to engulf staph bacteria as effectively. And it didn’t seem to matter what KIND of sugar it was, either. Glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, and orange juice all robbed the immune cells of their ability to battle the bacteria as effectively as they usually would.
The good news is it doesn’t appear to be permanent damage. The effects of the sugar were the strongest in the first couple of hours after ingesting it. In some cases, they hung around for up to five hours. But then the cells started to bounce back.
So go ahead and cut back on the sweet stuff. Save it as a special occasion treat. And if your sweet tooth is crying out for satisfaction, try a square of dark chocolate instead, which is lower in sugar, but tops in taste.
Skipping out on sleep:
It turns out skipping out on shuteye doesn’t just leave you feeling sleepy and out of sorts. It could sabotage your body’s ability to fight off infections and recover from them too.
Studies show folks who get too little quality sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus than those who are well-rested. Sleep enhances your body’s immune defenses. In fact, not getting enough of it could spell double trouble for your immune system.
First of all, too little sleep can slash your body’s production of infection-battling cells and antibodies. Which means you could have a harder time fighting off illnesses. Plus, your body’s production of immune-system-supporting cytokines and T cells peaks when you’re asleep.
You see, when you fall asleep immune-suppressing “stress” hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine drop. At the same time, other hormones such as melatonin, prolactin, and leptin ramp up production. And it’s these rising levels that support immune-cell activation and growth.
In other words, shortchanging yourself on sleep suppresses your immune system and can affect your body’s ability to fight off disease. So it’s time to turn things around by recommitting to a healthy sleep routine.
Try to hit the hay at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. Switch off glowing screens from the TV to your telephone at least an hour before turning in for the night. Eliminate caffeine after 5 PM. Keep your bedroom on the cool side. Make sure there are no blinking lights or other sleep distractions. And try some melatonin if needed to get your sleep schedule back on track.
Hiding from the sun:
Sunshine panic started to take root sometime in the 80s. And it has continued to grow for nearly two decades. People have been increasingly steered away from spending any time in the sun. Well, unless it’s under a thick layer of the highest SPF sunscreen, you can get your hands on.
Folks weren’t encouraged to find a safe and healthy middle ground. Instead, they were treated to horrifying tales of deadly skin cancer to scare them into staying inside.
As a result, far too many folks these days are now low on the vital “sunshine” vitamin, which our body makes when exposed to UV light from the sun. Some experts say up to 42 percent of Americans don’t have optimal D levels. Others say the percentage may be even higher.
And let’s face it, the pandemic has only made the vitamin D crisis worse. Many of us are spending far more time indoors than ever before, so it’s no surprise that D levels have plummeted in many folks. And low vitamin D can have all kinds of health consequences, including impairing your immune system’s ability to fight off infections.
Raising your D levels if they’re too low could shore up your immune system and help your body fight off illnesses. And I even recently wrote about how healthy vitamin D levels could help reduce the risk of coronavirus complications. Click here to catch up.
To top off D levels during the warmer months, spending up to fifteen minutes in the sun with your face, hands, and arms exposed three times a week should do the trick for most folks. In the cooler months, you might need to make it more often. Supplements are also available, so ask your doctor what’s best for you.