Do not weaken your immune system if you do not have to! Keeping your immune system strong is one of the most important and practical activities that you could do right now. Whilst improving the immune system is often viewed as the best way to avoid illness, it is actually a two-sided coin. Yes, it is about choosing foods that help support immune function, but it is also about avoiding those behaviours that can weaken immunity.
If you are going to put a lot of effort into boosting your immune system, then it would make sense to also avoid habits that weaken the immune system. Otherwise you are putting all the effort in for what could be a break even result.
Here are 4 eating habits that weaken the immune system
Going overboard on booze
The occasional drink here and there can be a great way to manage stress levels and relax. Excessive alcohol consumption however, can alter your immune system in ways that are pretty important right now.
Clinicians have long observed an association between excessive alcohol consumption and adverse immune-related health effects such as susceptibility to pneumonia. In recent decades, this association has been expanded to a greater likelihood of acute respiratory stress syndromes (ARDS), sepsis, alcoholic liver disease (ALD), and certain cancers; a higher incidence of postoperative complications; and slower and less complete recovery from infection and physical trauma, including poor wound healing.
With the above in mind, it would make sense to cut down on the booze and give yourself the best chance of a healthy immune system.
Having too much salt
The general understanding on having too much salt is that it will lead to fluid retention and high blood pressure.
Yes this is true, but there is also research to say that too much salt may lead to immune deficiencies. Researchers found that when the kidneys excrete excess sodium, a domino effect occurs that reduces the body’s ability to fight bacterial infections.
How much salt is too much?
Is it estimated that your body only needs 186mg of sodium per day to function properly. It would be next to impossible to consume this little however and still hit your other energy needs. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) advises that Australian adults should aim to consume no more than one teaspoon (5 grams) of salt a day (or 2,000mg of sodium a day) in order to prevent chronic disease.
The best way to reduce your salt intake?
Limit any highly processed foods and stop oversalting your meals!
Binging on the sugar
Sugar is one of those substances that you do not really need too much of (especially the processed type), but everyone seems to have a lot of.
Because it is in everything that tastes too good to be true.
It has been shown in studies that excess sugar consumption reduces the ability for the immune cells to engulf bacteria. Putting your white blood cells into an effective coma, this can last for a number of hours after consumption.
If you are having sugary drinks/foods with most meals, then you can see how it is possible for your immune system to never really have a chance to keep you healthy.
How much sugar should I be aiming for?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says we should be limiting our added sugar intake to 6 teaspoons per day for optimal health. On average, Australians are consuming between 14-16 teaspoons of added sugars a day.
This is not good enough!
Not enough fibre and green veggies
Fibre is one of the keys to success when it comes to the immune system. It supports good digestive health and helps to shift the makeup of gut bacteria in ways that enhance immunity. A higher intake of dietary fibre supports a healthier immune function and can also promote a better sleep.
The best way to upgrade your fibre intake is to eat more whole foods including green vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes and seeds.
Swap out the processed foods for unprocessed whole foods such as:
- Lima beans
- Green peas
- Brussels sprouts
If you increase you fibre with the above green vegetables then you are also giving your body an increased chance of benefiting from their bioactive compounds that release chemicals that boost immunity in the gut, the location of 70%-80% of immune cells.
Whilst the above 4 eating habits weaken the immune system, they can also be reversed with relative ease. Yes we are in a time of increased stress and uncertainty, but the way to get through it is by ensuring that you are your best healthy self. If you are spending your time eating and drinking through this pandemic, then you are rising your health in more ways than one.
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