Health Factors that Lower Your Immunity

Health Factors that Lower Your Immunity

The truth is, that probably close to half of New Zealand has some level of suppressed immune function. 

To help you understand your personal risk, we’ve compiled a list of 20 factors that impair your immune system. 

Do you have family or friends who may be at risk?   

Or who put you at risk?  

Be sure to share this list with them. 

It’s one way for us to protect one another

After all, we’re in this together.

  • Pregnancy
  • Yes, pregnancy is normal and it is not considered a health problem.  

    But the immune system changes during pregnancy, in part so that it doesn’t attack the fetus, as if it were an “invader”. 

    These changes can make pregnant women more vulnerable to serious complications from everyday infections like influenza. 

    In addition to standard precautions, pregnant women may do well to avoid contact with people outside their household and "friend/work bubble". 

  • Lack of sleep
  • When we sleep, your immune system releases cytokines (proteins), some of which help promote sleep

    Production of certain cytokines needs to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you're under stress. 

    Lack of sleep may decrease this production process. 

    As such, sleep deprivation leads to inflammation and also leaves us more vulnerable to illness. 

    If you struggle with insomnia, try our Sleep Fx it is known to make it easier to drift off, stay asleep, and wake up feeling more refreshed. 

  • Poor diet 
  • Not taking in enough protein is an issue for immune function and regeneration of immune cells.

    And deficiencies in certain vitamins and micronutrients also put immune function at risk.  

    The good news? 

    There are so many foods that boost immune support, for example, Button Mushrooms, Acai Berry, Oysters, Watermelon, Yogurt, Spinach, Tea, Sweet Potato, Broccoli, Red capsicum, Garlic, and Chicken Soup

    Taking a high-quality multivitamin, like Koru Protect, can help fill in any nutritional gaps and provide added support.

  • Diabetes and pre-diabetes
  • The high blood sugars found in diabetes are believed to interfere with our immune response, as such people with diabetes are more vulnerable to infections.  

    High blood sugars also lead to inflammation, which worsens the damage caused to the pancreas. 

    If you have diabetes or insulin resistance or borderline diabetes, now is the time to make the changes needed to bring your blood sugars back into balance

  • Obesity 
  • Obesity is a prime risk factor for conditions like diabetes which depress your immune system. But that’s not all ... 

    One of the hormonal effects associated with obesity is an imbalance of leptin. 

    Leptin plays a major role in weight regulation, but it is also needed to activate immune responses. 

    In obese people with “leptin resistance," immune function may be slowed increasing the risk of infection.

    Around 30% of adults in New Zealand are obese. 

  • Antibiotics
  • Many people associate antibiotics with protection from infections.  

    But antibiotics are not selective, they kill both good and bad bacteria.  

    When antibiotics kill the “good bacteria”, this leaves our immune system (more than 70% of which resides in the lining of the gut) unprotected.  

    That gives pathogens a chance to flourish. 

    Antibiotics should only be used when necessary and under a doctor’s supervision.  

    If you have taken an antibiotic recently, follow up with a quality prebiotic and probiotic, like Gut Restore, and eat probiotic-rich foods to start replenishing beneficial flora. 

  • Autoimmune disease
  • People with autoimmune diseases have an immune system that doesn’t self-regulate properly. 

    In autoimmune diseases the immune response comes on and stays on, eventually attacking the body’s own cells and organs. 

  • Stress, depression, and isolation
  • Negative feelings can lower immune function. 

    There is significant evidence to show how stress, depression, and social isolation reduce immune responses by T cells. 

    This effect is more significant if a person experiences these emotions for an extended period of time. 

  • Kidney disease 
  • Kidney failure affects general immunity, causing dysfunction at the intestinal barrier, systemic inflammation, and also immunodeficiency that can lead to infections.

  • Fatty liver disease and cirrhosis
  • An incredible 30% of the western world’s population suffers from cirrhosis and fatty liver disease.  

    This condition impairs immune function by undermining the liver’s key role in immune function.  

  • Recent measles 
  • Measles is potentially deadly on its own, but researchers have found that the measles illness can induce an after-effect called “immune amnesia.” 

    For the first few years after a measles infection, people can be frequently ill, even with diseases they should have immunity for ... 

  • Radiation therapy and chemotherapy  
  • About 30% of cancer patients receive some form of radiation therapy.  

    Today radiation therapy comes in many forms and its negative impact on immune function is well-studied and minimised.  

    But, in many cases, the damage to immune cells and systems is severe and long-lasting.  

    Chemotherapy causes a severely diminished level of a white blood cell called neutrophils.  

    People on chemotherapy are often very vulnerable to infections because neutrophils are needed to fight infection.  

    These adverse effects can continue long after the therapy is completed.

  • Cancers
  • If tumorous cancer invades the bone marrow or other tissues where immune systems are formed, the cancer cells interfere with the production of protective immune cells.

    Leukemia and lymphomas cancers directly attack components of the immune system, the lymphatic system, and also the blood cell types. 

    Because lymphomas interfere with the work of the lymphatic system, it cannot perform its role in the immune system. 

    With leukemia, blood cell development is often affected, leading to ineffective and immature cells, including impairment of the white blood cells that help fight disease.

  • Medications
  • Some of the most common prescription and over the counter medications come with immune-suppressing side effects: 

    Proton pump inhibitors for acid reflux and GORD, alter the gut flora and immune responses by altering your stomach’s pH levels. 

    Gut health is part of immune health because over 70% of the body’s immune system resides in the linings of the intestines. 

    Altered pH can also affect the absorption of nutrients which affects the nourishment needed for healthy immune function. 

    Opioid pain medications carry the risk of addiction, but other side effects associated with long term use of opioids include the potential for lowered immunity. 

    Opioids may harm the lining of the gut and intestines where the majority of the body's immune cells reside, increasing the risk of infection.

    Anti-inflammatory corticoid medications are given to suppress a hyperactive immune system, such as in allergies, asthma, or autoimmune diseases.

    They may leave people more vulnerable to infections because they suppress the immune system. 

  • Bone marrow transplants 
  • When people receive bone marrow transplants, their own bone marrow must be totally destroyed beforehand with chemotherapy and sometimes radiation.  

    Because so many of our immune cells start their lives in our bone marrow, these patients are extremely vulnerable to infections because these areas of production have been destroyed.

  • Organ transplants
  • When people receive organ transplants, their own immune systems have to be severely suppressed with medications, in order to prevent rejection of the organ.  

  • Recent surgery
  • People are found to be more vulnerable to infections after surgery.

    This may be related to blood loss, antibiotics used, or the preoccupation of our immune system with healing and recovery from the procedure.  

  • Iron deficiency anemia 
  • Iron appears to play a role in the maturation and generation of immune cells. 

    People with iron-deficiency anemia may also have lowered T cell responses, making them more vulnerable to infection. 

  • Being very young 
  • Children do not have fully developed immune systems until they are about 7 years old.  

    When babies are born, they are born with some of their mother’s antibodies, but those fade quickly.

  • Being very old
  • Yes, being elderly is still a factor for lowered immunity.  

    As we age, our immune responses are generally not as quick or as strong as they once were.

    We are also more likely to experience diseases and disorders that impact our immune systems.  

    We can all do our bit to protect everyone who may have lowered immunity.

    Stay home if you feel sick. 

    Wash your hands.

    Whether or not we have a factor on this list …

    We can all do our part to keep each other well.