What you eat has an impact on the strength of your body’s defenses. Some foods and drinks support healthy immune function and help you fight off harmful invaders. There are other foods that weaken your immune function. It’s vital to know which help, and to fast from foods that harm your immune function.
How do they do harm?
Foods can be detrimental to the systems that support your immune response. Or, they can weaken your immune system directly causing chronic inflammation, overblown immune responses to allergens, or actually suppressing the cells that fight invaders.
Here are 7 foods that harm your immune function, and what to choose instead.
7 Foods That Weaken Your Immune System
Sugars simply wreak havoc on many body systems, especially when consumed in large amounts. In fact, sugar can:
- directly cause a latent immune response after large amounts are ingested
- contribute to an unhealthy weight which can harm immune-supporting systems
- increase blood sugars which can increase the risk of infection
- raise the risk of cardiovascular disease which suppresses the overall health and immune response
- increase inflammation, which directly and negatively impacts the immune system
Chronic inflammation is associated with a weakened immune system and illness.
Instead of Sugar Use: Do your best to simply wean off of “sweets” as much as possible. When you do want a treat, make them at home using non-sugar keto sweeteners such as stevia and erythritol.
2. Soybean Oil
Soybean oil is associated with increased inflammation. In fact, it is a concentrated source of omega-6s fats, and these fats directly work against healthy omega-3 fats in the body.
Unfortunately, soybean oil is used in almost all processed foods. It’s cheap. Soybean oil is easy to use. It’s available.
From a profit standpoint, it’s much more lucrative to use soybean oil than olive oil, avocado oil, or MCT oil in a food product. Now, it’s up to you as a consumer to be choosy and avoid it. Soybean oil is among the most potent foods that harm your immune function.
Instead of Soybean Oil Use: Whenever possible, always look for extra virgin olive oil in place of soybean oil when you’re dressing vegetables, making a sauce, etc. Why? Oleocanthal and other healthy compounds.
Oleocanthal is a special compound found in abundance in high-quality olive oils. It supports healthy immune function and overall health. In fact, it is so strong it reduces inflammation in similar strength to some medications, like ibuprofen (2). Additionally, it provides direct immune support against invaders (3).
Other great oils include avocado oil, MCT oil, and coconut oil. While soybean oil increases inflammation, MCT oil has been found to directly reduce C-reactive protein (a marker for inflammation) (4).
3. Refined Carbohydrates
We all know that sugar hurts our bodies. But, do you realize that refined, white carbohydrates do the same? Once they are in the body, the starches from pasta act much the same as those from a sugar-sweetened food.
These starches are quickly digested and can spike blood sugars just like sugar does. In turn, the risk of illness and inflammation rises.
Instead of Refined Carbs Use: Luckily, there are many great food options to use in place of carbs. In any meal, opt for healthy fats, vegetables, and protein rather than carbs. Make carb-substitutes from flours that are low-carb rather than wheat. At dinner, use non-starchy vegetables such as zucchini and cauliflower in place of rice, potatoes, and noodles.
4. Artificial Flavorings (In Place of Real Spices)
Artificial flavorings, colorings, and otherwise “fake” ingredients have little place in our food system. They are simply another cheap way for food manufacturers to make foods without having to use nourishing, real ingredients. Don’t allow it.
While some artificial ingredients only have minor effects, when used in place of real-food flavor we miss a huge opportunity to support our immune system and health. In fact, some of the strongest anti-inflammatory compounds and flavors are found in black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric.
Turmeric’s curcumin can reduce inflammation, joint pain, and provide a plethora of health benefits. Ginger can reduce inflammation, promote whole-body health, support the immune system, and relieve pain with its strong antioxidants. Black peppercorns support your immune system with potent antioxidants like piperine and anti-inflammatory compounds. . Cinnamon and cloves are not only known for being anti-inflammatory, but their cinnamaldehyde can also fight harmful invaders directly.
Instead of Artificial Flavorings: Add plenty of garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and other spices. Drizzle foods with extra virgin olive oil. Choose these delicious options rather than flavorings and foods that weaken your immune system.
Although alcohol is a drink rather than a food, we couldn’t leave it off our list of foods that harm your immune system. There are quite a few ways alcohol can impair your immune system. It:
- harms the healthy bacteria and microbes in your digestive system, which play a key role in immune function
- damages the epithelial cells themselves in your digestive tract, which can increase the risk of intolerances, reactions, and immune system inflammation
- disrupts the gut barrier, allowing more bacteria to pass into the blood from the gut
- may impair the function of immune cells in the lungs and upper respiratory system, leading to respiratory issues and illness (excessive drinking)
- reduces the number and function of three important kinds of cells in your immune system–macrophages, T cells, and C cells, making it difficult to fight off microbes (excessive drinking)
- disrupts the pro- and anti-inflammatory functions in the liver which leads to a state of chronic liver inflammation (excessive drinking) (5)
Instead of Alcohol Use: Many drinks promote full-body health and great immune function. Start with water. It’s vital for a healthy body.
Then, green and black tea are packed full of antioxidants that fight free radicals and support healthy immune function.
Consider adding lemon juice and slices. Vitamin C in lemons is one of our most-studied and well-known antioxidants. Lemons contain vitamin C plus antibacterial components effective throughout the mouth and intestines.
6. Antibiotics in Foods
If your food comes from an animal source, there’s a chance you are consuming antibiotics that have been given to the animal to keep it healthy (6).
Unfortunately, these antibiotics and their build-up can hurt your own health by tear harming the healthy bacteria in your digestive tract. Since your digestive tract is one of the primary systems for immune health and detox, antibiotics can weaken your immune response.
Instead of Animal Products with Antibiotics: Choose wild, local, or organic animal products whenever possible. Look for statements that show no antibiotic use if buying from the store.
7. Gluten or Other Individual Intolerances
Although the majority of adults do not likely have a gluten or wheat allergy, many display symptoms of intolerance when they eat modern strains of wheat. While they may tolerate smaller amounts or ancient grains, modern wheat may cause an immune response from their digestive tract or skin.
When it comes to intolerances, gluten stands out since it can weaken and flatten the villi in the intestines responsible for absorbing nutrients (7). When these are flattened, digestion suffers, and therefore the immune system suffers as well.
In addition, any individual intolerances can cause chronic immune responses and inflammation.
Instead of Eating Foods in which you are Intolerant: Avoid any foods that elicit immune responses from your skin, digestive tract, or respiratory system. If you are not sure what foods are the problem, make sure to rotate your foods and avoid eating the same foods or ingredients every day. If you know you are intolerant of gluten, avoid all wheat products and look for wheat and/or gluten listed on the ingredients list. Use non-wheat ingredients in its place, including nut flours, fiber supplements, and more.
How to Fast from These 7 Foods That Harm Your Immune Function
You’ve got the knowledge to make great choices with nutrition. Now, deliberately choose foods that support immune health (see 14 here), and avoid these foods that harm your immune function.
Ready to start fasting? Sign up today for Dr. Colbert’s 21 Day Detox and Fast! You’ll automatically fast from foods that bring down your health and flood your body with those that boost it.