Daily Habits That Mess With Your Immune System

When was the last time you thanked your immune system? Every day, it works hard to protect the body from infection. This is even more important during “flu season” when germs are easy to catch, or if your co-worker or partner is sneezing up a storm. Without a healthy immune system, you’d be sick on the daily. But it can’t go into battle alone. Your everyday habits and activities can either help or harm your immune system! This network of cells, tissues, and organs is powered by your lifestyle, and it’s up to you to lend a hand.1

Every little move adds up. It might not seem groundbreaking at the moment, but everything certainly makes a difference. Your immune system is depending on you.


Do your immunity a favor by controlling these habits. In time, it’ll show thanks by keeping you healthy and well.

1. Letting Stress Build Up

 Constant high stress levels results in reduced immunity


Stress is a very normal part of life. In small doses, it fuels motivation and productivity, helping you tackle the day’s to-do list. The “fight or flight” response even increases immune cells like lymphocytes and neutrophils.2 The problem starts when things get out of hand.
Stress increases cortisol, aptly known as the stress hormone. At high levels, cortisol prevents the body from suppressing inflammation and fighting off sickness.3 Essentially, when you’re under pressure, so is your immunity.

2. Sleeping Less Than 7 Hours

Immune system will stop functioning well without sufficient sleep


Adults need 7 to 9 hours of shut eye every night, but almost 30 percent don’t get enough. The rise of technology definitely doesn’t help! Top it off with the demands of work and you’ve got yourself a sleepless night.

This means trouble for immunity. Aside from accidents and poor focus, lack of rest is strongly connected to sickness. Sleep allows immune cells to increase and re-distribute to the lymph nodes. It even helps the body form an immunological memory to remember the “bad guys”, proving the power of shut eye.4


3. Exercising Too Much

Too much exercise increases the susceptibility to infection

Let’s get one thing straight: Physical activity is great for the body. Exercise increases immune cells and fights inflammation so well that it can manage chronic diseases.5 6 Overall health will surely thrive, but it’s a different story when you overdo it.


Exercises strengthens immunity by temporarily heightening oxidative stress. But if you keep going and going and going, that oxidative stress will take over. Strenuous workouts will even suppress immune cells, leaving you vulnerable to infection and disease.7

4. Sitting Around All Day

Lack of physical activity weakens the immune system


On the flipside, lack of exercise isn’t any better. Some say it’s as bad as smoking! Physical activity not only increases helper T cells, but helps immunity respond and adapt.8 Exercise also increases proteins that regulate inflammation, a major process behind countless diseases.

Again, staying active is so powerful that it can manage autoimmune disease and lower the risk of breast cancer coming back.9 10 So get up and move!


5. Drinking Too Much Alcohol

Immune cells will not function well with too much alcohol intake

If you drink, the occasional cocktail or beer doesn’t hurt. Some types of alcohol even have health benefits. Red wine, for example, has more antioxidants than green tea and ellagic acid, a chemical that slows down fat growth.11 12 But that doesn’t mean excess alcohol is good for you.

Too much booze makes it hard for immune cells to do their thing. In many cases, alcohol actually makes the body’s organs attack itself. And if you do get sick? Diseases are often more aggressive in those that drink a lot, so watch out.13

6. Smoking Cigarettes

Nicotine in cigarettes harms lymphocytes, reducing immunity

From yellow teeth to lung cancer, the consequences of smoking aren’t pretty. You can also add poor immunity to that list. Nicotine, a major component of cigarettes, negatively acts on white blood cells called lymphocytes. Helper T cells also become unresponsive, letting germs and free radicals have their way.14

Furthermore, the habit increases the risk of other immune-busting factors. Stress, physical inactivity, and poor eating habits are all associated with smoking cigarettes.15 16

7. Eating Processed Foods

Processed food doesn't have the nutrients needed for immunity

Are you all about boxed meals and frozen dinners? Processed food might be cheap and easy, but it has little to no nutrients. This can seriously hinder immune cells, which need vitamins and minerals to function. Food literally equals fuel.

For instance, vitamins A and C activate immune cells while fighting oxidative stress. Deficiency can increase the risk of sickness, so eat lots of fruits and veggies.17 Processed food, on the other hand, isn’t rich in nutrition. It’s true: You are what you eat.

How To Help Your Immune System

  • Make time for self-care and stress relief. Find a hobby you love, whether it’s crafting or writing.
  • Prioritize sleep, no matter how busy you are. You’ll feel so much better the next morning.
  • Stay active. All it takes is 30 minutes 5 days a week to reap the benefits of exercise.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. That’s 2 drinks a day for men, and 1 drink a day for women.18
  • If you smoke, quit. It’s easier said than done, but there are countless programs and experts that are available for help.
  • Eat real food like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains.