You wash your hands, chug O.J., avoid contact with sick people, and still come down with a fever. Um, what gives? These not-so-obvious things could be weakening your immunity. But rest assured--we've got simple fixes to keep your body strong this cold and flu season.
1. The Air Around You Is Polluted
All that smog isn't doing your lungs--or immunity--any favors. Research has found that dirty air suppresses T cells, which are essential to your immune system, and causes excess inflammation in the body.
Fix it: Invest in an air purifier for your home, says Frances Goulart, C.C.N., author of Super Immunity Foods. While you can't control the air quality outside, at least you'll be able to breathe easy indoors.
2. You're Sitting Most of the Day
If you have a desk job, your butt likely spends the majority of the time planted on a chair. This can slow your metabolic rate, which in turn causes your body to absorb immunity-boosting nutrients much slower than normal, says Joel Fuhrman, M.D., author of Super Immunity.
Fix it: Every hour and a half, step outside for five minutes, says Fuhrman. These little movements will activate your muscles and fire up your metabolism.
BEWARE: 10 Things That Slow Your Metabolism
3. You Choose the Wrong Beauty Products
Foundation, concealer, lipstick, and other cosmetics don't just sit atop your skin--your body absorbs them throughout the day, says Goulart. Some contain artificial (and possibly toxic) ingredients like sodium lauryl. And since your immune system isn't used to breaking down these components, the bad stuff in them can slip past your internal defenses.
Fix it: Go all-natural if you can. Generally speaking, the fewer ingredients a beauty product lists, the safer it is for your immune system, says Goulart. For more advice on choosing clean beauty products, check out this list of 6 tips to make sure your beauty products are safe.
4. You Give in to Junk Food
That batch of homemade cookies smell ah-mazing--but the white flour in some baked goods impairs the T cells and B cells in your body, which are vital illness-fighters, says Susan Blum, M.D., author of The Immune System Recovery Plan.
Fix it: Make sure the grains you're eating are primarily whole grains, which have lots of immune-fortifying fiber, says Blum.
PLUS: What Your Food Cravings Say About You
5. You Don't Prioritize Sleep
Chock this up to one of the many reasons you need R&R. If your body doesn't produce enough melatonin while you sleep, your immune system can't make enough white blood cells to fend off bacteria and repair your body, says Fuhrman.
Fix it: Aim to clock seven to eight hours of sleep every night. How? These 15 tricks to get better sleep make it easy to catch more Zzz's.
6. Your Diet Contains Too Much Protein
Excessive protein--especially from animals--causes the body to produce more of the IGF1 hormone, which is known to speed aging and hamper your immune system, says Fuhrman.
Fix it: No more than 10 percent of your daily calorie intake should come from animal sources (like meat and dairy), says Fuhrman. If that doesn't seem to help, he recommends cutting animal protein consumption even further and making it about 5 percent of your daily calorie intake.
7. Most of Your Day is Spent Alone
Lonely people tend to be less resilient in the face of stress, so their immune systems suffer, says Sheldon Cohen, Ph.D., a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon University.
Fix it: Schedule some quality time with anybody--friends, co-workers, or even neighbors. People with more relationships have a greater resistance to infections. Bolster your bonds with these 6 tips to strengthen your friendships.
8. You're a Caffeine Junkie
There are plenty of reasons to be obsessed with coffee, but the energy booster can also cause your blood pressure to spike, which means your immune system will have to work overtime to mediate it, says Blum. Over time, this can degrade your immunity.
Fix it: Limit yourself to two cups of java a day. This way your blood pressure won't rise and fall like a never-ending rollercoaster.
9. You Thrive on Stress
You might think you work well under pressure, but chronic stress increases cortisol levels, which reduces levels of hormones like testosterone and estrogen, says Blum. And when hormone levels are imbalanced, your immune system can't respond to threats as quickly.
Fix it: If you're constantly on edge, it's time you learned how to stress less. No time to unwind? No problem. These 40 relaxation tricks take five minutes (or less).
10. Your Diet Doesn't Include Enough Good Fat
Yes, you should avoid trans fats and saturated fats. But healthy fats--from fish, avocados, and nuts--have anti-inflammatory properties that help regulate your immune system, says Blum.
Fix it: Avoid processed foods, and limit your intake of animal meats (which are loaded with saturated fats). Meanwhile, you'll want to add foods like salmon, sardines, almonds, and kale to your diet since they're all packed with healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fats.
Try This: 5 Fatty Foods That Make You Skinny
11. Yoga Isn't Part of Your Workout Regimen
Any exercise is better than none, but yoga seems to have the most impact on your immunity. Yoga stimulates the body's circulatory, digestive, nervous, and endocrine systems, which all work to strengthen the immune system, says Surya Kolpakov, a certified yoga therapist and owner of Aranama Studio in Newton Center, Massachusetts.
Fix it: Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned yogi, we've got tons of yoga tips to help you master any pose. Need even more motivation? Check out all the amazing things that happen to your body when you practice yoga.