Top 5 Immune System Killers

#1. Sleep

According to a 2008 article on sleep in Scientific American, the average American runs a sleep deficit of one hour per night for a combined total of two weeks per year!

In a separate study, published by the European Journal of Physiology, going into sleep debt can have significant consequences. In the conclusion they say: “Chronic sleep deprivation can be seen as an unspecific sate of chronic stress, which impacts immune functions and general health.” This in turn can lead to “persistent low-grade inflammation” and lead to “enhanced susceptibility to infections.”[1]

#2. Stress

There are two types of stress: eu- stress and dis- stress. Eu-stress is normal stress, generates productivity & positive results, and is well tolerated by the body. Distress may be tolerated in the short term, but can have a negative impact on emotions, energy and mood over time.
Prolonged periods of distress may lead to disease states including:

  • Physical exhaustion and emotional instability.
  • Depleted overall cortisol level
  • Disruption of normal cortisol circadian rhythm affecting sleep cycles.

Ultimately, prolonged elevation of cortisol reduces overall immune function and leads to illness. Initially this presents as cold and flu, but over time more serious imbalances like autoimmune conditions, thyroid dysfunction, and cancer may result.

#3. Overwork

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the kidneys are thought to be the ‘storehouse’ of one’s energy.  They are also considered to store the life-force and genetic material for an individual. The resources of the kidney are finite, but can be replenished with rest, diet, and practices like Tai Qi and Qi Gong.

Working normally draws on the energy of spleen which is replenished by a healthy diet and rest.  When a person depletes the ‘spleen energy’, he or she must draw on the kidneys. Like borrowing from a savings account in an emergency, you may draw on the kidneys so long as you repay them later.

So, overwork can deplete the kidney energy and lead to immune dysfunction and a shortened lifespan.

Some specific kidney depletion symptoms include hot flashes, emotional instability, fatigue, feeling cold, and depression.

#4. Improper Diet:

So many people today eat what tastes good regardless of what their bodies really need. On a fundamental level, your body requires nutrients for energy production, cellular repair, and immune function.

You can choose to eat whatever you want, but your body can only function as well as the fuel it is provided. The basic insults to the body in the U.S. diet include:

  • Low fruit and vegetable consumption
  • Irregular eating
  • Low protein consumption
  • Over consumption of sugar, refined flour, sweetened drinks, and unhealthy oils.

If you would like support making gradual shifts to a more healthy diet, please contact me and I’d be happy to help. The trick here is to make little changes over time.

#5. The 7 Emotions

According to Chinese Medicine, there are 7 key emotions which impact health. They are joy, anger, anxiety, pensiveness (worry), grief, fear, and fright (different from fear). Each of these emotions affects a different organ in the body.

The takeaway here is that your emotional state directly impacts your physical health. Moreover, past emotions from as far back as childhood can have a significant impact on your health today.

Addressing past hurts and current grievances serves to free up ‘stuck energy’ in the meridians and allows each of the organs to be more fully nourished by qi and blood. In summary, addressing emotional issues will improve overall immune health.

In Conclusion

The concept of immunity is actually quite complicated in that immune function occurs at many levels throughout the body and involves not only the blood and digestive systems, but other systems as well including the lungs and endocrine systems. This article is intended to provide a high-level view of some of the most common contributors to immune system depletion.


[1] Pflügers Archiv European Journal of Physiology Volume 463, Number 1 (2012), 121-137, DOI: 10.1007/s00424-011-1044-0

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