How to Boost Your Immune System by Cutting Sugar
Winter means the days are short, dark, and cold, which makes sugary comfort food extra-tempting as we search for a quick pick-me-up on gray days. But you’ll want to stay away from the sweet stuff for so many reasons, from lowering your risk of diabetes to fighting premature aging. And if you need an extra dose of motivation, consider this: cutting your sugar intake could help boost your immunity, keeping dreaded colds at bay. Here are the specific reasons why limiting sugar can give your immunity a boost:
Sugar can temporarily halt your immune system.
Eating sugary foods might temporarily give you an energy boost, but it can also reduce your immune system function by as much as 40 percent, research shows. Your white blood cells activate to fight infection and bacteria. However, eating too much sugar disrupts that process. In fact, eating 100 grams of sugar can essentially disable your immune system for 4-5 hours.
Less sugar means more vitamin C absorption.
It’s no secret that vitamin C is essential for keeping colds at bay. However, in addition to shutting down your immune system, sugar makes you absorb less vitamin C. That’s because the two substances have similar chemical structures, so they compete to be absorbed by the body.
Research has shown that “when we eat sugar, it directly competes with vitamin C; as a result, less vitamin C enters into white blood cells,”.
Reducing sugar helps you sleep better.
Sleep is critical for keeping your immune system functioning at its best. When you’re sleep deprived, your body does not produce the same amount of antibodies or proteins called cytokines, which help reduce inflammation. People who consume too much sugar don’t sleep as well as those who have less, so cutting back on sugar can lead to better sleep and give your immune system a boost.
Cutting sugar cuts down on destructive molecules.
A 2015 study by researchers at Case Western University found that high blood sugar (in this case, associated with diabetes), caused people’s immune system to malfunction.
“It appears that high blood sugar unleashes destructive molecules that interfere with the body's natural infection-control defenses,” the researchers wrote.
In turn, opting for a low-sugar lifestyle can ensure that the body’s immune system stays balanced and functioning properly.
“Blood sugar control, either through lifestyle changes (exercise and diet) or medication, would be a logical approach to minimizing infection in diabetes,” said one of the study’s researchers.
Limiting sugar may help fight infections.
In a study published in Cell in 2016, researchers investigated the role that sugar plays in fighting off illness. They found that limiting sugar is helpful for fighting bacterial infections. So if you do get sick and you don’t feel like eating, listen to your body’s cues: It may be telling you what you need to do to get better.