It is important to have a strong immune system – it’s our body’s first defense to fight off any virus or disease that we might catch, and our assurance that we can heal faster. And even though a strong immune system still doesn’t have the power to protect us from every health problem there is out there, a weak immune system will leave us way more vulnerable to the imminent threats. We compiled a list of things that have a surprising effect on your immune system, so you can take steps towards strengthening it. Keep reading for now!

1. Laughing a lot

Does laughing boost your immune system? Well, yes, it does. The same way negative emotions have power over your nervous system, thus influencing your general health, so do positive emotions. Laughing will help decrease your cortisol levels, and consequently, reduce stress. This effect will extend to an increase in your oxygen intake, lowering your blood pressure, and promoting a stronger immune system.

2. Being optimistic

The way you look at life has power over your body, your mind, and your health. Among the habits that affect your immune system, you should cultivate the art of being optimistic. Optimists have better mental health, but their optimism also has an impact on their physical well-being. Studies have linked this outlook on life to healthier immune systems.

3. Eating cured meats and canned food

If you seek to have a strong immune system, you should pay attention to your dietary habits. Cured meats and canned food have a lot of salt, and that can have a negative impact when it comes to your body’s immune functions. Too much salt in your diet can result in excessive immune response, and it can even suppress your T cells, responsible for regulating the way your body responds to inflammation.

4. Too much exercise

The same way a lack of exercise can harm your immune system, as well as your overall health, over-exercising can have the same effect. Exercising in excess can depress the functionality of your immune system through an increase of Interleukin-6 (IL-6). Practice regular exercise, but don’t push it too far – it is important to find balance.

5. Grieving process

Suffering a personal loss of a loved one can be a challenging and devastating process, and the length of your grief can have a negative effect on your immunity. Depression and a weak immune system go hand in hand, and an untreated mental issue can be linked to a decrease in the immune response.

6. Feeling lonely

Being socially isolated and experiencing loneliness can impact your immune system. Research has come to show that the sampled people who felt lonelier had higher levels of norepinephrine present in their blood. Norepinephrine is the body’s response to a life-threatening situation, and its role is to shut down the immune system, thus suppressing your viral defenses. So, can loneliness affect your immune system? It can, and you should struggle to maintain relationships and active social life, for the sake of your well being.

7. Chronic stress

In evolutionary terms, stress hormones in humans exist as the body’s response to dangerous and threatening situations – the name of this is “flight or fight” response. But people who suffer from chronic stress and anxiety always have those hormones circulating in their bloodstream, even though they are present in lower levels. As a result, there is a tendency for chronic inflammation of some of your organs, tiring up your immune system.

8. Not handling your emotions

Some people hate confrontation or are too insecure about exposing how they feel and dealing with their feelings. So, they bottle them up, causing them to experience extremely negative moods. This can impact the immune response through the body’s production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, a type of molecules that our body produces to “wake up” our immune system.

9. Alcohol consumption

Alcohol intake can also impact your immune system, especially if you do it regularly and excessively. The microorganisms that should be present in a healthy body will become imbalanced due to your alcohol consumption habits, which will then result in increased inflammation. Specific cells that are part of the immune system can also be impaired due to alcohol use, thus reducing the body’s immunity ability to provide an adequate response.

10. Smoking habits

It is common knowledge that smokers will have a weakened respiratory system. Still, a research study by Acta Pharmacologica Sinica, conducted that smoking poses an inherent threat to the immune system. Smoking will alter the immune response through a decrease in T cell receptors, the ones that communicate the disease to the body, making it harder for the immune system to do its job, so maybe it’s time to stop smoking.

11. Aging

As our body grows old, it gets weaker. You must know how to boost your immune system throughout your life, to delay this unavoidable process. Eat well, practice regular exercise, pay visits to your doctor, stay hydrated, and drop bad habits – old age will impact your immune system, but if you live a healthy life, the impact will be smaller.

12. Some medications

It is a weird combination, seeing as the purpose of taking medication is the same as having a strong immune system – to fight disease. However, some medications can affect your immune system, like Prilosec, for example. This medication is used as heartburn medication, but it seems to lower the levels of stomach acid, resulting in an overgrowth of bacteria and yeast, reducing immunity.

13. Dental hygiene

Everyone knows that personal hygiene is a key factor when it comes to general health, and this extends to oral hygiene as well. Oral health issues have been linked to a weaker immune system – tooth decay, oral infections, and even periodontal disease pose as risk factors that will increase your body’s production of white blood cells. If those cells are activated to fight those minor oral diseases, and you don’t take any action towards treating the infection, this might compromise your immune response in the future.