8 Ways Your Immune System is Being Weakened

8 Ways Your Immune System is Being Weakened

| By RB Schiff Vitamins

You know you feel under the weather, or that you’re not quite yourself. But do you know why?

There are many reasons your immune system may not be as efficient as it could be. But if you’ve consulted a physician and nothing is amiss, there may be lifestyle factors that are causing your natural defenses to be lowered.

In this article, we look at some of the reasons why your immune system may not be as strong as it could be, and some potential ways to change that.

Potential causes of immune deficiency

Here are 10 possible reasons why your immune defenses may be down.

1.    You’re stressed

It’s no secret that stress can be linked to decreased immune function; several studies over the years have identified a link between stress and an increased susceptibility to illness and infection[1].

A 2017 study of over 3,000 American adults found that 63% experience stress about the future of the nation, with 62% stressed about work and 61% stressed about money[2]. If you’re stressed, now’s the time to try and turn it around. Discover more in our article about how to fight stress and keep your immune system in check.

2.    You’re lacking sleep

Your immune system benefits from sleep, as this is when your body releases protective proteins[3]. When you’re deprived of sleep, the production of these cells can slow down, which may increase your risk of getting sick[4].

To improve your sleep, get into a regular routine and sleep in a cool, dark bedroom that allows you to fall asleep comfortably each night. It’s also a good idea turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes from bedtime[5].

3.    Your diet

A poor diet, particularly one high in sugar from processed foods or fizzy drinks, may lead to a less effective immune system by curbing immune cell production[6].

Nutrients such as zinc and vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K are believed to support healthy immune function, so you should try to obtain these through a balanced diet6.

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to get the nutrients you need. You’ll find vitamin C in foods you may not have realized, too; check out these surprising sources.

4.    You’re overweight

There is some evidence to suggest that being overweight or obese may have a negative impact on your immune system[7], yet a third of American adults are obese[8].

If you’re trying to achieve a healthy weight, try to make a gradual change by losing one to two pounds a week. It’s a more sustainable way to get back on track to a healthy weight.

5.    You don’t get enough exercise

Another potential reason for a weak immune system could be a sedentary lifestyle. That’s because working out is thought to help support healthy immune function[9].

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get either 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise every week[10].

If you don’t hit this number currently, try incorporating more exercise into your routine. It doesn’t have to be a trip to the gym; try riding a bike instead of driving, or perhaps getting off the bus a few stops earlier than usual and walking briskly the rest of your route.

You should always consult your healthcare practitioner before starting a new diet or exercise regimen.

6.    Your age

If there’s one thing about your life you can’t change, it’s your age. We all grow older, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Unfortunately, it seems that your body’s immune system may get weaker the older you get[11]. It’s thought that this is due to a decrease in production of immune fighter cells[12].

You can still maintain a healthy lifestyle, even as you age. Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and ensure you get enough sleep to help support your immune system.

7.    You’re a smoker

Everyone knows there are dangers from smoking. But did you know that if you’re a smoker, you may also be damaging your body’s immune system[13]? It’s thought that cigarette smoke suppresses the immune system’s function.

Whether it’s habit or socially, smoking is dangerous in many ways. If you can, try and quit – your body will thank you.

8.    You consume too much alcohol

Excessive alcohol intake has been linked with decreased immune function[14]. Evidence across several studies suggests that alcohol may have a disruptive effect on the immune system[15].

Try to avoid binge-drinking. Around one in six adults in the U.S. binge-drinks four times a month, and one small-scale study identified a potential link with decreased immune function[16].

Supporting your immune system

While all the above may not apply to you, these are just some reasons why your immune system may need support. By making small changes and leading a healthier lifestyle, you can help to support your body’s immune function.

If you’re looking for lifestyle tips to help make a healthy change, check out our immune support articles.





[1] American Psychological Association. “Stress Weakens the Immune System”. APA, 2006, http://www.apa.org/research/action/immune.aspx

[2] American Psychological Association (2017). Stress in America: The State of Our Nation. Stress in AmericaTM Survey.

[3] Olson, E.J., M.D. “Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?” Mayo Clinic, 2015, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757

[4] Mann, D. “Can Better Sleep Mean Catching Fewer Colds?” WebMD, 2010, https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/immune-system-lack-of-sleep#1

[5] American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Healthy Sleep Habits”. Sleep Education, 2017, http://www.sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits

[6] “Ways to Boost Your Immune System”. WebMD, 2017, https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/10-immune-system-busters-boosters#1

[7] Milner, JJ., and Beck, MA. “The impact of obesity on the immune response to infection.” The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22414338

[8] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Adult Obesity Facts”. CDC, 2018, https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html

[9] Harvard Medical School. “How to boost your immune system”. Harvard Health Publishing, 2014, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system

[10] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Physical Activity Guidelines – Adults”. Health.gov, 2018, https://health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/adults.aspx

[11] Pagan, C. “How Aging Affects Your Immune System”. WebMD, 2016, https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/guide/seniors-boost-immunity#1

[12] Montecino-Rodriguez, E., et al. “Causes, consequences, and reversal of immune system aging”. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3582124/

[13] Qui, F., et al. “Impacts of cigarette smoking on immune responsiveness: Up and down or upside down?” Oncotarget, 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5352117/

[14] National Institutes on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Beyond Hangovers”. National Institutes of Health, 2010, https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Hangovers/beyondHangovers.htm

[15] Sarkar, D., et al. “Alcohol and the Immune System”. Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4590612/

[16] Mozes, A. “Bing Drinking May Weaken Immune System”. WebMD, 2015, https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/news/20150105/binge-drinking-may-weaken-immune-system-study-suggests#1