Four signs your immune system is run down - and what to do about it

Your immune system is basically your body's defence against infection
Your immune system is basically your body's defence against infection -Credit:Getty Images/iStockphoto

Prioritising your immune system is always a good idea, especially when the weather starts to get cold and wet.

Your immune system is basically your body's defence against infections. When you're unwell, it produces antibodies designed to attack any viruses, bacteria or toxins making you sick.

It's a complex system involving many different functions within the body and lots of things can affect how it's working and, in turn, how you feel.

These are some of the signs your immune system is run down, and what you can you do about it, as reported by Wales Online.

Feeling more fatigued than usual

"When your immune system is busy fighting a low-grade infection, this often drains your energy reserves," said Susie Perry, food scientist and nutritionist from "So if you are feeling more fatigued than normal or feeling constantly under the weather, this is a sign that your immune system is busier than it would like to be."

She added that if you suffer from recurrent cold sores, cystitis, an autoimmune condition, food allergies or intolerances, then your immune system could be working its socks off and may be running low on zinc and vitamins A, C and D3, leaving you vulnerable to common winter infections.

Digestion issues

Dr Peter Abel, a senior lecturer in biomedical sciences at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), has highlighted that "70% of immune cells are in the gastrointestinal tract in the lining of the gut, and 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."

Recurrent colds and flu

Dr Abel warns: "A person with a run-down immune system may experience frequent colds. This is due to not making enough lymphocytes, which produce antibodies that fight viral infections. This can be caused by factors such as a poor diet."

He further explains the importance of certain vitamins: "Vitamins such as B12, folic acid or zinc in the diet contribute to the production of these cells. If these vitamins are lacking, or over-utilised, you may catch colds more frequently. It can also increase recovery time."

"Usually, you may expect two to three colds per year. More than four in a year is a possible sign of a weakened immune system."

Low-grade infections

Dr Abel points out that while acute symptoms of infections are often obvious, low-grade infections can persist subtly, causing symptoms that aren't necessarily severe but still signal an underlying issue.

"Low-grade infections aren't always obvious to spot, but bleeding gums might mean that you have a bacterial infection in your gums, athlete's foot is a skin fungus that your immune system may be struggling to get on top of, and having an upset tummy could actually be down to a gut or microbiome infection," explained Perry. "These infections constantly need your immune system's attention and the immune cells in charge of clearing infections from the body are activated and supported by nutrients like zinc, vitamins C and D3."

"Over time, and if you don't have enough immune hero nutrients in your diet, these low-grade infections start winning and the immune system sends out another signal to alert you to the upscaled situation chills, low-grade fever, runny nose and inflammation are your body's next level response."

"You may start noticing some pain and inflammation and other signs that your immune system is getting run down, like mouth ulcers or wounds that take longer to heal, because the immune system is busy elsewhere."

What can you do about it?

If you're concerned that your immune system might be compromised, it's crucial to consult with your GP to rule out any underlying conditions that require attention.

Moreover, London Wellness Coach Lauren Johnson Reynolds suggests several straightforward dietary and lifestyle changes to bolster normal immune function.

"Focus on a whole-food balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, protein, healthy fats and whole grains. Nutrients like vitamins C, D, and zinc play a crucial role in immune function," Reynolds advised. "Engaging in regular physical activity can help improve immune function and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. Even 30 minutes three to four times per week is enough to have an impact."

"High levels of stress can weaken the immune system so practising stress-reduction techniques like mindfulness, yoga or meditation can be beneficial."

Sleep is also essential for a healthy immune system. "So it's important to aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night if sleep is an issue, doing things to help regulate the circadian rhythm such as morning light exposure and wearing blue light blocking glasses at night make a huge difference," she continued.

"Both smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can weaken the immune system. Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake are hugely beneficial."

Vitamins are also another great place to start when trying to build up your immune system.

"Supplementing with vitamin D at this time of year is a must as we cannot absorb the sun between approximately October to April in the UK it's a good idea to get levels tested and to supplement with a good quality, food based vitamin D," Reynolds recommended.

"Remember that maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial for overall immune system function. If you experience persistent symptoms of immune system dysfunction, consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment."