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Flu Season or Sugar Season?

The flu season is quickly approaching and one hot topic that always comes up is “should I get the flu shot?”  Ultimately, this decision needs to be made by you.  However, there are some things you can do to prepare yourself for the upcoming flu season…or should we think of it as the upcoming “Sugar Season”? 

Let’s think about what our exposure to sugar will be like from the end of October to the first part of April.  Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s and Easter expose us to piles and piles of that sweet goodness.    Add those treats to the three pounds of sugar the average American consumes in week or 130 lbs of sugar in a year and that all adds up to enough sugar to fill an industrialized size dumpster in a lifetime (Walton, 2012)!  In 2008, it was reported that the average American consumes 378 lbs of high fructose corn syrup every year (Institute, 2016). 

Our bodies need white blood cells (WBC’s) to fight off bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites.  WBC’s are our immune system.  Current research shows that WBC’s can also be affected by the sugar in our diet.  An article published in 2015 shows that consuming a one-liter bottle of soda reduces WBC reactivity by 40%!  This means our bodies main defense system is weakened for 4-5 hours (Janjua HU, 2016 ) just by drinking one soda.   With all this sugar in our systems, it is miraculous that our bodies’ immune systems function at all.

Sugar doesn’t just stop with the immune system.  Our ever increasing intake of our sweet friend has lead to higher rates of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Now I don’t mean to take away from the fun of the upcoming holidays, but we need think about how our sugary treats will affect our fun.    So what can we do? 

Exercise!  Regular exercise has been shown to decrease inflammatory markers and increase anti-inflammatory markers (Carlsson E, 2016).  What does this mean?   Increased sugar intake has been linked to inflammatory biomarkers that are known to play a role in cardiovascular disease (Bartone DC, 2017). This means by exercising your body has less inflammation and less of a chance of developing age related diseases. (Franceschi C, 2014)

Look for healthy snacks.  Nuts are packed with fiber, unsaturated fats and antioxidants that can help your immune system stay strong (Vinson JA, 2012).  Avocados are loaded with fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C and healthy fats that are shown to help control inflammatory stress (Dreher ML, 2013).

Dr Jeric Toney

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