Low Immunity

Most of us are aware of the protective function of the immune system, but it isn’t some sort of invisible barrier or protective force field against infection, straight out of a science fiction movie. So, what exactly is the immune system? The immune system comprises of a complex network of cells, tissues and organs that collectively work to protect the body against infections from foreign organism, primarily microbes. These organisms may include bacteria, parasites and fungi, as well as viruses, although viruses are not really classified as living organisms because of their primitive structure. The human body plays perfect host to many such organisms and it is your immune system that protects against these threats by keeping them out. If an infection does manage to take hold then the immune system again plays the vital role of defender, finding and eliminating these threats.

The immune system may be compared to a modern military force with a varied arsenal, comprising of individual units, each with their specific functions, but all interdependent and working together against a common enemy. The white blood cells and leukocytes, which include T cells and B cells are just some of the components of this complex defense network. The process by which the immune system attacks and expels invading threats (antigens) is referred to as the immune response. Part of this response involve the production of antibodies that lock on to specific antigens. Once produced these antibodies will remain present throughout, which is why, if you suffer from an infection like chickenpox, you will not succumb to infection again, as chickenpox antigens are already present and ready.

A state of low immunity implies a weakening of the immune system and poor immune response. The medical term for a compromised immune system because it does not function perfectly or because a part of it is missing is ‘immunodeficiency’. An individual may be born with such a compromised immune system known as primary immunodeficiencies, but the symptoms may not become evident till much later. Immunodeficiencies may also develop because of some sort of infection or as a side effect of certain medications and this type of low immunity is referred to as secondary immunodeficiency.

A condition of low immunity puts you at grave risk of contracting a variety of infections and ailments, and it can also make recovery a lot tougher.

Symptoms of Low Immunity

The symptoms of low immune function include:There are certain warning signs that could give your doctor reason to believe that you may be afflicted with an immunodeficiency disorder. These include:

  • Frequent and recurrent infections
  • Greater severity of infections, as compared to in healthy individuals who are not as severely affected by such microorganisms.

In addition, there may also be other warning signs like:

  • A poor or weak response to treatment for infections
  • Extended period of recovery or only partial recovery from illnesses
  • The presence of certain infections like recurrent yeast infections or certain types of pneumonia
  • The presence of cancers like non-Hodgkin's lymphoma or Kaposi's sarcoma

If your health care provider has reason to suspect an immunodeficiency disorder there are some tests that can help with diagnosis like:

Blood tests for complement levels, or other tests to check the levels of other substances produced by the immune system

  • Blood tests for immunoglobulin levels
  • Urine or blood tests for protein electrophoresis
  • Blood tests for white blood cell count
  • T (thymus derived) lymphocyte count

Causes of Low Immunity

A temporary drop in immunity levels although worrying is not as serious full-blown immunodeficiency disorders. Immunity levels may drop on account of various possible factors that could include:

  • External influences such as emotional stress, trauma and depression or physical stress, as could be the case from over exercising, lack of sleep and fatigue.
  • Environmental or occupational exposure to certain chemicals and radiation can also cause a drop in immunity levels.
  • Your food intake and eating habits also have a significant effect on immunity. Deficiencies in essential nutrients like protein, calories, vitamins and minerals or even in fluids can lead to decreased immune response. Likewise, an unhealthy diet with an excessive intake of unhealthy fats, alcohol and refined sugars also increases the risk of decline in immune function.
  • Aging is also a contributing factor to the decline in immune response, but this is not significant enough to be a major problem in healthy adults.

Secondary immunodeficiencies typically involve conditions like AIDS that attack the immune system. In primary autoimmune deficiency disease, the causes however have more to do with heredity, although some like Common Variable Immunodeficiency have no known cause.

Remedies for Low Immunity

In cases where the condition of low or weakened immunity results from some underlying condition you would need medical treatment to address both the underlying cause and the condition of lowered immunity. In other situations however, if you find that your immunity is low and you tend fall victim to frequent infections it may be a good idea to take steps to boost your immunity. In addition, make it a point to consult with your doctor and a nutritionist. This will help to either identify or rule out specific lifestyle factors or dietary deficiencies that could be causing the problem. In the meantime you can try to boost your immune function by following these simple steps:

  • Sleep is absolutely essential to rejuvenate your body and to strengthen immunity. Make sure you give yourself a chance to rest and get adequate sleep. Whether you believe you need it or not, your immune system requires that you get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.
  • Stress levels can severely weaken immunity, so take steps to lower your stress levels. If your studies or work put you under great stress, make it a point to take some time to relax and de-stress completely. Studies prove that stress and depression can adversely impact immune function.
  • Stress levels can severely weaken immunity, so take steps to lower your stress levels. If your studies or work put you under great stress, make it a point to take some time to relax and de-stress completely. Studies prove that stress and depression can adversely impact immune function.
  • Your eating habits are just as important as your diet. Make it a point to eat regular meals at fixed times and follow a well balanced diet. Make sure you include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your daily diet to ensure your body receives an adequate supply of essential nutrients.
  • Fitness is another oft neglected aspect in our urban lifestyle. Following a regular fitness routine can greatly boost immunity and improve circulation, thereby also improving the functioning of various bodily systems such as your digestive system and consequently the absorption of nutrients.
  • It’s important that you keep yourself well hydrated, so don’t neglect your intake of water.

Diet for Low Immunity

There is a direct correlation between the health of your immune system and your dietary intake. A healthy balanced diet that provides you with all the nutritional requirements is absolutely essential to boost immune function. Make it a point to incorporate these basic principles when planning your regular diet:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables should constitute the bulk of your diet, but also make it a point to include whole grains, beans, seeds, and nuts.
  • Keep a check on your intake of fatty foods and foods with refined sugars.
  • Color coding can simplify life and that principle can be applied to natural foods as well! Make it a point to include foods like orange or yellow squash, carrots, red peppers, and tomatoes, as the carotenoids, which are pigments that lend them their deep hues, also provide us with essential nutrients like alpha-carotene and beta-carotene.
  • Your diet should also provide you with adequate amounts of protein. While meats are a rich source of protein try and restrict your intake to white meats, fish and eggs. Foods like cheese, tofu and soy are good sources of protein for vegetarians, as are most dairy
  • Also try to include foods rich in flavonoids like berries, garlic and yogurt, as they help boost immunity.

Suggestion for Low Immunity

Diet and exercise are unavoidable and it’s absolutely essential that you exercise regularly and follow healthy eating habits to maintain high levels of immunity. In addition try to make changes to your lifestyle, with an aim to cutting back on stress and increasing time for relaxation and socialization. In addition to regimented fitness activities and meditative practices, also try and dedicate time to activities that give you pleasure and offer you an opportunity to socialize with friends and family.


  1. Walsh NP, Gleeson M, Shephard RJ, Gleeson M, Woods JA, Bishop NC, Fleshner M, Green C, Pedersen BK, Hoffman-Goetz L, Rogers CJ, et al. Position statement. Part one: immune function and exercise. Exerc Immunol Rev. 2011;17:6–63.
  2. Moldofsky H, Lue FA, Davidson JR, Gorczynski R. Effects of sleep deprivation on human immune functions. FASEB J. 1989 Jun;3(8):1972-7. PubMed PMID: 2785942.

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