Feeling a tad under the weather? Already had a cold this winter? You’re not alone. Despite how often we blame them, getting sick this time of year isn’t just due to being around others who are sick, the cold weather, or the stress of the holidays. There’s another culprit at work, one that resides in our eggnog, wine, matzo, pecan pie, chocolate and good old-fashioned cornbread.
If you read our recent post on sugar and aging, you may have already guessed that the culprit here is once again sugar. Eating too much added sugar (like the kind found lurking in most energy and protein bars) slows down your immune response and hinders the body’s ability to clear toxins, making you more susceptible to colds. It also weakens your ability to fight colds, meaning you’ll potentially have to endure them longer.
To understand the process behind this, and to better prepare you for the thick of cold and flu season, here are six things you should know about sugar.
1. Sugar can significantly decrease white blood cell activity for up to five hours. Yup, it’s like a food coma for your immune system that isn’t exclusive to Thanksgiving.
2. Sugar slows the immune response by decreasing antibody production. Antibodies are what cells make in response to pathogens, so if antibodies aren’t produced quickly, invaders have more time to cause damage and make you feel worse.
“Toxins can make their way into your body in many different ways, but sugar makes it easier for them to be stored in your cells.”
3. Sugar metabolism depletes vitamins and minerals. Combined with the fact that sugar itself is devoid of these micronutrients, your system is set up for imbalances, which can lead to impaired protection as some minerals work in conjunction with antioxidants (antioxidant = molecule that prevents cell damage) or help us absorb them from food.
4. Sugar disrupts the movement of vitamin C, which is needed to protect cells from damage.
5. Sugar causes cells to be more permeable and thus more susceptible to toxins. Toxins, of course, can make their way into your body in many different ways, but sugar makes it easier for them to be stored in cells.
6. Sugar hinders the liver’s ability to detoxify, meaning toxins aren’t cleared from the body as effectively as they should be. When toxins aren’t cleared, they not only make you feel crummy but also make you more susceptible to more serious illness.
Other sources: Zeines, V. Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body. USA: Xlibris, 2000. Crinnion, W. Clean, Green and Lean. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010.