Posted on Sep 01, 2021, 2 p.m.
Immunity is something many of us have discussed more since 2020 than we had for years before, as the global pandemic brought health and the immune system front of mind. Our immunity is vital and something we need to focus on improving wherever possible. We can do this by getting more sleep, eating better, exercising, lowering stress, and more.
But we also need to know how to identify when our bodies are running on empty and our immune systems are struggling. Spotting common signs of issues can help us take steps to often rectify the situation before things worsen.
Frequent Illness and Struggles to Get Well
Have you noticed you’re getting sick a lot this year? Or that you struggle to get well in a decent time frame? If so, your immunity levels may be lower than they could be. If you catch every cold and virus going around and come down with bugs more often than those around you, it’s worth booking in to see a primary care physician via a virtual doctor visit or an in-person appointment.
Getting sick a couple of times per year or so is normal, but if you feel like you’re continually dealing with health issues, it’s wise to have a checkup and perhaps get some testing done. The same goes if you notice it takes you much longer to heal from sicknesses than it should. For example, most people recover from a cold in around a week to ten days. If you’re taking weeks to fight off bugs, your immune system may not be robust.
Lack of Sleep and Energy
You might not get sick all the time, but perhaps you constantly feel tired and lack energy. If you’re lethargic often and find it tough to get to sleep, stay that way, or never feel rested when you wake up, this could relate to your immunity levels. Many reasons can lead to bad sleeping habits and feelings of tiredness, so it’s worth seeing a doctor to investigate. A common cause of lethargy, though, is a weakened immune system.
Unfortunately, this turns into a vicious cycle, too. When you’re not getting adequate sleep, you won’t boast the vigorous antibody responses you could otherwise call upon. In turn, you’re more likely to get run down and sick often and find it tougher to sleep as much and as deeply as you’d like.
People who live with consistently high-stress levels may have low immunity, too. When your body is regularly in a fight-or-flight response state, you have fewer antibody responses when you need them and fewer immune cells available to do their job. Chronic stress can, in particular, lower the body’s number of lymphocytes, the white blood cells that work to stave off infections.
A related problem is a build-up of cortisol. Excessive stress creates excess cortisol, one of the body’s primary stress hormones. High cortisol levels can compromise the gut-immune barrier in your digestive tract and reduce your health protection levels as a result. Viruses can get into your body quicker and easier via the intestinal tract lining and make you more vulnerable to sickness.
If you get sick soon after handling an emotionally taxing issue or finish a big work project or something else that causes a lot of stress, it shows you’re running on empty.
Low Gut Health
Gut health is crucial in keeping us well and our bodies running optimally. If you find you often struggle with gut-related problems, such as nausea, gas, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, stomach pain, and the like, this may be due to an immune system that’s become off-kilter.
Much of this vital system sits inside the digestive tract. As you can imagine, then, negative gut occurrences indicate that your immunity is misfiring. Plus, keep in mind that gut imbalances can lower your wellbeing levels and create another type of vicious cycle where you struggle to have strong immunity.
Problems with the Skin
People who start getting skin issues for no apparent reason may also face a weakened immune system. While skin problems can stem from all sorts of things, recurring outbreaks, infections (whether fungal, bacterial, or viral), itchy or inflamed skin, unexpected allergic reactions, and skin that takes ages to heal can be a sign of immunity concerns. The skin provides a window into our internal systems, after all.
It’s believed that the microorganisms living on the skin get influenced significantly by the immune system, giving us a hint as to what may be going on below.
Speak with your regular doctor or a dermatologist or other specialist if you notice any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above. The sooner you address any underlying causes and take steps to boost your immunity, the better.
This article was written by Nancy R. Fernandez, blogger and health advocate.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.
Content may be edited for style and length.
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