According to the National Cancer Institute, periods of intense stress can weaken the immune system. John Spangler, MD, explains stress boosts the production of the hormone cortisol, which impairs the function of infection-fighting T cells.
Exercise can reduce stress and boost immunity by promoting good circulation. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) says that yoga and tai chi can help ease stress. If you are worried about using a public gym, there are many at-home workouts, including yoga and tai chi classes, that you can access for free on YouTube.
According to a study published in the Journal of Neuroimmunology, increased anxiety associated with loneliness can lead to greater suppression of the immune system. Loneliness disrupts fight-or-fight signaling, which leads to increased production of immature monocytes, a type of white blood cell that influences the process of adaptive immunity. This may result in lower antiviral responses and increased inflammation.
There are some options if you find yourself lonely during a period of self-isolation. Try video calling relatives and friends that you haven’t talked to in a while. If possible, stay with family or a friend and spend quality time together.
Both traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes expose you to nicotine, which can have harmful effects on your immune system. Dr. Spangler explains nicotine increases cortisol levels, while reducing B cell antibody formation and T cells’ response to antigens. Vapor from e-cigarettes could damage the lungs and make them more susceptible to infection.
If you struggle with your ability to quit smoking, consider an alternative such as Nicorette gum. While this still contains nicotine, it does not do direct damage to the lungs.
Excessive drinking can reduce the immune system’s response to invading pathogens. Dr. Spangler says, “Alcohol’s major metabolite, acetaldehyde, likely impairs ciliary function in the lungs, making them more prone to bacterial and viral invasion.”
Vitamin C is one of the strongest immune boosters. Try reaching for drinks containing Vitamin C such as orange juice and grapefruit juice.
Unhealthy Eating Habits
Diets that are high in saturated fats, salts, and sugars might impair the immune system. The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics stresses that good nutrition is essential for a healthy immune system.
Try incorporating more vegetables including spinach, kale, mushrooms, and broccoli into your daily food regime. Vegetables are good sources of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and can contribute to the body fighting off infection.[adrotate banner=”11″]