Having diabetes may compromise your immune system and makes it harder to ward off other health issues. There are other factors that can compromise your immune system. Learn what you can do about conditions that blunt your immune system.
- Diet makes a big difference. Stay away from refined sugars and high glycemic carbohydrates found in foods such as processed cakes, packaged, bagged or boxed snacks, white breads and white rice. Avoid foods that could contain chemical additives, preservatives and pesticides. These foods can weaken the immune system and make you more susceptible to chronic health conditions. A well-balanced diet includes vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy, whole grains and lean protein including fish and poultry.
- Minimize the stress in your life. Chronic stress raises cortisol levels, which decreases the ‘good’ prostaglandins that support healthy immune function and reduce inflammation. Chronic stress makes you more likely to get the flu and colds. More serious health issues such as diabetes, heart disease and gastro-intestinal issues can appear. When possible, avoid or control stressful situations. Engage in activities that can reduce stress, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga and Tai chi. Take time to unwind, laugh and enjoy the company of people you care about.
- Drinking excessive alcohol is a poor way to reduce stress. Too much alcohol damages your immune system and can increase the number of colds and virus’s you get. Over time, excessive alcohol consumption can reduce the functioning of immune cells. This increases your risk of infectious diseases as well as cancer. Alcohol also raises your blood sugar levels. A rule of thumb for people with diabetes is no more than one alcoholic beverage for women and two for men. A drink is 1 ounce of spirits, 4 ounces of wine or 12 ounces of light beer.
- Get enough sleep every night. Sleep gives your body an opportunity to reboot. When you don’t get enough sleep, it can reduce the number of white blood cells that help your body combat disease. People who get less than seven hours of sleep a day are more likely to get sick when exposed to viruses and germs. Lack of sleep can also lead to fatigue, lack of focus and weight gain. Obesity is another factor that weakens the immune system and causes inflammation. Losing just 5 to 10 percent of your total body weight can help boost your immune system.
- Moderate exercise minimizes weight gain and reduces stress by releasing feel-good endorphins. Stretching exercises and resistance training strengthens your muscles and bones. Aerobic and cardiovascular exercise promotes heart health and improved circulation. Exercises for at least 30 minutes, 5 times a week can boost the circulation of white blood cells and antibodies that fight infections. Try taking a brisk walk daily and increase your speed and distance over time.
- Poor hygiene can expose your body to germs and weaken your immune system. Wash your hands before eating, keep your nails clean, brush your teeth twice daily and floss once a day. While hand sanitizing liquids are beneficial when you do not have access to soap and water, continued use of them can compromise your immune system. Wash with soap and water when it is available.
- Be aware of medications and medical treatments than can compromise your immune system. For example, certain prescription and non-prescription drugs can weaken your immune system. Ongoing use of antibiotics can reduce cytokines in your body, which are the hormone messengers of your immune system. Radiation exposure and chemical exposure can also damage your immune system.
- Cigarettes contain thousands of toxic chemicals that can weaken your immune system. Exposure to secondhand smoke can also have a negative impact on your immune system. It can aggravate allergy symptoms and trigger an asthma attack. Use a nebulizer to get instant relief. Quit smoking and encourage friends and family members to quit this unhealthy habit.
- Dehydration can lead to fatigue, poor sleep patterns and an inability to flush toxins out of your body. Drink about 6 to 8 glasses of water daily to stay hydrated and eliminate waste material from your body for a stronger immune system. Talk to your doctor about hydration, lifestyle changes and taking certain supplements and vitamins to boost your immune system.
- Keep your blood sugars controlled which will also boost your white blood cell function and immune system.
A variety of factors can blunt your immune system. A weakened immune system makes it harder for your body to fight infection and disease. A few simple lifestyle changes can boost your immune system and promote optimum health.