10 things that weaken the immune system

In light of the present COVID-19 pandemic, immune system health has come to the forefront of peoples’ minds.

Everyone wants to know, “how can I maintain a strong immune system that is less susceptible to infection?”

Our immune systems are ancient and amazingly complex – built to keep our bodies functioning through a lifetime of challenges presented by foreign invaders.

However, our modern, convenience-laden world has presented a number of new challenges to our main line of defense. 

Here are 10 commonly-encountered immune busters. Steering clear of them may be good advice in order to ensure your immune system has all the resources it needs to protect you.

1. Stress, anxiety, panic

When we are stressed, our bodies tell our nervous systems and stress hormones that it is time to act. Our hypothalamus informs the adrenal glands to produce more hormones, adrenaline and as well as cortisol, and release them into the bloodstream. Experiments where adrenaline is given intravenously shows it decreases magnesium as well as calcium, potassium, and sodium. This proves that when you are in a revved-up state and burning adrenaline, you are also burning off magnesium.

And, because studies have found that magnesium has a strong relationship with the immune system, you’ll want to restore your body’s magnesium levels to keep the immune system working properly.

2. Inadequate sleep 

According to the National Sleep Foundation, even though sleeping more isn’t likely to help you avoid getting sick, missing precious hours of sleep could weaken your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to infection.

3. Yeast Overgrowth

Yeast overgrowth is a major immune suppressant because yeast produces 178 different yeast toxins that, once released, have to be eliminated from the body.

All of the work the body undertakes to expel the toxins uses up nutrients and takes energy away from other body functions, especially the immune system.

Start by eliminating foods that feed yeast so they will begin to starve (eg. high-sugar fruits, sugar, grains that contain gluten, nuts, caffeine).

4. Fast food and junk food

According to research out of Germany, the immune system reacts similarly to a high fat, high calorie fast-food diet as it does to a bacterial infection. And, this hyperreactivity can persist long after switching to a healthy diet. Therefore, the sooner these foods are eliminated, the better.

5. GMO-based foods

Genetically modified organisms place a burden on the immune system. Our immune system has developed and evolved over thousands of years. When we introduce a genetically modified food to the immune system, it doesn’t recognize the language of “genetically modified” and, as a result, identifies it as foreign and executes an immune response.

The source of many vegetable oils – corn, soybean, cottonseed, palm, rapeseed, safflower, etc. – are highly genetically modified foods. These oils are in many processed foods, so watch out for them in the ingredient listing.

6. Foods containing MSG

Research indicates that eating foods containing MSG can cause unwanted changes to your thymus and spleen, both of which are key players in your immune function. (Both your thymus and your spleen create lymphocytes, which take out foreign invaders; your spleen also makes antibodies that help keep you well.)

7. Sodas

The chemicals in soft drinks can wreak havoc on gut bacteria. This is problematic because there is a lot of interaction between the body’s immune system and bacteria in the gut.

A recent study done involving diet soda and gut bacteria found that consuming diet soda may cause harmful damage to your body’s microbiome. The digestive and intestinal tracts are filled with good bacteria that keep the body healthy. 

8. Overdoing caffeine

When caffeine is consumed in moderation, up to 400 mgs of caffeine (roughly 3 – 4 cups of brewed coffee) it can have some positive effects on inflammation, and antioxidants in coffee can even help prevent some cancers, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and neurological diseases.

However, too much caffeine can decrease the ability of our immune system to fight infections as well as remove damaged or abnormal cells. Studies also show women and men who drink large amounts of caffeine release higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in response to physical and mental stress. 

9. Smoking

Smoking suppresses immune cells. Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 toxins, most of which can irritate or kill cells in the body, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Smoking alters the number of various immune cells and impairs the functioning of others.  It may even turn the immune system against the body’s own cells.

As a result of these changes, smokers are more likely to catch several types of infectious diseases, including respiratory infections, flu and even gum disease. When smokers quit, their immune activity begins to improve within 30 days.

10. Alcohol

There is significant evidence that alcohol disrupts immune system function. These disruptions can impair the body’s ability to defend against infection.

Alcohol alters the numbers and relative abundances of microbes in the gut microbiome, an extensive community of microorganisms in the intestine that aid in normal gut function. These organisms affect the maturation and function of the immune system. Alcohol disrupts communication between these organisms and the intestinal immune system.