The Western diet affects immunity

The Western diet affects immunity

By Sharon Palmer, R.D.N., Environmental Nutrition Newsletter

If you need one more reason to avoid the Western diet — our nation’s typical highly processed eating style — here it is: It may compromise your gut microbiota and immune function. A recent National Institutes of Health review of the science on this topic reveals that there are many factors in the Western diet — high in sugar, sodium and saturated fat; and low in omega-3s — that can negatively impact the gut microbiota, which then diminishes the immune system. Even more disturbing is the knowledge that this diet can affect our genes, creating havoc for future generations.

Obesity creates an inflammatory response that can dull the immune system’s ability to protect the body. Dietary factors, such as processed sugars, sodium and saturated fats have an inflammatory effect, while omega-3s (of which we don’t eat enough) have an anti-inflammatory effect. This leads to an altered host environment, shifts in immune cell functions, and changes in nutrient availability for the gut microbiota, thus compromising the immune response.

A mother’s diet can influence the gut microbiota of her unborn child, leaving the child with an impaired immune system — prone to infection, and autoimmune and allergic diseases. Just one small change in your diet can have far-reaching effects. Ditch the Western eating style and focus on whole, minimally processed foods — fish, whole grains, legumes and nuts.

(Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 800-829-5384.