7 Bad Mistakes That Are Weakening Your Immune System

Stress and excessive drinking can hurt your immune system when you need it most.

With the coronavirus looming over your head, it can be hard to feel confident you are taking all the right precautions to keep yourself, and those around you, safe and healthy in a time of such uncertainty. New reports about the virus are coming out every week—whether it's how long COVID-19 stays on certain surfaces or what the right way is to disinfect your home—which can cause confusion and the spread of misinformation. However, one thing that has not changed is how important it is to have a healthy immune during the pandemic. With that said, here are common mistakes—from not getting enough sleep to drinking too much—that can result in a weakened immune system, making you more susceptible to illness. And for additional clarity on COVID-19, check out 13 Actual Facts That Debunk Common Coronavirus Myths.

Consuming too much sugar

Woman is eating tasty sugary donuts. Portrait of beautiful young woman eating donuts at home. Woman sitting on the sofa while eating a plate of donuts

According to clinical nutritionist Kristy Harvell, sugar competes with vitamin C for space in your immune system because the two are of a similar chemical structure. What exactly does that mean?

"The more sugar in your system, the less vitamin C can get into your white blood cells," she says. "Sugar does not help your immune system fight infection at all, resulting in a weakened defense from infections."

Not managing your stress

Close-up shot of a woman suffering from a headache and rubbing her temples at home

Don't stop your self-care routine while you're stuck in quarantine. In fact, you might need it now more than ever. Providing comfort to your body and mind can help lower your stress levels, which is key to maintaining a strong immune system.

A 2012 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that chronic stress results in glucocorticoid receptor resistance (GCR), which in turn, lowers your immune system's ability to fight off viruses. And for more ways to combat stress, check out these 9 Tips on How to Stay Calm During the Quarantine.

Not getting enough sleep

Shot of a young woman using a cellphone in bed at night

Try to keep up with your sleep schedule right now—it matters. Why? A 2017 study published in the journal Sleep monitored twins and their sleep patterns, finding that the sibling who habitually got less sleep had the weaker immune system of the two. And for more issues that can result from insufficient rest, check out the 25 Things You're Doing That Would Horrify Sleep Doctors.

Drinking too much alcohol

older man holding a wine glass of red wine

Lay off the alcohol right now. While it may be tempting to have few more glasses of wine than usual while you're stuck inside, it's not the best choice for your immune system. According to the Mayo Clinic, a heightened level of drinking can cause a myriad of health complications, including weakened immune system. The experts say that "excessive alcohol use can make it harder for your body to resist disease, increasing your risk of various illnesses."

What is considered too much? For women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive drinking is categorized as having four or more drinks during a single occasion or eight or more drinks per week. For men, those numbers change to five and 15, respectively.

Not drinking enough water

Senior man drink mineral water in gym fitness center after exercise. Elderly healthy lifestyle.

Drinking plenty of water every day has a variety of health benefits—reversely, not doing so can have an array of negative effects. Eduardo Dolhun, MD, practicing family physician and creator of DripDrop, says that "dehydration has a devastating impact" on your immune system by making your body unable to flush out toxins as fast as it normally would.

Not getting enough exercise

Full length relaxed young man in glasses lying on comfortable couch, enjoying spending weekend leisure time chatting in social network on phone with friends, watching funny videos.

Whether it's an at-home workout or a long walk—following safe social distancing practices, of course—regular exercise is crucial to a healthy immune system. A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reported that over time, leading a sedentary lifestyle affects your body's ability to fight infection by impairing your immune system.

Or getting too much exercise

When workouts get too strenuous, the number of infection-fighting white blood cells in your body can go down. At the same time, your stress hormone cortisol may go up, which may interfere with the ability of certain immune cells to work right.

However, it's all about maintaining a healthy balance, because too much exercise can also harm your immune system. This is especially true if you're already sick, according to experts at WebMD: "When workouts get too strenuous, the number of infection-fighting white blood cells in your body can go down. At the same time, your stress hormone cortisol may go up, which may interfere with the ability of certain immune cells to work right."

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.