April 8


Vote for YOUR #1 Immune System Risk Factor

By Sue Ingebretson

April 8, 2014

chronic illness, diet, illness, immune system, medications, Nutrition, risk factor, risks, sleep, Stress, sugar, Toxins


Have you been told that a compromised immune system is simply something that “comes with” a chronic illness diagnosis? In a “which came first” scenario, the compromised immune system goes hand-in-hand with chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, diabetes, arthritis, and more.


But … what’s behind a compromised immune system?


The following risk factors round out the top 10 issues linked to a weakened or compromised immune system. Some may surprise you. They’re listed in reverse order from the least discussed to the most commonly discussed.


#10 — INACTIVITY (lack of a physical fitness program or daily body movement – this prevents the body from being able to detoxify … among other things)


#9 — DEHYDRATION (lack of proper hydration inhibits healthy digestion, nutrient absorption, and detoxification … among other things)


#8 — DETRIMENTAL COPING MECHANISMS (such as alcohol, smoking, repeated use of over the counter medications, and/or “recreational” drugs)


#7 — PRESCRIBED MEDICATIONS AND VACCINATIONS (while your medication protocols should always be reviewed by you and your personal physician, note that many common pharmaceuticals [such as antibiotics and steroids] depress the immune system)


#6 — RECENT DENTAL WORK (dental health/hygiene is very closely related to digestive, heart, and immune system health)


#5 TOXINS (toxin exposure – both external and internal – can suppress and compromise the immune system)


#4 MALNUTRITION (diets that are deficient in essential nutrients are linked to poor digestive health and a compromised immune system – NOTE: undernourishment does not necessarily relate to weight)


#3 HIGH SUGAR & PROCESSED FOODS DIET (while this is linked to risk #4, it deserves its own category as sugar is particularly damaging and destructive to the immune system)


#2 SLEEP (lack of sleep does more than just make you cranky; it leads to many chronic health challenges including a depressed immune system)


And the #1 risk factor linked to a depressed immune system?


#1 CHRONIC STRESS (this doesn’t really surprise you, does it?)


So – there you have it. These are the top 10 risk factors that can sabotage your body’s ability to fend off infection and to stay strong and healthy. Of course, there’s much more to discuss.


Once the immune system is compromised, the effects compound over time. It gets worse and worse. One cold or infection per year turns into one per quarter (or more). One diagnosis turns into multiple diagnoses.


But, I want to hear from you! How many of the above factors are your greatest issues? Which would you say is your TOP RISK FACTOR?


It’s time to CAST YOUR VOTE!  


Enter your #1 risk factor below, and I’ll go into more detail in future posts on the ones that receive the most comments. And … don’t forget to share this post with others who would like to chime in!

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  1. Chronic stress is #1 for me! I am major caregiver for my 91 year old mother who is suffering from dementia, blindness, deafness, incontinence, etc. I also have fibro, osteoarthritis, colitis, Periphial neuropathy, and pernicious anemia. I am not exercising at the time, but hope to. Every time I do a lot physically, I seem to “pay for it” later 🙁

    As I reread this, I sound like a a MAJOR complainer, a hypochondriac. Regrettably, I have been diagnosed with all those illnesses. But why do I feel guilty?

    1. Janice, to detail the issues that concern you is NOT complaining. If you don’t list them or share your concerns, how else would anyone be able to support you? The guilt and feelings of being a hypochondriac are unfortunate side-effects of everything else. No one can tell you how you “should” or “shouldn’t” feel. I’m so glad you shared here!

  2. I realize I was to include all that were issues for me…can I say all of them? Sleep is another major issue, lack of exercise, sugar craver, major dental work (implants). I have no alcohol, drug, or smoking issues.

    1. Janis — I hope you can see how these are all tied together. If we have an impaired immune system, then we’re likely to have several of these issues and they’ve likely been problematic for quite some time.

  3. Hi Sue, What an eye-opener of an article! Certainly explains why I feel the way I do. After 4 operations in under 1 year, lots of medication and lack of activity, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Nearly every year following, have been in hospital for colon investigation, gall bladder removal and the list goes on. No wonder why I haven’t been able to boost my immune system. My mental health issues gained momentum and have seen so many professionals who obviously prescribed more medication. Last year I had enough and started to drink aloe vera which helped with IBS and more. I now take various vitamins & minerals to help boost my immune system, brain function etc. There is improvement and am happy to report that by reducing my prescribed medication (with approval from my GP) my body is slowly mending. Your article has made me look back over the past 10 years and really see how much my mind, body plus my friends & family have been through. My #1 risk factor is definitely Chronic Stress.

    1. Alison — you’re on the EXACT path you need to be on to heal! Awareness and looking back is a fabulous way to figure out what hasn’t worked — so we can all figure out what DOES work!

  4. Numbers 1,3, and 8 do it for me. Thanks for the free download; have changed some things already and ordered your book, “FibroWHYalgia. Had a major flare on Sunday and am still recovering. Tired of feeling bad.

    1. Sarah — I’m so glad you’re finding benefit here. There are over 200 free posts here on lots of topics. I’m VERY grateful for your book order, too. Let me know how you’re doing!

  5. Chronic stress for sure. I used to think I didn’t have much stress because I am a pretty laid-back person, but it has gotten worse lately and I can feel it in my guts and in my aches and pains.

    1. Thanks for the tip, Carly! It’s SO important to point out that NO ONE knows what’s going on inside someone else’s head. They may look calm, cool, collected, and content. But inside, there maybe more chaos than calm. Dealing with and addressing stress is definitely a primary part of what I do with clients 😉

  6. Chronic stress definitely gets my vote! I didn’t even realize just how much stress I was really under until I got rid of some of it, by learning how to say no and sticking by that. It was then that I started to feel better, and to take better care of myself in the other areas in my life.

    1. That’s a perfect scenario, Natasha and thanks for sharing. This community is built on sharing great ideas of how to heal collectively 😉

  7. Hi Sue, As it relates to the entire body, immune system, overall functioning–thinking that all combined contribute to making:
    #1 Chronic Stress -definitely Number ONE! For the past 7 years literally its been non stop for us. The PTSD with Fibro/cfs does not show mercy with stress or how how it impacts the physical, emotional, overall well being.

    In addition to and perhaps directly induced by or perhaps hindered as causally relevant, are instances listed in order of occurrence:

    #7-Toxicity/adverse medication reaction started the ball rolling with secondary conditions(ibs, gut)

    #5- Mold Exposure, Soot inhalation, Heavy Metal toxicity (water, soil) High Electro Magnetic Field exposure, mercury exposure (dental or unknown origin) surgical post op adverse medication & anesthesia reaction. Effected-respiratory, adrenal exhaustion and much more (#2 sleep disorder, dyspnea, blood production) Successful alternative medicine w/supplemental treatments were effective until became unaffordable.

    #2-intermittent resource dependent on food pantries- for the most part (before recent updates of healthier donations for distribution) the carbohydrate diet was the staple. (rice, pasta, bread, beans)

    #4 -malnutrition with malabsorption

    Knowing that our immune systems have been compromised on top of already being compromised is quite disheartening. The medical maze and journey though coming a long way, has been overwhelming.

    1. Great analysis, Michele! It’s so interesting to see how these individual factors work together and how they cascade from one to the next. Thanks for sharing!

  8. #6 for me would be dental work. I have needed dental work for some time and since everything is interrelated in the body, I have seen some of the effects of not taking care of it earlier. The signs are always there, we just need to pay attention. I knew it and ignored the issue! Hence the emergency visit to my environmental dentist!

    Excellent article and comments!

    1. Debra – thanks so much for joining in the conversation! I need to have some dental work done, too. I try to space it out so it’s just done a little at a time 😉

  9. Best thing that was discovered for me was that I was vitamin D deficient. Supplimenting that seemed to largely solve my immunity issues. The other thing is looking for joy every day and ruminating on that. It saved my life.

  10. Toxins and processed food. I had severe fibromyalgia and debilitating chronic fatigue syndrome. I recovered after I got rid of toxic chemicals in my environment, stopped eating processed food, and started eating whole foods rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients. Since implementing theses changes, I have been symptom free for one year four months and two days. It is possible to recover from chronic illness!

    1. Kathy — thanks so much for sharing! Cleaning up my nutritional input also made miraculous changes for me. So glad you can help to inform others in this community who may still be struggling!

  11. Well, I could pick stress, sleep, inactivity, medication, needing dental work. Chronic stress from being the material, physical and mental support for 2 chronically ill adults (my mom and daughter – age 38, and a handicapped 20 yr old grandson. I do my best to take care of my self but….

    1. Terrie — thanks for bringing that up. Others here have also commented on being carers for others. That’s a BIG topic here. Taking the time to care for yourself likely falls to the end of the list (if it makes it on the list at all). I’ve addressed quite a bit of this in a course on Stress that I’ve written. It’ll be released soon so look for info on that. Thanks again!

  12. For me it all started with dental work and went downhill from there with more and more problems following. Ok, the bulk of it started there but there were issues even before that.

    Now that the dental work is long past my #1 risk factor for feeling worse is Diet choices -processed food and gluten.

    1. Julie – I think a lot of people are completely unaware of the connection between dental health and whole body health. It creates a wellspring of opportunity for infection and inflammation. Of course, the food sensitivity issue plays into that as well. I appreciate your candid response as I know it helps us all here!

  13. Definitely chronic stress is my #1 issue. Lots of life issues. Emotional and mental abuse has played a part and am trying to redefine my thinking of myself. Loss of my oldest son 5 years ago. Aging parents with my mom in a nursing home and my father passed away in Feb. Also, family disputes over the estate. I’m learning to take better care of myself and make that a priority and balancing that with serving others. I’m also starting my own business as a Health Coach which has been a huge challenge for me in the business realm. I have cleaned up my diet greatly and have come a long way in healing. Consistency with movement is a challenge for me with fatique and some back pain. All 10 points have played a part. And through the years I’ve used supplemental and dietary means in a NRT program that has helped me so much. Your advice is so right on and what I see is vital to good health. Thanks for the encouragement!

    1. Kathleen – thanks so much for your input, and let me first say that I’m so sorry for your losses. You’ve dealt with grief and sadness on levels that most of us couldn’t imagine. I’m so very sorry. You sound to me like someone who has waded through the challenges and has come up with your own path to success. I’m sure it’s not without it’s cost, but the rewards are great. I’m happy to hear of your new career and I wish you the absolute best!

  14. #1 is at the top of the list, more in the past. I am 72 yo with a lifetime of psoriasis, dental caries and stress. Did not discover gluten sensitivity until I was in my late 50’s. Allergies to onions, garlic and chives at 11yo. RN working part-time with 3 children – high stress, fallen arches, weird hours, and painful joints. Found that joint pain could be controlled by going off of nightshades. Now I am on a fruit and vegetable diet with small portions of meats,Still eat cheese but need to go off of that. for fatigue. Hope that works. Any help you can give me will be appreciated. Was on Cortisone oint. for continued psoriasls but had a reaction and am now just applying lotion several times a day.

    1. Janet — you’re singing my song! It’s clear that you’ve already done lots of research and have fine-tuned what works for you (as well as what doesn’t). You’re on the right path. One way to speed up results, is to tackle the issue of stress head-on. Most important, is how we react to stress. How do we internalize it? How does our body metabolize our foods due to stress? How do we physiologically carry our stress with us in everything we do? Food sensitivities do cause stress on the body, but in an inverse way, our stress levels also exacerbate our sensitivities. That might sound like a lose/lose concern, but really, it’s not. Since stress is at the root of everything, then it gives us one main topic to address. What are you doing (regularly!) to address your stress? I’d love to hear more…

  15. I wish I could name my number 1 but I seem to have all these symptoms and more!
    I try to eat healthily but not easy when I cannot stand for more than a few minutes so it is easier to pop something in the oven and have with chips!
    I am unable to stand, or do very much, for long due to chronic back pain. I had a spinal fusion done in November last year but this wasn’t a success and I have to have another spine operation. This second operation should have been done already but I had a brain aneurism on New Years Eve which took a long time to understand why me? Now I can’t have the spine operation until I get the all clear from my neurosurgeon. The NHS in UK is very slow so who knows when this will happen.
    I just wish I knew what is going on with my body, the worst being the chronic pain and chronic fatigue. Most days I feel like a really lazy slob but just walking from my lounge to the kitchen is debilitating.
    I would be really grateful for any advice you could give me. Linda

    1. Linda – I’m so sorry to hear all that you’ve been going through! When you’re under as much stress (and pain) as you are, it’s not easy to cook food for yourself or shop for healthier foods. Do you have anyone who can support you in your health goals? It really helps to have someone with whom to share your concerns. Your circumstances would be daunting for anyone to deal with. It’s hard to be objective about your own health, but I hope you can see how you have a right to rest and heal. You’re not lazy at all. Your body is compromised and needs time, patience, kindness, and other healing practices as well as good nutrition. I look forward to chatting further via email and thanks so much for sharing!

  16. #2 is my vote, but in reality I would bet I have #4, I don’t care enough to eat and if I eat I gain weight. I always want to tell myself that if I could just rest long enough I would feel better– I know that isn’t true. I was found to have Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disease, 19 years ago. Then I was Diagnosed w/Fibro about 17 years ago, right after I gave birth to my daughter. Her birth was very difficult- lots of trauma to me-but she came out ok. I did not think I could have children, but I got one! At least the Hashi’s can be tested and medicated w/hormone, but my body has killed my thyroid almost completely, I was 30 before they found it, but how long have I been sick? I take amitryp’ before bed and refuse anything stronger for fibro. My two biggest triggers are weather and overworking myself. I can get cold just by the air movement created simply by walking briskly. When I get cold I hurt-bottom line. We live outdoors (in Minnesota btw) we love to be outside. In the summer, I can tell when the temp drops below 80, time for sweatshirt and pants, it’s that sensitive! I am sure that some day they will link Fibromyalgia and thyroid problems together and I will have 1 large thing wrong instead of these random odd things nobody knows how to cure, because I do not believe that people can claim to “cure or end” a disease that medical science can not tell you what caused it in the 1st place. All these scammers claiming to sell pills to end your suffering should be prosecuted, imho.

    1. Gail — thanks SO much for your input! And, yes, fibro and autoimmune conditions are definitely linked. They begin from the same root causes of chronic health challenges in general. Some of those root causes lead to thyroid and hormone dysregulation, fibro, diabetes, CFS, arthritis, asthma, lupus, and much more. We’re all unique, so we each process the root causes differently and present with different health challenges. I grew up in the Midwest and feel that the factors that contributed to my health challenges came from multiple vaccinations as well as the environmental toxins (herbicides, pesticides, agricultural runoff, and livestock / bio-medical runoff. This is just PART of what I experienced and part of what I feel contributed to my health challenges. I too have ultra-sensitivity to cold. The good news is that what’s healing to our thyroids is also healing to fibromyalgia in general. Supporting our bodies with healthy foods, daily body movement, and emotional wellness activities can go a LONG way toward healing. And, that’s the exciting part!

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"True Healing requires a combination of healthy nutrition, healthy body movements, and emotional wellness. This is what I call the Restoration Trio" ~ Sue Ingebretson