6 surprising things that might hurt your immune system

1. Too much exercise

But isn’t exercise meant to strengthen your immune system? Indeed, yes, but strenuous activity can take its toll on your body and immune system. When you are training for an endurance event such as a marathon, your body takes the strain as it constantly has to recover from long hours on the road and in the gym. 

2. Loneliness and isolation

This might be the time of year when work is particularly demanding. You rush between the office and your house, and you barely go out or make time for friends. But, even though you might be avoiding some germs, loneliness and the lack of a social life can wreak havoc on your immune system. 

3. A pessimistic outlook on life

Working hard, eating healthy, exercising, and hitting the sack early can unfortunately be of little value when you are taking life too seriously, research suggests. To counteract the many stressors in our daily lives, it’s important to find joy in the simple things, as a healthy outlook will help keep your immune system in shape.

4. Second-hand smoke

If you don’t smoke, or you recently managed to quit, it’s good. But unfortunately, mingling with friends and family members who smoke around you can damage your immune system. Research has shown that exposure to second-hand smoke (SHS) kills an estimated 600 000 people each year and increases one’s risk of acute respiratory infections and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The immune system is also impacted, but exactly how that works remains a mystery.

5. Regular doses of antibiotics

Running to the doctor and insisting on antibiotics for the slightest infection can compromise even the healthiest immune system. A recent study conducted by researchers at Harvard, MIT, the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the Broad Institute, found that antibiotics can actually work against the body and impair the way the immune system wards of germs.


Even one bout of excessive drinking can reduce the immune system’s response to invading pathogens, Spangler says. “Alcohol’s major metabolite, acetaldehyde, likely impairs ciliary function in the lungs, making them more prone to bacterial and viral invasion,” he explains. Alcohol also impairs the process of attacking and breaking down bacteria and viruses, he says, and that puts people who abuse alcohol at higher risk for infection.