<< Back

These 8 Things Make it Harder for Immune Systems to Fight Illness (Like COVID-19)

March 31, 2020

Boosting the body’s immune system is even more important during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. But it’s equally important to curb or stop any behaviors that can lower your resistance.

The following are ways we hinder our immune system, which can not only leave the body more susceptible to viruses like COVID-19 but can also cause a more extreme reaction.

1. Not getting enough sleep. Sure, it’s easy to watch Netflix into the wee hours of the morning, but when your body doesn’t get enough rest, it does not produce as many infection-fighting cells or antibodies to fend off illness. And if you do get sick, it may take longer to get better. “Your body heals best at rest,” said Sabrena Lary and Deanna Barrett, athletic trainers with the Hartford HealthCare Rehabilitation Network.

2.  Skipping the fruits and veggies. There are far too many healthy benefits from eating fresh produce. They help your body produce the white blood cells that fight off infection. The fiber they contain helps keep your body fat percentage low, thereby boosting your immune response. And the vitamins they contain are natural boosts to your overall health.

3.  Eating a high-fat diet. Your white blood cell count is negatively affected by a high-fat diet, which can also tip the balance of bacteria in your digestive system so your immune system is unable to respond properly. Trade high-fat for lean proteins like seafood, poultry and lean cuts of beef.

4.  Ignoring your anxiety. Your immune system is attuned to your mental state and can be weakened after as few as 30 minutes of anxious thoughts. Talk to your primary care provider if you need help. “Stress and anxiety have a tremendous impact on our immune system,” said Dr. David Tolin, director of the Anxiety Disorders Center at the Institute of Living, part of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network. “We know excess levels of stress produce hormonal changes that lower the body’s resistance to colds and other infections.”

5. Becoming a couch potato. Making time for regular aerobic exercise keeps the blood pumping through your body. This delivers germ-busting chemicals where they need to be to help the body fight illness.

6. Hiding indoors. Sunlight actually energizes the body’s T-cells to help fight against infection, and it can give also your body a boost of Vitamin D, which supports the immune system. If you venture into the woods for a hike or mountain bike ride, you can also experience a boost in immune function by breathing in substances like phytoncides produced by woodland plants.

7.  Smoking. Besides being bad for your lungs, which are particularly affected by COVID-19, nicotine also weakens your body’s ability to fight germs. Vaping is also included, as some of the chemicals in the e-cigarettes suppress the immune response.

8. Drinking too much. Alcohol slows the body’s ability to fight germs for up to 24 hours. With chronic drinking, your body loses its ability to repair itself and you’re left more susceptible to diseases like pneumonia and certain cancers. Keep your intake to one a day for women and two a day for men.

Not feeling well? Call your healthcare provider for guidance and try to avoid going directly to an emergency department or urgent care center, as this could increase the chances of the disease spreading.

Click here to schedule a virtual visit with a Hartford HealthCare-GoHealth Urgent care doctor.

Stay with Hartford HealthCare for everything you need to know about the coronavirus threat. Click here for information updated daily.

Questions? Call our 24-hour hotline (860.972.8100 or, toll-free, 833.621.0600). 

Get text alerts by texting 31996 with COVID19 in the message field.