How To Deal With An Overactive Immune System

When first hearing the phrase “overactive immune system,” you might wonder how this could be considered a bad thing. After all, wouldn’t it be fantastic to have an immune system that functions on overdrive?

Unfortunately, your immune system is not meant to work like that. The goal is to have a perfect balance of immune activity -- an immune system that powers up at the first sign of a threat, but does not work so hard that it negatively affects the body’s overall health. 

Your immune system is meant to protect your body, and it cannot do so in an overactive state. 

So, how do you know if you have an overactive immune system? And what can you do to keep it under control? For all this and more, keep reading! 

What Does the Immune System Do? 

The immune system is, essentially, the body’s protector. Think of it as a collection of soldiers, lined up row after row. If one level of defense falls, there is another waiting behind it to hold up the line. 

The body’s immune response is a collective effort. Everything from your skin to your digestive system is involved in keeping the body safe. Immune cells, most notably white blood cells, roam the body in search of pathogens, debris, or any other object that does not look like it belongs. When they notice something out of place, they communicate any necessary information to the rest of their body and launch their attack.

When your immune system is active (due to, let’s say, a cold), you will often feel symptoms such as a cough, a fever, and/or acute inflammation. While these symptoms can be bothersome, they are actually a sign that your immune system is working to eliminate the issue!

A healthy immune system needs two things: balance and memory. Balance maintains that all aspects of the immune response are working together to protect the body, while also making sure that the immune response does not go overboard. When the immune system remembers previous encounters with invaders, it will be better prepared for the future, hence the importance of memory. 

All in all, the immune system is a vital part of the body’s health -- we simply would not be able to survive without it! 

What is an Overactive Immune System?

As we just determined, the immune system is meant to defend the body and only attack its invaders. However, sometimes the immune system ends up attacking the body itself as well. This is called an overactive immune system. 

Doctors know very little about why these overactive immune responses may occur. Genetics, race/ethnicity, diet, and lifestyle could all play a role. If you are a woman, you are about two times as likely as a man to develop an overactive immune system/autoimmune disorder. 

To explain what an overactive immune system is, let’s look at this scenario: some aspect of the environment (bacteria, for example) has triggered your immune response, and so your immune cells deploy to investigate the issue. A healthy immune system would immediately be able to differentiate between outsiders and native cells, and would focus their attack only on the former. An overactive immune system, on the other hand, mistakes the body’s cells for foreigners, and unknowingly launches an attack on them as well.

The key words here are “mistakes” and “unknowingly” -- see, having an overactive immune system is not a sign that your body is rebelling against you. Rather, it shows that something has gone wrong within the body to damage the immune system’s functionality. 

What Are Some Types of Overactive Immune Systems?

An overactive immune system can present itself in many different ways:

  • Allergies are probably the most common example of an overactive immune system. Allergens like food, dust, and pollen are typically safe to any healthy immune system, but an overactive one will trigger an allergic response. This could be minor, such as sneezing and watery eyes, or more severe, such as difficulty breathing.
  • Type 1 diabetes happens in people whose ability to produce insulin (the hormone which helps manage blood sugar) is significantly reduced or nonexistent due to the body attacking its own insulin-producing pancreatic cells. 
  • Lupus is an example of an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the entire body, rather than just a targeted organ. 
  • Arthritis is the result of an overactive immune system assaulting the body’s joints. Symptoms include stiffness and aching. 
  • Asthma occurs in response to certain allergens. Coughing and shortness of breath are the most common symptoms. 
  • Graves’ disease is an extension of hyperthyroidism, which occurs when the body makes too much thyroid hormone. In this case, the overactive immune system targets the thyroid and forces it to produce thyroid hormones in excess. 
  • Eczema is a skin condition most identifiable by its signature rash. Eczema is caused by allergens. 
  • Multiple sclerosis happens when the immune system damages the function of the cells of the nervous system. 
  • Other autoimmune disorders, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, inflammatory bowel disease, and celiac disease. There are over 80 autoimmune disorders in total. 

  • Symptoms You Should Look Out For

    Remember when we said earlier that the symptoms of a healthy immune response (such as acute inflammation) are completely normal and a sign that your immune system is functioning well? Well, an overactive immune system causes symptoms that are less promising for the body, like chronic inflammation. 

    Other common symptoms include: 

    • Low-grade fever
    • Fatigue
    • Muscle aches
    • Hair loss
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Numbness or tingling in the body’s extremities
    • Swelling
    • Rashes on the skin
    • Redness

    In addition, each autoimmune disorder has its own particular symptoms. Some symptoms might be constant, while others might fluctuate. If you have any of the symptoms listed above, bring them up with your doctor so they can help you determine what might be causing them.

    How To Manage An Overactive Immune System 

    Luckily there are plenty of steps you can take to minimize the symptoms of your overactive immune system or just support your immune function overall, in addition to any prescription your doctor may have prescribed. 

    Consider the following:

  • Supplements: Supplements help the body gain essential nutrients and can even tackle inflammation. Our Immunity Fizz Wellness Boost, for example, fights inflammation and muscle pain, boosts immune health, and increases energy levels. Just add it to a glass of water (both orange and berry flavors are available) and let the wellness pour in!
  • Well-balanced diet: Avoid foods and drinks that are processed and/or high in sugar. Instead, prioritize zero-calorie beverages (water, tea, coffee), lean protein sources, whole grains, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. Anti-inflammatory foods include green tea, ginger, nuts, fatty fish, dark leafy greens, and berries. 
  • Regular exercise: An active lifestyle benefits the body in innumerous ways, including by lessening inflammation. Try to exercise 3-5 days a week for at least 30 minutes. 
  • Less stress: Stress from other parts of your life can manifest itself in your immune disorder and make symptoms even worse. Take steps everyday to reduce stress as much as possible. This could be through exercise, mindfulness, or journaling, just for a couple of examples. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night will also help. 

  • In Conclusion

    An overactive immune system occurs when the body mistakes healthy, native cells for foreign invaders. As a result of this, you could develop various conditions, such as allergies, asthma, or even an autoimmune disorder. 

    To lessen the symptoms of an overactive immune system and maintain a normal, healthy life, use immune supplements, follow a balanced diet, and live an active lifestyle. 

    Sources

    Autoimmune Diseases: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & More (healthline.com)

    When the immune system goes on the attack (nih.gov)

    Immune System Disorders - Health Encyclopedia - University of Rochester Medical Center

    https://health.clevelandclinic.org/can-immune-system-go-haywire-falter/

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