Everyone knows that flu season takes place in the colder months of the year, typically between November and February. But have you ever thought about the fact that flu season coincides directly with the holiday season, which happens to include a huge spike in poor eating and overconsumption of sweets? Here at Greater Life Chiropractic, we’re passionate about sharing the truth about health and wellness as it relates to all areas of life, and although we love a good sweet treat here and there, we feel it’s our responsibility to shed some light on this hard truth: flu season is actually sugar season. It’s time we become aware of what we’re doing to ourselves when we indulge during the winter months and share that truth with others.
Sugar and the Immune Response
Our white blood cells are responsible for protecting us against diseases and illnesses. Their primary responsibility is to fight off things that try to harm us—bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, and so on. White blood cells basically ARE our immune system. So when they are weakened or not working properly, our immune defenses are down and we’re susceptible to illness.
Sugar directly impacts our white blood cells and can reduce their reactivity substantially, both short-term and long-term. One study found that drinking one liter of soda or eating 100 grams of sugar can actually reduce the effectiveness of our white blood cells by 40%, essentially impeding our immune system from doing anything productive for a solid 4 to 5 hours.
Now think about the holidays—stuffing your face with candy on Halloween night and throughout each day afterward; gorging yourself on bread, candied yams, pies, and apple crisp in the days surrounding Thanksgiving; and snacking on cookies, candy, peanut brittle, and chocolate bark in celebration of Christmas. If your immune system is compromised every time you eat sugar, it makes sense that you are far more susceptible to sicknesses like the flu during this time of year.
Pair the additional sugar intake with less time being active outdoors, less exposure to the sun’s vitamin D, and the added stress that often accompanies the holidays, and those things compound on each other to truly wreak havoc on your immune health.
Proactive Measures to Improve Immune Health This Winter
Rather than giving in to the notion that you’re destroying your immune system every time you eat a cookie, take some proactive measures to counteract the immune-suppressing sugar and instead improve your health. You can start by decreasing the sugar intake. Swap out unhealthy treats for wiser dietary choices and get creative with baking healthier treats this winter. Also, be sure to stay active! Even if you can’t go outside because of the weather, do your best to get moving indoors. Exercise decreases inflammatory markers that impact the immune system, so keep exercising! Finally, continue to visit your favorite Charlotte chiropractor, Dr. Grant Lisetor. Chiropractic care helps keep your immune system in tip-top shape and increases your body’s ability to fight off anything that may come its way this winter. Contact Dr. Grant and his team at Greater Life Chiropractic to learn more about neurologically-based chiropractic care and to set up a consultation.
Ullah, H., Akhtar, M., Hussain, F., Imran, M. “Effects of Sugar, Salt and Distilled Water on White Blood Cells and Platelet Cells.” Journal of Tumor, 2016 Feb; 4(1). http://www.ghrnet.org/index.php/JT/article/view/1340/1795
Zheng, G., Qiu, P., Xia, R., Lin, H., Ye, B., Tao, J., Chen, L. “Effect of Aerobic Exercise on Inflammatory Markers in Healthy Middle-Aged and Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 2019; 11: 98. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6497785/