The #1 Worst Food for Immunity, According to Doctors

We talked to a doctor of internal medicine and an endocrinologist to learn how to keep our immune systems at their best.

Immunity seems to be on everyone's minds right now—and for good reason. With the coronavirus pandemic, plus cold and flu season, it's important we take care of our bodies, practice proper hygiene and eat a healthy diet. We spoke with Romy Block, M.D. and Arielle Levitan, M.D., co-founders of Vous Vitamin, to learn more about boosting our immunity.

"First of all, we would say in general that people should be thoughtful about their individual needs when it comes to immunity," says Levitan. However, both doctors noted there is one thing we all should be avoiding to keep our immune systems strong: alcohol.

The pair says alcohol suppresses your immune system and can also make a virus last longer. In fact, they say having just one drink could make an illness last a few extra days. This is likely because alcohol disrupts our gastrointestinal tract, which plays a vital role in keeping our immune systems strong. Research shows alcohol can cause gut bacteria leakage, which leads to inflammation, forcing our immune system's defenses down. Not to mention, booze is dehydrating, and staying hydrated is important for staying healthy.

woman lying on bed
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We should also avoid alcohol when we are sick, as it can have harmful interactions with multiple ingredients found in cold and flu medications. Drinking alcohol while taking certain medications could make you drowsy, and lightheaded and put you at risk for dangerous driving.

While we're not saying you should ditch booze for good, those with pre-existing conditions and older populations should definitely consider reducing their intake during the coronavirus pandemic (plus, we're entering regular cold and flu season). Tempting as it may be to want to drink your anxiety away, Brook and Levitan both advise finding stress relief through regular exercise and a healthy diet—both of which will boost your immunity!

"A varied diet really is the best way to go, even though eating salad isn't always at the top of our lists this time of year," Levitan says. Block likes to make veggie-packed soups in her Instant Pot to keep her family nourished. The doctors also encourage loading up on vitamin C- and zinc-rich foods and avoiding empty calories, which can actually make your illness worse.

"There are definitely things you can do in an acute crisis, but the most important thing is to try to stay healthy year-round, not just during crunch time," Block says.

Instead of a glass of wine or beer, try an herbal tea, a glass of seltzer, or a mocktail.

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