What you eat can favor or negatively affect your body’s defenses. For their function, immune cells require sufficient nutrients from a varied diet and healthy dietary patterns to better prepare the body for microbial attacks and excess inflammation.
There are some foods and drinks that, instead of benefiting your immune system, depress or weaken it.
1. Diet rich in ultra-processed foods
The Harvard School of Public Health notes that diets that are limited in variety and low in nutrients, such as those that consist primarily of ultra-processed foods and lack minimally processed foods, can negatively affect a healthy immune system.
2. You consume alcohol
The World Health Organization notes that alcohol weakens the immune system. Alcohol use, especially if it is heavy, undermines your body’s ability to cope with infectious diseases, including COVID-19.
“Heavy alcohol use can make it harder for your body to resist disease, which increases the risk of contracting various diseases, especially pneumonia”Says Mayo Clinic.
3. You eat sugar in excess
A diet rich in refined sugar can promote disturbances in healthy gut microorganisms, resulting in chronic inflammation of the intestine and associated suppressed immunity.
Eating or drinking too much sugar slows down the cells of the immune system that attack bacteria. This effect lasts for at least a few hours after ingesting a couple of sugary drinks, explains the medical journal WebMD.
4. You don’t consume vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for the immune system to fight the bacteria and viruses that attack it. This vitamin is produced naturally in our skin when exposed to sunlight. But if you are not exposing yourself to sunlight, you must get it through diet or supplements. Cod liver oil, trout and salmon provide vitamin D, you can also get it from fortified foods.
5. You eat too much red meat
Red meat and processed meats (hot dogs, ham, bacon, salami) are foods that promote chronic inflammation of the intestine. The intestine is an important site of immune activity and antimicrobial protein production.
6. You eat a lot of salt
Following a diet high in sodium can increase your risk of heart disease and could also affect your response to bacterial infections. A study shared in Science in 2020 revealed that mice fed a high-salt diet suffered from much more serious bacterial infections. Human volunteers who consumed an additional six grams of salt per day also showed pronounced immune deficiencies.
7. You don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. A diet lacking in one or more nutrients can affect the production and activity of immune cells and antibodies.
In addition to a balanced diet (with whole fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and lots of water); getting 7 to 9 hours of good sleep each night, being physically active, not smoking, and managing stress more effectively prepares the body to fight infection and disease.