Most people think they can just pop a pill and everything will get better. But taking a supplement while practicing unhealthy lifestyle habits amounts to putting a band-aid over a bullet wound. This is especially true when it comes to your immune system. If you want to be able to fight off every cold or virus that comes your way, you need to support your immune system with both healthy habits and supplements. Since this past year has been incredibly stressful, it may be easier to eliminate bad habits first than build new healthy ones.
Five Habits That Weaken Your Immune System
Here are five habits you need to drop fast:
People who never exercise are more likely to catch colds and other infections. Regular exercise reduces inflammation, especially in muscle tissue.  45-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise supports the immune system and is especially helpful for people who have a chronic illness or are seniors.  There are both short-term and long-term benefits to stress and immune health from moderate exercise. Be careful though, too long, intense, or frequent exercise can be just as harmful to your immune system as it can be stressful.
Eating Fried Foods
One of the most common fried foods in the American diet is French fries, which is fried potatoes. When the sugars in potatoes are fried, they convert into chemicals that contribute to inflammation and cell damage in the body, harming both the gut and the immune system.  Fried foods are also high in fat, which can alter your gut biome and suppress your immune system.  Choosing healthier foods like fruits and unfried vegetables can reduce inflammation and boost your immune system.
Living in a Messy Home
Having a messy bedroom or office can weaken your immune system in two ways. First, dust, mites, pollen, mold, and bacteria constantly floating around in the air can wear out your immune system, to the point where it’s not fighting really dangerous pathogens when it encounters them. The real damage of a messy home is how it stresses you out mentally. Clutter can increase levels of the stress hormone as well as increase feelings of depression and anxiety.  For stay-at-home moms or those who work from home, a messy home can be even more harmful to your immune health.
Drinking Too Much Coffee
One or two cups of black coffee, taken without sugar or milk, can be anti-inflammatory and helpful to the immune system. But very few people take coffee like that. Most people are drinking high-calorie lattes topped with whipped crème and caramel or knocking back three to four cups of coffee a day. Too much caffeine, whether it’s from coffee, tea, energy drinks, or soda, can hurt your immune system. Caffeine can suppress the immune system by reducing levels of T-cells, antibodies, and key messengers including cytokines and interferon.  Another way caffeine can harm your immune system is by preventing good sleep later in the day, which is very bad for your immune health.  Finally, excess caffeine consumption can cause chronic release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can suppress your immune system function over time. 
Eating Artificial Sweeteners
You may think you’re eating healthy by choosing no-calorie artificial sweeteners instead of sugar, but these chemical majorly mess with your body. One study looked at three types of artificial sweeteners commonly found in diet soda and other diet products, including aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose. These artificial sweeteners all suppressed levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a cytokine produced by immune cells, and sucralose decreased levels of interleukin-10 (IL-10).  This suggests artificial sweeteners suppress your immune system and you won’t be able to easily attack pathogens when you encounter them, making you more likely to come down with that flu.
Other studies suggest artificial sweeteners may also mess up your gut bacteria, which can cause nasty bacteria, yeast, and viruses to flourish.  With a weakened immune system, you’ll be even more susceptible to these bugs.
Try to avoid one or more of these bad habits for 21 days straight to rewire your brain and make your new healthy habit stick. Once you’ve committed to stopping at least one of these unhealthy habits, it’s time to support your immune system. Spore’s Protect and Defend Blend is made with turkey tail, chaga, reishi, and maitake mushrooms to keep your immune system running at its best, even under stress.
- Krüger K, Mooren FC, Pilat C. The Immunomodulatory Effects of Physical Activity. Curr Pharm Des. 2016;22(24):3730-48.
- Simpson RJ, Campbell JP, Gleeson M, Krüger K, Nieman DC, Pyne DB, Turner JE, Walsh NP. Can exercise affect immune function to increase susceptibility to infection? Exerc Immunol Rev. 2020;26:8-22.
- Uribarri J, Woodruff S, Goodman S, et al. Advanced glycation end products in foods and a practical guide to their reduction in the diet. J Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110(6):911-16.e12.
- Murphy EA, Velazquez KT, Herbert KM. Influence of high-fat diet on gut microbiota: a driving force for chronic disease risk. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2015;18(5):515-520.
- Saxbe DE, Repetti R. No place like home: home tours correlate with daily patterns of mood and cortisol. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2010 Jan;36(1):71-81.
- Horrigan LA, Kelly JP, Connor TJ. Immunomodulatory effects of caffeine: friend or foe? Pharmacol Ther. 2006 Sep;111(3):877-92.
- NF Watson, MD, MS, D Buchwald, MD, JJ Delrow, PhD, WA Altemeier, MD, MV Vitiello, PhD, AI Pack, MBChB, PhD, M Bamshad, MD, C Noonan, MS, SA Gharib, MD, Transcriptional Signatures of Sleep Duration Discordance in Monozygotic Twins, Sleep, 2017;40:1, 1.
- Morey JN, Boggero IA, Scott AB, Segerstrom SC. Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function. Curr Opin Psychol. 2015;5:13-17.
- Rahiman F, Pool EJ. The in vitro effects of artificial and natural sweeteners on the immune system using whole blood culture assays. J Immunoassay Immunochem. 2014;35(1):26-36.
- Paula Neto HA, Ausina P, Gomez LS, Leandro JGB, Zancan P, Sola-Penna M. Effects of Food Additives on Immune Cells As Contributors to Body Weight Gain and Immune-Mediated Metabolic Dysregulation. Front Immunol. 2017;8:1478.