5 Foods That Could Be Weakening Your Immune System
Diet plays a huge role in our health. This is because everything you put into your body is digested and used for essential functions. If the diet is full of wholefoods that are rich in nutritional value, the body will get the vitamins and minerals it needs to work at its best.
On the other hand, if all a person eats is foods that lack essential nutrients and play no positive role in the body, it can lead to the development of chronic illness and a weakened immune system. Let’s take a look at some foods that could be weakening your immune system and why you should avoid them.
What depletes the immune system?
Many things can cause the immune system to function poorly. Certain lifestyle habits such as smoking, excessive alcohol use, lack of exercise and a poor diet can all hinder the efficacy of the immune system. Viral infections such as HIV can also hurt the immune system because of their ability to destroy blood cells – white blood cells, specifically – that help the immune system do its job.
Other factors can go into the weakening of the immune system. For example, if you experience low-quality sleep for a consistent amount of time, your immune system will suffer because of the role sleep plays in its function. Some medications also have the ability to decrease immunity in the body, as well as certain drugs. Other factors include low vitamin D, too much time spent indoors, and some mental health conditions such as anxiety.
What are the signs of a weak immune system?
The body will often send signals to let people know how it’s working. These signs could be subtle or obvious, depending on the severity and level of the dysfunction occurring. When it comes to the immune system, a person will likely experience symptoms that will alert them to the fact that their immunity isn’t as strong as it should be.
Some signs that the immune system has become weak include:
- Frequent infections
- Illnesses such as the flu or a cold that last longer than they normally would
- Digestive issues that don’t seem to go away
- Rashes or breakouts that happen frequently
- Difficulty losing weight
- Brain fog
Although getting sick with every cold or bug going around is the biggest indicator that a person is suffering from a weakened immune system, it’s possible for those who are immunocompromised to not experience any infection signs at all because the immune system doesn’t react to pathogens as it should.
What foods are bad for your immune system?
Some foods are worse for the immune system than others. The following five foods should be avoided or eaten in great moderation to avoid the negative health effects they can bring.
1. Added sugar
It’s no surprise that sugar and the immune system aren’t the best of friends. Added sugars, specifically, can be a huge hindrance on how well the immune system functions. This is because consistent raises in blood sugar from added sugars can cause the body to produce certain proteins that negatively affect how well the immune system functions.
High blood sugar can also decrease the efficacy of certain immune cells that protect against infection, as well as weakening the gut barrier’s function, leading to gut imbalances that make it easier for a person to get sick.
2. Artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners are bad for the body in many ways. A diet with too much artificial sweetener can lead to a hindered immune response because of the way it changes gut bacteria balance. Some research has also found that consuming too much artificial sweetener can actually increase the risk or progression of autoimmune diseases.
3. Salty foods
People love salty foods, but all that sodium can be detrimental to overall health – and especially to the immune system. This is because too much salt in the body can lead to the production of white blood cells and a decrease in certain proteins that are meant to regulate the immune response. Some researchers have suggested that the increase of autoimmune diseases in the Western world could be largely attributed to the overconsumption of salt.
4. Fried foods
Most people know that fried foods are bad for them. But how might they affect the immune system? Fried foods are high in advanced glycation end products (AGEs). These AGEs have been shown to weaken the immune system in many ways – primarily by increasing a person’s susceptibility to developing or catching certain diseases, and increasing the risk of metabolic syndrome and other health conditions such as cancer and heart disease. They can also induce an unwarranted inflammatory response in the body.
5. Foods with additives
Additives are put in food to help them last longer on the shelves and improve texture and taste. It can be hard to avoid additives in food, but they can be dangerous to the health of the immune system. Specific types of additives such as emulsifiers have the ability to decrease immune function because they change the balance of gut bacteria and induce inflammation. Another common additive, carrageenan, can lead to an inhibited immune response as well.
It can be difficult to avoid all sugar, salt, and additives in food, particularly in this day and age. The trick is to limit the amount consumed so that the immune system doesn’t become affected. The immune system is the first line of defense in the body and keeps everything else healthy, so it’s important to protect it as it protects you.