Foods that Can Weaken Immune System

25 May 2022

Especially over the past couple of years we have been finding ways to boost our immune system.  Here are some foods that can negatively impact our bodies’ defenses leaving us more vulnerable to contagions.

Sugar – Added sugars (like those sweet cereals, candy, sugary drinks, etc.) increase production of tumor necrosis alpha (TTNR-a), C-reactive protein (RP), and interleukin-6 (IL-6).  Any of these substances can negatively impact the human immune system.  There are two types of cells, neutrophils and phagocytes, that help immune cells to combat infection, but studies show that these specialized cells don’t work as well under high sugar situations.  High sugars also imbalance the gut bacteria.  Studies on added high sugar diets show those individuals more susceptible to certain autoimmune diseases.

Salt – Yeah, a nice bag of chips tastes so good, and frozen dinners are easy to prepare.  However, the increased salt content has shown to increase inflammatory markers and to reduce anti-inflammatory proteins.  Researchers indicate that excessive salt exacerbates some autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and others.  Occasionally it is okay, but try to limit those salty snacks and meals.

Fried Foods – When food is cooked at very high temperatures, like during frying, molecules called glycation end products (AGE) are formed.  It is thought that these AGEs weaken the immune system by allowing inflammation, by using antioxidant mechanisms, and by adversely effecting gut bacteria.  This can put the body at risk of some diseases and medical conditions.

Additives – Many processed foods use additives to provide a longer shelf life, improve taste, and give them a more pleasing texture.  These enhancements can also change the human intestinal system by altering bacteria and can be harmful to the lining of the stomach and tract.  Research is ongoing but use caution.  Other supplements including corn syrup, salt, and artificial sweeteners, can also adversely affect your immunity.

Refined Carbohydrates – Not all carbs are bad.  But those that have been highly refined, like those found in white bread and high-sugar baked goods, can cause a spike in blood sugar and insulin.  These spikes have the potential to increase the production of free radicals and inflammatory proteins.  Sticking to starchy vegetables, oats, and fruit are much better choices.

Saturated Fats – These are like butter, coconut oil, cheese, and red meat that have fat contents that are solid at room temperature.  An abundance of high saturated fats are signals to the body that can suppress the immune system and white blood cell production.  There are healthy fats that you can often substitute.

A conclusionary word is:  Moderation.  You don’t need to completely eliminate these foods from your diet, but ingest them judiciously.  An occasional splurge is good for everyone but if you keep your general diet to home cooked meals, high in fiber, vegetables, and fruits, you will probably be just fine.  If you have any questions or concerns, discuss your eating plan with your doctor, nurse practitioner, or nutritionist.

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