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10 Things that Weaken Your Immune System

Updated on May 28, 2015

Your immune system is continuously being attacked by viruses and bacteria, and other elements such as items found at home and some emotional stuff. As much as possible, these are the things you would want to eliminate from your life.

1. Microwave Popcorn

The bags used for microwave popcorn are coated with non-stick chemicals called perflurorinated compounds (PFCs) so that the grease in the popcorn does not penetrate the bag. PFCs can wreak havoc in the immune system and one of the top routes to this toxic chemical exposure is the microwave popcorn bags.

If you must have popcorn, make them on the stovetop. Also, these same chemicals can be found in those greaseproof fast-food containers and wraps. Try to reduce, if not totally cut down, exposure to these items.

2. Nonstick Cookware

Nonstick pots and pans make life much easier in the kitchen. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is an industrial chemical within the PFC group used in nonstick pots and pans. A study done in 2012 has found that exposure to PFOA late in a woman’s pregnancy has resulted in children with lower antibody response to what is ideal after tetanus and diphtheria vaccinations. Exposure to nonstick chemicals by children renders important vaccines less effective.

You can use your nonstick cookware until you start noticing scratches and chips. It is best to replace non-stick cookware with enamel, glass, cast iron, or stainless steel to avoid these damaging chemicals.

3. Canned Foods

The inside lining of most canned foods are coated with Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is an industrial chemical which has been present in many canned goods for decades to help protect the cans from corrosion and to prevent microbial contamination of the food inside.

Research has shown that BPA can leach into the food or beverage from the lining of the can, and exposure to BPA is a big concern because of its possible health effects, especially on infants and children.

The FDA has said that BPA is safe at very low levels that occur in foods. They continue to review BPA and support ongoing research.

You can take steps to avoid exposure to BPA by cutting down on canned goods, using fresh or frozen foods instead, and by looking for BPA-free products.

4. Sugar

When stressed, sad, or bored, we go for sugary comfort foods. But in spite of the “feel good” effect and the burst of energy after eating sweets, there is no denying that sugar has a dramatic and direct effect on our immune system hours after sugar consumption.

According to studies, eating 100 grams of sugar lowers the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria for up to 5 hours. The white blood cells become 40% less effective at killing germs.

A research done by Linus Pauling in 1970 has found out that white blood cells need Vitamin C to kill bacteria and viruses. Sugar is similar to Vitamin C in chemical structure. When sugar is ingested, it competes with Vitamin C for space in the immune cells. The more sugar in the system, the less Vitamin C gets into the white blood cells. Since sugar does not help the immune system to fight infection, it results in a weakened defense from infections.


5. Antibacterial Soap

The use of antibacterial soap to reduce infectious diseases is no better than using plain glycerin hand soap. Antibacterial soaps may even cause harm by killing good bacteria. The skin and intestinal tract are lined by millions of “good” bacteria which are needed to keep harmful bacteria away. By destroying good bacteria, antibacterial soap gives way to the harmful bacteria which can weaken the immune system.

Antibacterial soaps can also cause bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics, making it harder for physicians to treat bacterial infections when they happen.

Researchers have found that children who are exposed to antibacterial chemicals are prone to environmental and food allergies. Triclosan is a popular chemical in antibacterial soaps. Children who are exposed to triclosan have a high allergy risk.

Wash with regular soap and water which works just as well, without the added risks.


6. Antibiotics

Taking antibiotics can lower your levels of cytokines, the hormonal messengers that your immune system relies on during illness. There is not much that an antibiotic can do for you when your ailment is caused by viruses, it can only wipe out the immune-supporting bacteria in your gut.

Antibiotics indiscriminately kill both good and bad bacteria. You have to be sure that you actually need antibiotics before taking them. And when you do take antibiotics, make sure to take them on time and you have to finish the entire course even when you feel better. Over 80% of the body’s immunity is in the intestinal tract built by the friendly bacteria balance which inhabit in there. Eat some low-sugar yogurt and fermented foods to re-populate your gut flora.

7. Pesticides

There are evidence which indicate that exposure to common pesticides can damage the human immune system and weaken the body’s resistance to infectious diseases. Pesticides have been found to decrease the number of white blood cells and disease-fighting lymphocytes impairing their ability to kill bacteria and viruses.

Concerns about pesticides revolve around their potential to act as poison but recent studies reveal that many commonly used pesticides can suppress normal response of the body’s immune system to invading bacteria, parasites, and viruses. The immune system is the body’s first line of defense against these antigens so weakening its response can make people more vulnerable to disease.

You can minimize exposure to pesticides by buying organic and locally grown fruit and vegetables, washing fruits and vegetables well before eating, and use non-toxic alternatives to control pests in your home, in your lawn, and in your garden. Planting native plants in your garden may attract beneficial insects which can prey on pests.


8. Dehydration

Drinking lots of water is good for your immune system. Fluids flush out immune-damaging toxins from your body, and carry nutrients to any infection sites. Being properly hydrated helps your body eliminate waste and toxic materials, making your immune system fight infections better.

You may be walking around without knowing that you are mildly dehydrated.

When you have a dark yellow pee in the morning, you need to drink more water before bed. A pale yellow pee in the morning means you are properly hydrated.

9. Lack of Sleep

Lack of sleep has an adverse effect on your immune system. It lowers the number of killer cells that your body needs to fight infection. A study has found that sleeping four hours a night for a week has reduced into half the number of flu-fighting antibodies in the study-participant’s system.

You have to aim for 7 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Avoid electronic screens at least 2 hours before bed. The light from these screens tricks your brain from easing into the sleep mode.

10. Loneliness

Researchers link loneliness to some dysfunctional immune responses, and suggest that being lonely has the potential to cause harm to a person’s overall health.

The results of these researches suggest that loneliness may cause a person to experience daily life as more stressful which may cause chronic stress and which can disrupt the proper functioning of the immune system.

Previous research has found that poor-quality relationships are linked to a number of serious health conditions and even premature mortality. Lonely people feel like they are in poor-quality relationships.

These researches aim to make people understand that loneliness and relationships affect a person’s health. When people understand the process, they can counter the negative effects.

If you feel lonely, perhaps it is time to reach out because not only is loneliness unpleasant, it can also harm the immune system.


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    • Tameka Sonoma profile image

      Tameka S. Brown 2 years ago from Orlando, Florida

      That was very informative. I will definitely watch what I do and eat from now on.