Your habits affect your health more than you think!
Cultivating good practices strengthens your body’s natural defences. On the other hand, having habits that weaken your immune system puts you at greater risk of illnesses. Unfortunately, these unhealthy practices are normalized.
Adopting a healthier lifestyle to build a stronger immune system can be challenging, but it’s definitely not impossible. To help you get started, we listed for you 10 bad habits that you should consider quitting as soon as possible.
Chronic nail-biting, also known as onychophagia, is a common stress-relieving habit. It may seem harmless, but it can potentially get you sick.1
Compulsively biting your nails is not only unsanitary. According to a study, this habit can also result in these complications when left untreated:2
- Crooked teeth
- Chipped teeth
- Notched gums
- Intestinal parasitic infections
- Bacterial infection
- Lung damage
Nail-biting is usually triggered by stress and anxiety, so it’s best to try healthier coping mechanisms to deal with uncomfortable emotions. If your unhealthy habit persists, consult a doctor.
2. Improper Hand Washing
Germs are easily transferable. They can make you ill when you touch your eyes, nose, and mouth without washing your hands.
To emphasize, a single gram of human feces can contain one trillion germs. Imagine how sick you can get if you don’t wash your hands after changing a diaper or going to the toilet!
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a good rule of thumb is to wash your hands for around 20 seconds. It’s also advisable to do this habit before, during, or after during these key times:3
- Preparing and eating food
- Caring for a sick person
- Treating a cut or wound
- Blowing nose
- Petting animals
- Cleaning animal waste
- Touching garbage
3. Poor Dental Hygiene
Research reveals that the health of your mouth impacts your overall health. When you forget to brush and floss your teeth, your immune system gets forced to work overtime. It can also cause bacteria growth, inflammatory reaction, and the development of gum disease.4
When it comes to taking care of your teeth and gums, prevention is better than cure. Don’t wait until you’re experiencing dental problems before practicing healthy dental habits. The NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA) suggests following these tips to ensure optimal dental health:5
- Use a soft-bristle brush and fluoride toothpaste
- Use circular motions and back-and-forth strokes
- Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months
- Clean your tongue with a tongue cleaner or toothbrush
- Floss regularly
4. Lack of Sleep
Sleep recharges and heals your body. During this downtime, your body produces cytokines, which are proteins that boost your immune system.
If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re more likely to catch germs or viruses. You may also take longer to get better when you get sick since your body cannot produce enough antibodies.
To get 7-9 hours of sleep and strengthen your immune function, practice good sleep hygiene. This involves investing in a high-quality mattress, establishing a consistent sleep schedule, and avoiding bad habits before sleep.
5. Poor Food Choices
Another habit that weakens your immune system is regularly stuffing yourself with fast food. Besides increasing the risk of obesity, having poor food choices can make your body react like getting infected with bacteria.
A study conducted by the University of Bonn explored the connection between fast food and the immune system. Researchers placed mice in a diet high in fat and sugar and low in fiber. After one month, they had a shocking discovery: the animals developed a strong inflammatory response.6
If fast food is a regular part of your diet, slowly cut back on it. Finding healthier alternatives to your unhealthy favorites is a good way to start.
6. Too Much Time Indoors
Staying at home and binge-watching your favorite TV shows all day can be a good way to relax. However, spending too much time indoors can cause vitamin D deficiency.
Kenneth Wright, Jr., director of the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the University of Colorado Boulder, recommends staying outdoors for around 45 minutes in the morning. The Vitamin D Council also suggests taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily if you get little or no sun exposure.
Nicotine addiction caused by smoking slows down T cells’ response to antigens, reduces B cell antibody formation, and increases cortisol levels. When this happens, your respiratory tract gets inflamed. Your immune system cells also won’t produce enough antibodies, leaving you more susceptible to flu and cold.7
Quitting smoking can be difficult, but it can be done. Kick the addiction by seeking therapy and building a solid support system to get the help you need.
8. Excessive Drinking
Dr. Alex Mroszczyk-McDonald, a family medicine doctor, explains that alcohol can kill healthy gut bacteria. Research also shows that excessive alcohol consumption results in severe lung diseases.8
For these reasons, try to abstain from or cut down on alcohol. This is especially important if you are at increased risk for diabetes or heart disease.
9. Excessive Exercise
It’s no secret that exercise is vital to achieving optimal wellness. You may already be aware that not exercising enough is bad for your health, but did you know that overdoing it is also bad for your immune system?
A study found that too much high-intensity exercise can increase the risk of illness and make you more vulnerable to infection. Because of this, consider switching to moderate-intensity exercise or limiting vigorous exercise to only about 75 minutes a week.9
10. Frequent Health Supplement Intake
Health supplements can serve as immunity boosters, primarily if your diet doesn’t provide you with your fill of essential nutrients. Unfortunately, too much of these may do more harm than good. For instance, too much vitamin C could cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.10
Read More: Best Teas For Diarrhea
Part of boosting your immune system is being mindful of the supplements you take. Before adding them to your diet, make sure to read the safety labels and consult your doctor.
Bad Habits That Weaken Your Immune System – In Short
Letting go of habits that weaken your immune system can be hard. After all, these practices seem to be already automatic to you, meaning you do them without thinking. The good news is that, with our tips, you can have an easier time adopting a healthier lifestyle.
Don’t beat yourself up if you’re having trouble quitting your unhealthy habits. Take the first step to a healthier you by welcoming positive changes into your routine. Eventually, embracing these changes will be easier. The results will then be worth your sacrifices to strengthen your immune system.