How Sugar Effects Your Immune System

autoimmune digestive health gut health holistic nutrition mindful eating Dec 20, 2022
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With the pandemic on its way out and flu season hitting us hard this winter, many of us are doing everything we can to keep our immune systems strong. Committing to exercise, getting enough sleep, and taking immune-boosting supplements can all help protect your health this winter season. But did you know that the sugar you’re eating during the holidays can weaken your immune system? That’s right, the sweet stuff we all love can lessen the effectiveness of your immune system to fight against the flu, cold season, and COVID.

Sugar Can Change Your Gut Microbiome Within 24 Hours

Consuming natural sugars, like the sugar in fruits, encourages the proliferation of good bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria. However, suppose you eat a high-sugar diet. In that case, you can change the microbial diversity of your gut within a short 24-hour period.

What Types of Sugar are Bad for You?

Studies show that consuming certain types of sugar, such as fructose, can not only give you extra calories and added weight gain but also increase your hunger and influence more sugar cravings. In addition to giving you a more significant sweet tooth, overeating sugar can interfere with important hunger and appetite signaling hormones and increase visceral fat, also known as belly or abdominal fat, which can lead to more health problems down the road. 

Fructose is a common additive in processed foods that accounts for 10% of caloric intake in the United States. While fructose can be broken down in the colon in small amounts, high doses of fructose, such as a can of soda, can damage the liver.

The overconsumption of this sugar impacts the body, especially if you’re genetically prone to fructose intolerance. In addition to reducing the effectiveness of your immune system, excess fructose can lead to bloating, abdominal pain, and gut discomfort, as bacteria in the gut ferment from the fructose.

Sugar Can Strengthen Bad Bacteria in Your Body

According to the latest medical studies and health professionals, you’ll want to lighten up on the sugar this winter season to stay healthy. When you overeat sugar, you’re giving the bacteria or viruses in your body time to propagate and grow much faster than if you don’t, which is why diabetics have more infections.

Although small amounts of sugar are vital for the functioning of the human body when we overeat sugar - more than our body needs - that sugar can harm our body. 

How Sugar Suppresses Your Immune System

The immune system constantly responds to the range of assaults it endures throughout our day, from viruses and bacteria to fungi and other microscopic invaders who try to get a hold of our bodies. Because our body is so well-designed, our system constantly tries to stay balanced no matter what we eat or drink. However, our diet can positively or negatively affect how our immune system reacts.

Eighty-three research studies show that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables improves immune function. But, while we know that eating healthy is good for us, we’ve also learned in recent years that eating a diet rich in processed foods and man-made sugars can suppress the immune system. 

Eating excessive sugar depletes the body’s nutrient balance. This, in turn, will trigger inflammation and metabolic disruption. And suppose you have a bacteria or other bad microbe already in your system. In that case, it can more easily get a hold of you, taking down your immune system and making you sick.

The Effect of Sugar on Phagocytes

Phagocytes are cells in our bodies that take down and destroy microbes and other microscopic materials that we don’t want to have in our bodies. A research study was carried out to observe how sugars decrease the effectiveness of our phagocytic cells.

Suppose we have an excess of inflammation in our system from overeating sugar. In that case, our phagocytes have a hard time doing their job.

So when you’re eating that sugary dessert or treat this holiday season, make sure to consider the negative impact of what you’re eating. You’ll also want to consider eating a low-sugar or sugar-free diet. With so many natural sugar-free alternatives to use in banking and cooking, such as Stevia, Monkfruit, and coconut sugar, there are many alternatives to eating unhealthy sugary snacks and treats!

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