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Why a Healthy Weight is Important for a Strong Immune System

More than ever, it's important to make sure your immune system is healthy and functioning at its peak.

And while there are many different ways to promote immune health, perhaps the most conclusive and well studied approach is to maintain a healthy weight while living an active lifestyle.

Being overweight or obese drastically impairs our body's ability to protect itself. And it also increases the risk of other things, like not being able to live independently as we get older.

That's why we put together this article. Use it as your one-stop guide for understanding the link between weight management and immune health. Plus, we'll go over some proven ways to start losing weight.

What is Immune Health?

Immune health relates to how well the various parts of your immune system are functioning at any given time. 

The immune system is your body's natural defense mechanism against diseases, germs, bacteria, and viruses. 

Several organs and body parts make up the immune system. Your bone marrow, thymus, lymph nodes, spleen, and tonsils all play a role in immune health [1].

When these parts are healthy, they are able to most effectively protect you from getting sick.

Why is Immune Health Important?

A weakened or compromised immune system exposes you to a host of negative things. You're more likely to not only get sick, but to contract diseases and generally live a lower quality of life, especially as you get older [2].

Poor immune health can also lead to autoimmune disorders. As the name suggests, an autoimmune disorder is when your body's own immune system works against itself [3].

Basically, the damaged or compromised parts of your immune system can misdiagnose healthy body cells. Thinking it's a virus or foreign invader, they attack and damage these cells.

Examples of common autoimmune disorders include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, and psoriasis.

How Diet and Nutrition Impact Immune Health

While some immune and autoimmune disorders are genetic, many are the result of chronic poor lifestyle choices. The quality of your diet, for example, is one of the primary things that determines how effective your immune system is [4].

When you eat healthy, wholesome foods, your body receives the essential vitamins and minerals it needs to keep its systems strong.

Following an anti-inflammatory diet has also been shown to improve immune system health [5].

But when you eat unhealthy foods that are void of these essential nutrients, your immune system suffers. In fact, there is a direct relationship between malnutrition and immune system dysfunction [6].

So in essence, the old cliche "you are what you eat" actually does apply, at least when talking about your body's protective mechanisms. 

How Body Weight Impacts Immune Health

It's an unfortunate truth, but the science is clear and conclusive: being overweight or obese has a negative effect on your immune health [7].

This is true for at least 4 scientifically-backed reasons:

  • Being overweight reduces the power and effectiveness of your lymphatic system. (Your lymphatic system is basically a superhighway that helps rid the body of toxins and disease [8].)
  • Being obese stresses your body's tissues and systems, meaning your immune system is likely not always given the resources it needs or enough time to rest.
  • Overweight and obese people's immune systems are less effective at fighting off infections [9]
  • Overweight and obese people are more likely to suffer from chronic tissue inflammation, which puts them at a higher risk for seriously compromising ailments like cancer and heart disease [10].
More of these diseases and conditions are listed below.

Diseases and Conditions Linked to Excess Body Weight

Overweight and obese people are more likely to suffer from [11]:
  • Cardiovascular disease (CVD)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Cancer
  • Liver and kidney disease
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Sleep apnea
We're often told that being overweight is "bad," but this list of ailments and the 4 reasons mentioned above might help motivate you to finally embark on the weight loss journey you’ve been considering.

Weight Loss Health Benefits

Unfortunately, our culture's most celebrated aspect of weight loss is what you look like in the "after" photo. But the health benefits of weight loss extend far beyond physical appearance.

People who have a healthy weight are:

  • Less likely to die at a young age
  • Less likely to suffer from the diseases mentioned above
  • Less likely to suffer from other underlying health issues
  • More likely to live a quality life, especially as they get older [12]
  • More likely to have energy
  • More likely to sleep well at night [13]
  • More likely to have confidence and high self-esteem [14]
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Ways to Start or Enhance Weight Loss

Fortunately, there are things you can do to start losing weight today.
  • Eat whole foods and minimize processed foods: A whole-food diet (vegetables, fruits, proteins) that limits or eliminates processed and junk food is not only good for weight loss, but for reducing systemic inflammation linked to diseases like cancer and heart disease.
  • Limit carbohydrates: Eating a low-carb diet is one of the absolute best ways to lose weight. Diets like the ketogenic diet help promote fat loss through a natural process called ketosis, where your body uses excess fat storages for energy instead of glucose from your muscles.
  • Join a weight loss program: Accountability on a weight loss program (such as the KETO 30 Challenge) can go a long way towards trimming your waistline. Having access to 1-on-1 guidance, tips to overcome self-doubt or frustrations, and motivation from an accountability group can help you stay on track when things get challenging.
  • Increase physical activity: Whether you work out daily or just go for a walk, try getting in some type of physical activity each day. This not only helps you burn calories (which means faster weight loss) but can help promote better immune system health, too. Regular exercise is great but other forms of activity add up. Yardwork, cleaning the house, walking your dog -- all of these count!
  • Stay well hydrated: Drinking enough water has been shown to reduce food cravings, which is one of the key indicators that determines weight loss over a long period of time. Current guidelines say men should drink 125 ounces of water per day, while women should drink 91 ounces (more if you exercise).
  • Try intermittent fasting: Timing your meals for the day into an 8-hour window (then fasting for 16 hours) has become a very popular method for weight loss. It's called intermittent fasting (IF), and early studies on it have shown this way of eating to be very promising for weight loss and other health benefits!
  • Get plenty of sleep: How much you sleep (and the quality of your night's rest) can help you make better decisions about what you eat and how much you eat. You're less likely to overeat or reach for junk food if you get enough shut-eye!
The good news is all of these things are highly actionable. You can start losing weight today if you want to.

Losing Weight is an Investment in Your Health

Whether you're specifically focused on boosting immunity or just want to live an overall healthier life, losing weight is truly an investment in yourself.

Living at a healthy weight sets you up to be healthy not only now, but as you get older, too.

If you decide that now is the best time for you to start your weight loss journey, then pick a plan that works for you and stick with it. 

Consistency, above all else, is what's going to lead to the best results!

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