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Heeding your body's warning signals
Even though your immune system is invisible, there are ways to find out if it is in trouble if you know what to look out for.
You can start by thinking about how you feel right now? If you feel good that's amazing, as at this very second there are millions of microscopic invaders just waiting for an opportunity to attack and make you ill, and the only thing that stands in their way is your immune system. If you don't feel so good, if you have the odd ache or pain or just feel tired, fed up and run down, don't ignore those feelings. Take the time to listen to what your body is trying to tell you.
Your body will tell you if your immune system is in danger. It is important to listen to it and be aware of any slight changes because the earlier you recognise the signs and symptoms of weakened immunity the faster you can take corrective action and the more likely you are to avoid becoming ill. Use the checklist below to see if you need to give your immune system a boost.
If you find that you are answering 'yes' more than 'no' to the questions opposite and you can't find a logical explanation (for example, a stiff neck is normal if you've slept in an awkward position, ravenous hunger is normal after a long walk in the countryside), the chances are your immune system needs some help.
If you answered mainly 'no' to the questions above, your immune system is doing its job well. To fine-tune your health, take note of any 'yes' answers and find ways to turn them into 'no' answers.
The first step to making sure your immune system stays reasonably strong is to know your enemies (i.e. the factors that can hamper your immune system). Although a number of disorders, some genetic, are linked to improper immune, the most common causes of weakened immunity are, in fact, related to diet and lifestyle.
Listed opposite are common lifestyle factors that research has shown can depress your immune system and out your health at risk.
- Poor diet
- Lack of essential nutrients in the diet
- Lack of sleep
- Lack of exercise
- Excessive intake of alcohol
- Pesticides, chemicals and food additives
- Overuse of antibiotics
- Poor living habits
It is important to point out that the immune system can be weakened by factors within your control as well as accidents, medication and immunodeficiency diseases. In fact, in the great majority of cases you are directly responsible for the weakness of your immune system.
Even the most susceptible person can boost the immune system by heeding the warning signs of a weakened immune system, taking better care of himself or herself and getting immunized if eligible. These measures will not completely prevent you from getting sick, but they will help. And when you do catch that unavoidable yearly bug, its effects will not be as strong or drawn out as you might expect.
Is your immune system in trouble?
Answer yes or no to the questions below:
Does it lack shine? Is it dull or greasy or thinning?
Do you suffer from recurring headaches or bouts of fogginess and dizziness? Does your head feel heavy and sore?
Do you eyes feel tired? Are they bloodshot or itchy? Are they dull, not sparkling?
Can you sometimes hear a high-pitched noise? Are your ears itchy or painful?
Is your nose runny, congested or itchy? Do you sneeze? Is there a loss of smell?
Does your breath smell bad? Do you have a bad taste in your mouth? Is your tongue sore or swollen? Do you suffer from bleeding gums and or mouth ulcers? Do you have bad teeth or gum disease? Is there loss of taste? Are your lips cracked and sore? Do you often get cold sores?
Is your neck stiff and sore when you move?
Is your throat itchy or sore? Do you sometimes have difficulty swallowing?
• Digestive tract:
Do you suffer from indigestion, gas, diarrhoea, bloating, constipation or abdominal pain? Do you feel nauseated at certain times of the day?
Do your muscles feel weak and tingly? Do you get injuries easily?
Are your joints stiff and painful?
Do you have spots or rashes? Is your skin dry, dull or bloated? Do you have body odour?
Do you have white spots, ridges, splits or blue tinges on your nails?
• Energy Levels:
Do you need coffee or other stimulants, like chocolate or sugar, to keep going? Are your energy levels intermittent, erratic or non existent? Do you feel tired a lot of the time? Do you yawn a lot during the day? Do you often feel apathetic?
Are you having trouble sleeping? Do you sweat excessively in the night?
• Brain power:
Do you find it hard to concentrate? Are you forgetful? Is your memory poor?
Do you feel stressed, depressed, sad, up-and-down, irritable or just below par?
Do you get food cravings or feelings of intense hunger? Or are you off your food?
Are you overweight? Do you smoke? Is your job sedentary? Do you take very little exercise? Do you spend little time in natural daylight? Do you eat a lot of refined, processed or convenience foods? Is your diet high in sugar?
• General health:
Do you get more than three colds a year? Do you find it hard to get over an infection? Do you eat a lot of refined, processed or convenience foods? Is your diet high in sugar? Do you suffer from repeated infections? Do you have allergies? Are you prone to thrush or cystitis? Do you suffer from anaemia? Do wounds heal slowly? Do you feel the cold more than other people? Are your periods irregular? Have you noticed a loss of libido? Do you feel as if you've lost your 'va-va voom'?
This extract was taken from 'How to Boost Your Immune System by Theresa Cheung, by kind permission of Sheldon Press