2 Things You Need to Stop Eating Before Your COVID Vaccine, New Study Says

They've been shown to lower immune response to the flu shot, raising concerns about the COVID vaccine.

It's probably no surprise that preservative-packed foods like Pop Tarts, Cheez-Its, and Rice Krispies Treats aren't great for you, but here's a twist: a new study reveals that they may actually deliver a serious blow to your immune system. Breaking research from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has found that over 1,250 popular foods contain two chemicals that are likely harming your health: tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Read on to find out why you should stop consuming foods with these two ingredients before getting your COVID vaccine, and for more foods to cut from your diet ASAP, If You're Eating This for Breakfast, Stop Immediately, FDA Says.

The new study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, used data from the Environmental Protection Agency's Toxicity Forecaster (ToxCast) to assess the effects of TBHQ, a preservative used to lengthen a food product's shelf life. The researchers discovered that TBHQ can be detrimental to one's immune function, by affecting T-cells, B-cells, and NK cells.

PFAS are commonly found in packaging, but can make their way into food. Beyond lowering consumers' immunity, the EWG reports that these chemicals have been linked with myriad health problems, including several types of cancer, low birth weight, endocrine disruption, increased cholesterol, and weight gain.

Of course, anything that impacts the immune system is of greater concern amid the COVID pandemic. "The pandemic has focused public and scientific attention on environmental factors that can impact the immune system," said Olga Naidenko, PhD, EWG vice president for science investigations and lead author of the study. "Before the pandemic, chemicals that may harm the immune system's defense against infection or cancer did not receive sufficient attention from public health agencies. To protect public health, this must change," she added.

Making matters worse, another study found that TBHQ made flu vaccines less effective in mice, raising concerns about its impact on other vaccines, including those for COVID-19. While it would undoubtedly take time to clear your body of such substances, doctors say that now is a good time to curb your high-preservative, pre-packaged diet in favor of fresh, all-natural ingredients.

In the meantime, representatives from the EWG are calling on the FDA to review the safety of these chemicals in food and its packaging. "Food manufacturers have no incentive to change their formulas," said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs at the EWG. "Too often, the FDA allows the food and chemical industry to determine which ingredients are safe for consumption. Our research shows how important it is that the FDA take a second look at these ingredients and test all food chemicals for safety," Faber concluded. Wondering what else to avoid before your vaccine? Read on for more things you shouldn't do before getting your COVID shot, and for more on how your diet is impacting your health, If You Eat Out This Often, You're Cutting Years Off Your Life, Study Says.

Don't take OTC painkillers.

Woman Taking Medication for Her Illness

While many people aim to mitigate vaccine side effects by popping an over-the-counter painkiller, experts say you should avoid doing this prior to your vaccination.

"Because there's a possibility that over the counter pain relievers, such as Tylenol or Advil, might weaken your immune system's response to vaccines, it's best not to take them before you get your shot," Baltimore-based internal medicine physician Vivek Cherian, MD, told Eat This, Not That! Health. "But once you've received the vaccine, feel free to take these medications if you feel you need them," he adds. And for more health news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Don't drink alcohol the night before.

close up of bearded white man drinking a glass of beer

Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have declined to issue a formal recommendation on alcohol consumption prior to the vaccine, Time reports that European health experts suggest abstaining from alcohol in the days before vaccination in order to "avoid taxing the immune system."

Studies have shown that you would likely need to binge drink to have an acute effect on the vaccine's efficacy—at least four to five drinks in one sitting—but even moderate drinking can exacerbate vaccine side effects due to dehydration or hangover. And for more tips to consider prior to your COVID vaccination, check out If You're Over 65, the CDC Says Not to Do This Before Your Vaccine.

Don't get other vaccines within 14 days of the COVID vaccine.

woman getting vaccinated, blue gloves, vaccination

While taking a separate vaccine prior to the COVID vaccine has not been proven to cause adverse effects, the CDC still recommends avoiding other vaccines in the two weeks before your COVID shot.

"Because data are lacking on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines administered simultaneously with other vaccines, the vaccine series should routinely be administered alone, with a minimum interval of 14 days before or after administration of any other vaccine," the CDC states. "However, COVID-19 and other vaccines may be administered within a shorter period in situations where the benefits of vaccination are deemed to outweigh the potential unknown risks of vaccine co-administration," the health authority adds.

Don't worry about getting a COVID test beforehand.

Close up of a young woman having a nasal swab test done by his doctor

Though the CDC recommends delaying your COVID vaccine if you believe you have already been infected with the virus, they also say that there's no need to test for COVID before your vaccine if you're symptom-free. "Viral testing to assess for acute SARS-CoV-2 infection or serologic testing to assess for prior infection for the purposes of vaccine decision-making is not recommended," they explain. And for more on what to do before your COVID shot, If You Take This Common Medication, Talk to a Doctor Before Your Vaccine.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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