IT'S that time of year when most of us have some sort of lurgy or are recovering from one.
But if you constantly seem be struck down by a cold or the flu, it might have something to do with your immune system.
Your immune system is made up of different organs and cells that protect your body from germs, such as bacteria, viruses and toxins.
It's basically a tool to help prevent or limit infection, releasing antibodies to attack germs that could make you sick.
Sometimes, your body's natural defence system just isn't working to the best of its ability.
Here are four ways to tell that your immune system is down – and what you can do to give it a boost.
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1. You're very stressed
All of us feel stressed from time to time.
But if the feeling is a constant background to your life, your immune system might not be doing too well, according to Penn Medicine.
A report by American Psychological Association says that our bodies are well equipped to handle stress in small doses
But when that stress becomes long-term or chronic, it can have serious effects on our bodies and hinder the immune system.
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Nadia Hasan, a physician at Delancey Internal Medicine explained that because "stress decreases the body's lymphocytes, the white blood cells that help fight off infection", it can mean you're more at risk f viruses like the common cold.
2. You constantly have a cold
Speaking of colds, have you noticed you're often sniffling and coughing or succumbing to the flu?
The average adult picks up between two and four colds a year, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
More than that might indicate your immune system is down, Dr Peter Abel, senior lecturer in biomedical sciences at the University of Central Lancashire, told Mail Online.
He said this might be due to your body not making enough lymphocytes, which produce antibodies that fight viral infections.
One reason for this is that your diet might not be equipping you with the vitamins you need to produce these cells, such as B12, folic acid or zinc, he went on.
3. You're having tummy troubles
You might not think your tummy has anything to do with your immune system.
But according to research conducted in 2012, 70 per cent your immune system is in the gastrointestinal tract in the lining of your gut.
The beneficial bacteria and microorganisms that live there defend your gut from infection and support the immune system, but low amounts can leave you at risk to viruses, chronic inflammation and even autoimmune disorders.
Dr Abel told Mail Online: "They normally fight toxins that may have been ingested. They also regulate nutrients going in, so a weakened immune system can lead to stomach cramps and diarrhoea."
Penn Medicine said frequent gas could also be another symptom of a compromised immune system.
4. You're tired all the time
If you're feeling constantly tired despite getting a decent night's kip, that might be another red flag that your immune system is down.
According to Dr Hasan, your energy levels dip when your immune system is struggling because "your body is trying to conserve energy to fuel your immune system so it can fight off germs".
5. You're getting frequent infections
Are you battling frequent infections?
This could be anything from ear infections, to pneumonia and sinusitis.
Susie Perry, food scientist and nutritionist from sisterlylab.com, told Mail Online that bacterial infections to your gums, athlete's foot and an upset tummy could also be signs that your immune system is struggling.
6. Your wounds are slow to heal
When you get a burn, cut or scrape, your body works to protect the wound by sending nutrient-rich blood to the injury to help regenerate new skin.
But this healing process is dependant on having healthy immune cells, so your wounds will take longer to heal if your immune system is sluggish, according to Penn Medicine.
HOW TO GIVE YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM A BOOST
This might sound very basic, but one of the simplest ways you can stop yourself picking up every bug and cold going around is washing your hands.
It means you're minimising your risk of infection.
Harvard Health shared the following strategies that can help your body and immune system be better prepared to fight off 'environmental assaults'.
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- Don't smoke
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy weight
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation
- Get enough sleep – the NHS recommends between seven and nine hours for adults
- Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly
- Try to minimise stress or implement coping mechanisms to deal with it
- Keep up with all recommended vaccines, as they help your immune system to fight off infections before they take hold in your body
Experts have previously told Sun Health which vitamins might help give your natural defence system a boost this winter.
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