The central importance of the immune system for protecting you from all manner of maladies can so often be forgotten about, right up until the moment something obviously goes wrong. The good news, though, is that with a bit of knowledge, you can better spot the telltale signs of below-par immune health, so that you can swiftly take the steps to do something about it.
If any of the below seven symptoms seem familiar to you, now could be an opportune time to start taking greater care of your immune system.
You’re constantly stressed
A lot of people find themselves falling ill after a period of high stress, such as after a dramatic argument with a relative or a tough assignment at work.
That’s not really a coincidence, given the evidence that long-term stress can be detrimental to the immune system’s effectiveness. This is due to stress reducing the body’s white blood cells – or lymphocytes – that provide a key defence against infection.
You feel tired all the time
Closely related to feeling stressed over an extended time period is the phenomenon of also feeling like you never have the energy to do anything. This could be due to your body trying to conserve energy for the immune system’s use, in the event that it has to fend off bacteria and viruses.
Your wounds take ages to heal
The body’s healing process is so wondrous, that many of us don’t stop to appreciate just how much work is involved in making you as good as new again after a burn, cut or similar injury.
After all, not only must your body get rapidly on with protecting the wound so that it doesn’t become infected, but it must also regenerate new skin to complete the healing process.
Healthy immune cells are needed in abundance for all of this. So if your wounds seem to be taking a while to heal or are even becoming infected, you might have reason to suspect that your immune system is in less than brilliant shape.
You suffer from infections frequently
This is probably the main and most obvious indicator of a compromised immune system. It might manifest in you catching colds more often, or even in you suffering from a greater number and frequency of minor fungal infectionsthan you’d usually expect.
People with weakened immune systems may also be more prone to the likes of autoimmune disorders and digestive issues, the latter including diarrhoea, abdominal cramping and/or decreased appetite.
You’re carrying excess weight
It’s not always clear to many of us exactly what constitutes too much weight, which is where the NHS’s body mass index (BMI) healthy weight calculator could help.
If entering your details into the calculator reveals that you could do with losing weight in order to fall within a healthy range, it’s important to be mindful of the heightened risk your excess weight may be bringing to your immune system, due to possible hormonal imbalances and inflammation that could hinder your body’s efforts to tackle infection.
You aren’t getting enough sunlight exposure
It’s important to add a caveat to this one – namely, that you won’t want to spend so much time in the sun that your skin begins to burn, thereby heightening your risk of skin cancer. Cancer Research UK has some handy advice on how you can help to protect your skin from sunburn.
Nonetheless, as the NHS website explains, a certain amount of exposure to the sun is important for optimising your body’s supply of vitamin D, which is recognised for its potential benefits in modulating the innate and adaptive immune responses, while decreasing the risk of infection.
You eat a lot of sugary foods
Plenty of us are used to seeing a high level of sugar consumption as bad news for our efforts to keep the pounds off our waistlines. However, you might not have realised that it’s unlikely to be a healthy thing for your immune system, either.
In fact, research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutritionhas indicated that eating 100g of sugar – the equivalent of about three cans of fizzy drink – can significantly compromise white blood cells’ bacteria-killing abilities for as long as five hours afterwards.
With your immune system being one of your key weapons in the fight against COVID-19 and other nasties right now, you can scarcely afford to allow yours to be any less than optimal in its health and effectiveness. Take the right steps now, and you’ll be helping to put yourself in a much stronger condition to weather whatever risks you might encounter from bacteria and viruses.