If you experience recurring infections, catch the common cold and flu often, feel constantly tired, are prone to digestive disorders and allergies or feel depressed, your immune system may be compromised. Stress, malnutrition, obesity and lack of sleep are key causes. Conditions like diabetes and Turner's syndrome can exacerbate the problem further.
Do you wonder why some people are more susceptible to illness while some rarely fall sick?
Its all about your immune system! Immunity is the ability to resist infection, disease or a biological invasion using biological defense mechanisms. It is basically your body’s way of protecting you from an infection.
When your body encounters a foreign organism, a set of responses are set in motion.
Our body has a first line of defense against infections. These include skin, stomach acid, saliva, tears, mucus and cells in the blood stream that destroy bacteria.
We can also develop learned immunity from exposure to an infection. This is an antigen specific immune response. So, once the antigen is recognized, the system creates immune cells to attack that particular antigen. For example, if you’ve recovered from measles, your system protects you from acquiring measles again.
What Causes Our Immunity To Go Down?
According to studies, stress suppresses the effectiveness of our immune system, reducing our ability to fight antigens and making us more susceptible to infections . Stress can also have an indirect effect on the immune system; people generally resort to unhealthy behavioral coping strategies to tackle stress .
Nutrient deficiency results in altered immune responses, even when the deficiency state is mild. Micro nutrients like zinc, selenium, iron, copper, vitamins A,B, C and E and folic acid have important influences on immune responses . The branch of the immune system that produces antibodies is depressed in malnutrition state, with a specific decrease in the number of circulating B-cells and antibody responses.
Obesity alters leucocyte counts as well as cell-mediated responses . Also, obesity makes you more susceptible to conditions like diabetes, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis that further weaken the immune system.
- Turner’s syndrome 
- AIDS and HIV disorders
- Treatments like radiation therapy and cytotoxic chemotherapy
- Sleep deficiency
Is Your Immune System Compromised?
If your answer to most of the following questions is “Yes”, it is likely that your immune system is not firing on all cylinders.
- Do you experience recurring infections?
- Are you struggling with indigestion? 
- Do you tend to catch a cold very often?
- Are you constantly tired? 
- Do your wounds or injuries take a long time to heal? 
- Are you prone to allergies? 
- Do you feel depressed or stressed out very often ? 
- Khansari, David N., Anthony J. Murgo, and Robert E. Faith. “Effects of stress on the immune system.” Immunology today 11 (1990): 170-175.
- McLeod, S. A. (2010). Stress, Illness and the Immune System, Simple Psychology
- Chandra, Ranjit Kumar. “Nutrition and the immune system: an introduction.”The American journal of clinical nutrition 66.2 (1997): 460S-463S.
- de Heredia, Fátima Pérez, Sonia Gómez-Martínez, and Ascensión Marcos. “Obesity, inflammation and the immune system.” Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 71.02 (2012): 332-338.
- Immunological parameters in girls with Turner syndrome, U.S National Library of Medicine
- Round, June L., and Sarkis K. Mazmanian. “The gut microbiota shapes intestinal immune responses during health and disease.” Nature Reviews Immunology 9.5 (2009): 313-323.
- Landay, A. L., et al. “Chronic fatigue syndrome: clinical condition associated with immune activation.” The Lancet 338.8769 (1991): 707-712.
- Factors affecting wound healing, U.S National Library of Medicine
- Environmental influences on the immune system and allergic reaction, U.S National Library of Medicine
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Written by Pragya Sharoff