Foods That Suppress the Immune System

Our immune system is what generally keeps us from getting sick and with strong immunity, we are able to fight off various viruses and bacteria.  Many of us are aware that there are specific foods that will strengthen our immune system if eaten on a regular basis.  However, are you also aware that there are also numerous foods that suppress the immune system as well?

Being cognizant of what is a part of your regular diet is crucial to staying healthy but many people forget that what they are putting into their bodies can also be doing them more harm than good.  If you are feeling under the weather or find that you cannot fight off simple illnesses quickly, begin to examine your eating habits. The following foods that suppress the immune system may be contributing to your ill health.

#1. Fast Food

There is no surprise here that fast food is at the top of the list when it comes to compromising your immune system.  It often lacks much nutritional value and is high in sugar, saturated fats, and sodium.

For those who are diabetic and trying to manage their disease without medication, that burger and fries can spike their blood sugar levels through the roof.  Also, trans fats and high sodium levels can cause additional inflammation in the body forcing your immune system into overdrive to attempt to combat it.

If you are eating fast food on a regular basis (and fast food doesn’t just mean drive-thru, we are also talking about any convenience-type foods), you are telling your immune system that it always needs to be prepared to fight off some sort of illness.  You need to be fueling your body with nutrient-dense foods.

#2. MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)

MSG is an additive found in many canned and processed foods to enhance their flavor.  However, with that “added flavor” comes some harmful effects, especially on your thymus gland and spleen. The main function of your thymus gland is to train and develop T-cells – a part of your white blood cells.

It is these white blood cells that help to protect your body against infectious diseases.  The function of the spleen is to filter your blood and fight certain types of bacteria that can cause meningitis and pneumonia. Because MSG can cause oxidative stress on the spleen and thymus, your immune system will be suppressed as they can not function properly.

#3. Alcohol

Consuming alcohol is detrimental to your immune system in numerous ways.  To begin with, it disrupts your ability to get a good night’s sleep and because sleep is essential for you to recharge, your body begins to suffer from sleep deprivation. Secondly, it alters the way that your gut can handle microbes as well as allowing more bacteria to reach the blood.  Finally, if you are drinking alcohol regularly, it reduces the number of cells (macrophages, T-cells, and B cells) whose primary function is to fight off illnesses.

Drinking alcohol often means a person is not drinking enough water and is left feeling the signs of dehydration. (You know what  I am talking about – sandpaper mouth?) Consequently, our body is unable to flush out the toxins properly.

#4. Caffeine

OK, raise your hand if you started your day with a glorious cup of steaming hot coffee? Yep, I am right here with you.  Although it feels like your day hasn’t started until that caffeine provides you with that little kick, excessive caffeine can be doing more than giving you energy.  In fact, it can raise your cortisol levels which can inhibit our body’s ability to fight off infections and remove any damaged or abnormal cells.

Additionally, raised cortisol levels can bring on or worsen feelings of anxiety, panic attacks, irritability, or insomnia.

#5. Pesticide-covered Fruits and Vegetables

No matter what trendy diet you follow (BTW, don’t follow any trendy diets – eat a balanced diet) or which nutritional expert you listen to, fruits and vegetables are the foods that everyone should be eating.  They are filled with vitamins and minerals to keep us healthy, fiber to keep us full and regular, and often high in water content to help us hydrated and looking younger.

However, many of the fresh produce we get at the grocery store can be covered in pesticides which can disrupt the microbes in your gut.  It is important that we have these microbes to maintain a well-functioning immune system.

As much as possible, choose produce that is grown organically and in season.  Why not even try growing some of it yourself in your backyard or in a pot on your balcony?  I reap the nutritional benefits of fresh tomatoes every summer – they are easy to take care and oh, so sweet!

If you are unable to buy organic or in season, try these methods to help you remove the pesticides before eating.

#6. Aspartame

Artificial sweeteners can be found in a multitude of foods we eat – diet soda, chewing gum, yogurt.  We may think that aspartame is a great invention because it reduces the number of calories we are ingesting.  In actuality, aspartame causes a myriad of health issues that can lead to your immune system not functioning well.

It can disturb the levels of “good” bacteria in your gut which negatively affects how well your body can respond appropriately to harmful microbes. Although eating foods that are more natural may be higher calorically, they generally are not foods that suppress the immune system.  Your body is a beautiful machine and is made to process what Mother Nature has provided.

#7. Sugar

Sugar, whether refined or naturally occurring, is a haven for bacteria to grow.  If you are prone to reaching for those sugary snacks, know that you are indeed inviting non-beneficial bacteria to make a home in your body.  They will dominate the healthy bacteria, causing your immune system to be weakened as well your moods will be more dramatic with spikes and crashes of your blood sugar levels. Sugar-laden foods that suppress the immune system are also horrible for your brain function.

Weaning yourself off sugar is not necessarily an easy thing to do but it is possible and definitely worth it if you want to boost your immunity.  If you reduce your sugar intake dramatically, your immune system will no longer have to fight for space between vitamin C, a nutrient critical for your immunity cells.  Your immune cells will have an easier task to get the vitamin C they need in order to protect you. Isn’t that reason enough to reduce your sugar intake?

#8. Gluten

Gluten is found in the proteins of many grains like wheat, rye, and barley.  Many people have developed an intolerance or sensitivity to anything that contains gluten – pasta, bread, soy sauce, some sausages where bread is used as a filler to name a few.

It is extremely hard for their bodies to digest which can result in various gastrointestinal issues like bloating, excessive gas, and cramping. Consequently, your immune system thinks something is wrong and an unwarranted immune response occurs.

Final Thoughts….

In terms of your immune system, it is crucial that you being diligent with your diet. As much as possible, avoid foods that suppress the immune system while feeding your body natural, unrefined foods.

Your immune system allows you to remain healthy and ready to take on the world each and every day. Feeling sick and unable to fight off any illness, simple or otherwise, is not how we want to be facing life.  Make wise choices and feel the difference.

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