The health of the immune system should be perceived as a reflection of an individual’s overall health in general.
Both, our Immune system and overall health can be directly affected, for better or worse, by things we do in our day-to-day lives.
While it is certainly true that there are certain conditions and health factors that can weaken a person’s immune system at no fault of their own, the vast majority of the population has almost complete control over the strength of their immunity.
In this post, we are going to break down several unhealthy habits, and specifically, their detrimental effects on the immune system.
Excessive Alcohol Consumption
According to an article published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there is a direct correlation between immune system strength and excessive alcohol consumption.
There are multiple ways in which this effect can occur.
Drinking too much alcohol can both decrease the number of cells responsible for immune function, as well as damage existing cells.
If the immune system is not provided with the key players it needs to do its job, it makes sense that the job itself is not going to be carried out properly!
We are all aware that alcohol is harmful to the liver, an organ that isn’t called a “vital organ” for no reason!
However, the livers function pertaining to the immune system isn’t discussed very often.
The liver produces several different types of antibacterial proteins that, if it is already damaged by alcohol, are not going to be created.
Smoking is a habit that is inarguably bad for every single system and function in the body.
In fact, this entire article would probably not be long enough to encapsulate each detrimental effect of the habit.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that regular smoking is bad news for the immune system.
The research journal, Oncotarget, includes an article describing why this is the case.
The reasons, as you can imagine, are all over the board.
Everything from immune cell production, comorbidities that affect the immune system, even some of the body parts that assist in immune response are all harmed by smoking.
Interestingly, at one point the article literally states that smoking is “always harmful” to immune responses.
Lack Of Exercise
Another obvious bad decision pertaining to overall health and quality of life is being sedentary most of the time.
Failing to give the body the exercise and physical activity it needs causes a slew of negative effects.
There has been a somewhat longstanding debate about exercise as it relates to the immune system.
On one side of the conversation, many individuals are under the impression that exercise actually decreases the body’s immunity.
The other camp believes that the opposite is true.
According to the Journal of Sport and Health Science, while both sides of the argument have valid points, exercise, in general, is beneficial to the immune system.
To be clear, prolonged bouts of vigorous exercise that are performed in a way that does not allow the body to properly recover is certainly harmful to the body, immunity included.
However, numerous studies have shown that reasonable, consistent exercise has the ability to strengthen the immune system in a number of ways.
Several important ways in which exercise can result in a stronger immune response is by reducing chronic inflammation systemically, greatly decreasing an individual’s risk of developing a serious disease, and even slowing down the aging process of the immune system as a whole!
The ability of chronic stress to weaken the immune system is multi-faceted.
If you have noticed that you seem to always get sick during really hectic times in life, this is no coincidence.
The body’s hormonal response to stress causes an increase in the production of several hormones, such as cortisol and corticosteroid that weaken the immune system in a number of different ways.
These hormones result in both a decreased production of specific cells that are vital to the immune response as well as negatively affecting the manner in which the immune system utilizes inflammation to attack pathogens.
Stress and its effect on the immune system actually relates to a number of habits we previously discussed.
To cope with stress, many people turn to harmful outlets such as excess alcohol consumption and smoking to try and deal with the situation.
This can become a vicious cycle that spells disaster for not only immune function, but also the quality of life as a whole.
Emory UniversityMSACD. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://msacd.emory.edu/news/Alcohols Effects on Immunity – Increasing the Risks for Infection and Injury.html
Nieman, D. C., & Wentz, L. M. (2018, November 16). The compelling link between physical activity and the body’s defense system. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095254618301005
Review Impacts of cigarette smoking on immune … (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.oncotarget.com/index.php?journal=oncotarget&page=article&op=download&path=13613&path=43241
Immune System Function – https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/immune-system-function#1
Immune System – https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/immune-system