Our immune function is an incredibly complex system that keeps our bodies functioning through a lifetime of challenges. But some peoples’ current lifestyles, or unconscious habits, may be creating an extra strain on how well their immune system can do its job. Start identifying the ways you may be promoting your own immune dysfunction with these 10 commonly-encountered immune function busters:
What You Eat
The foods we eat, and don’t eat, make a huge difference on how the body can react when the time is right.
1. GMO-based foods
Genetically modified organisms (GMO) place a burden on the immune system. 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. This includes the many vegetable oils we cook with that are created from GMOs. Watch for them on the ingredient list.
2. 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. At a minimum, understand the oils that they cook in, and limit yourself to places committed to better ingredients.
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.
4. Foods Containing Additives
Food additives are becoming a more common factor in the ways our body’s balance is shifted in the wrong direction. These spices or shelf-life extenders are displaying toxic results that can cause our body to work overtime. 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.)
How You Feel
Your ability to get enough actual rest, or find relief from stressful situations, can determine how quickly you use up your resources.
5. Stress, Anxiety, and Panic
Stressors in our daily environment automatically signal our nervous system and hormone producing organs that it is time for them to act. And as we produce more hormones, adrenaline, and cortisol, these additional triggers create a domino effect throughout our bodies. All of these extra requests for more support starts draining the body’s minerals as it tries to keep up. This can quickly lead to deficiencies in nutrients needed for your immune response because you didn’t realize they needed to be replaced.
6. 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. And the longer your regular cycles are disrupted, you are increasing opportunities for other health issues. It is always a good idea to promote actions that help you gain more restful sleep, using your body’s own natural functions.
Your Biome and Body Health
Making sure you maintain a healthy gut helps you process nutrients properly while keeping things less hospitable for harmful invaders.
7. General Gut Health
A diet of low-nutrient and low-fiber food sources can create the perfect environment to breed the wrong bacteria or other invaders that are vying for your body’s resources. A healthy gut helps maintain and manage the body’s innate and adaptive immune response to naturally make you better prepared to battle. By making your digestive health part of your immune support plan, you are adding additional barriers to many health disturbances.
8. 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 must undertake to expel these toxins uses up available nutrients, and takes energy away from your immune system response. Start by eliminating foods that feed yeast so they will begin to starve (eg. high-sugar fruits, sugar, grains that contain gluten, nuts, caffeine).
Some of the ways you supplement your life outside of vitamins and minerals are known to create problems.
9. Overdoing caffeine
When caffeine is consumed in moderation, it can have some positive effects. Consuming up to 400 mgs of caffeine, or roughly 2 – 3 cups of brewed coffee) has been associated with reduced inflammation, and the introduction of antioxidants that are being shown to help in preventative health care including heart health, brain health, and blood sugar maintenance.
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.
There is significant evidence that alcohol disrupts immune system function. These disruptions can impair the body’s natural 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 body’s immune system structures. Alcohol also disrupts communication between these organisms and the intestinal immune system.