Feel like you’re often feeling ill, with hardly a break between one bug and the next?
We know it’s tempting to shake your fist at the sky or blame your genetics, but hold on just a minute – there might be lifestyle factors at play that you can actually change.
Yep, you could be making your immune function a little worse without realising it. But the good news is that once you know the lifestyle factors that can make you more prone to picking up colds, you can get started on making some changes to help protect your immune system.
So, what are some things that can make your immune system weaker? Let’s break it down…
You’re not getting enough sleep
Sleep is important for many, many reasons (not least that it’s not great to be wandering around in an exhausted zombie-like daze), but one thing people don’t consider enough is that consistently getting a rubbish night’s rest can make you more prone to getting ill.
Wait, is that the beginning of flu? Or just a really, really bad hangover?
It might be both, we’re afraid. Research suggests that excess alcohol consumption can suppress the immune response, plus it has a negative effect on your sleep, which, as we mentioned above, is key for your wellbeing.
‘Experiencing a lot of stress over a long period of time can lead to a feeling of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion, often called burnout,’ Lesley White, a pharmacist at Boots, tells Metro.co.uk.
‘It can also have a negative effect on the immune system meaning you may become more prone to illness.
‘If you are experiencing on-going stress and it’s affecting how you feel, it’s important to speak to someone like your GP.’
You’re a smoker
We don’t need to tell you that smoking is bad for you – you know this. But if you’re wondering why you constantly feel under the weather, take this as a nudge to finally ditch the cigarette habit.
Lesley says: ‘Smoking damages your lungs and also weakens your immune system meaning you are more likely to contract respiratory infections like colds, flu and Covid. You are also more likely have more severe symptoms and worse outcomes.
‘Stopping smoking is the best thing you can do for your overall health.’
You’re not looking after your mental health
‘Some research shows that having poor mental health and other problems such as loneliness may affect our immune systems,’ says Lesley. ‘Again, if these are impacting you or someone you know, it is important to talk to someone and get some help.’
You’re eating too many processed foods
We know, we know: Friday fish and chips, a mid-week burger, all things beige and beautiful – these are wonderful treats. But make sure they’re not making up the bulk of your diet, please – especially if you want to stop getting sick at the drop of a hat.
Lesley notes that one thing that can make you more prone to getting poorly is ‘eating too many processed foods and not eating a healthy varied diet that includes plenty of fruit and vegetables’.
‘This would likely mean you are missing out on important nutrients that provide immune system support,’ she notes.
You’re not exercising enough
‘Being physically fit increases your immune fitness too,’ Lesley says. ‘Aim to be active every day and the more you do the better you will feel.’
Don’t overdo it though – ‘there are some studies that suggest those who carry out sustained and extremely vigorous exercise may be more prone to becoming ill,’ notes Lesley.
You’re not drinking enough water
Still struggling to hit your lofty targets for multiple litres a day? Take this as an extra drop of motivation.
‘When your body doesn’t have enough fluids, it can’t function properly,’ Lesley explains. ‘Water helps deliver nutrients and minerals to your cells, and helps keep your nose, mouth, and throat moist helping prevent illness (mucus and saliva act as a protective barrier).’
You haven’t checked in with a GP
As great as it is to make healthy lifestyle changes, it’s vital to note that if you do find yourself constantly getting unwell, you need to chat with a medical professional to rule out any underlying health conditions that could be causing this.
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