How does sugar affect your immune system?
Updated: Jun 4
As some counties begin to relax a little about sheltering in place and more people are allowed in public places, it’s critical that we do everything we can to keep our immune system as strong as possible. One way to do this is to minimize our consumption of sugar. There are several studies showing the effects of sugar on our immune system. One of the earliest studies, and the one quoted the most, is the one done by microbiology researcher Dr. Linus Pauling in 1973.
In this study, participants were given 100g oral portions of glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, or orange juice to observe the effects on the immune system. An hour later scientists measured the phagocytic index, or the capacity of the immune system to function properly, of each participant and found a significantly suppressed immune system in all participants. They also found that the effect lasted about 5 hours.
The Bolts and Nuts
Phagocytes are cells (white blood cells) that protect the body by engulfing pathogens. Dr. Linus discovered that a lot of vitamin C was needed by white blood cells to engulf and absorb viruses and bacteria. In fact, a white blood cell has to contain 50 times the concentration of vitamin C that would normally be found in the blood around it.
The chemical structure of vitamin C and glucose are so similar that when a white blood cell tries to pull in more vitamin C from the blood around it, glucose can get substituted by mistake. Because of the limited amount of space inside each white blood cell, if too many molecules of glucose get in, the number of vitamin C molecules is reduced. As a result, white blood cells have less vitamin C and they end up doing a poor job of engulfing pathogens.
The obvious solution is to avoid sugar. Unfortunately, this is not so easy since so many packaged foods have sugar. Most of us know that a 12-ounce can of soda contains 39 grams of sugar (almost 10 teaspoons), but few of us know that there are some low-fat yogurts containing 47 grams of sugar — that’s almost 12 teaspoons! Some protein bars calling themselves “a healthy alternative” can contain up to 30 grams of sugar. And what about that “healthy” Vitaminwater? Well, it contains 32 grams of sugar.
Learn to read labels. There are over 50 names for sugar (56 to be exact). Most of them are more obvious than others. Some better-known names are: glucose, fructose, sucrose, agave nectar, etc. A less known name for sugar and perhaps the most dangerous one is High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Produced from corn starch, this product has been the discussion of many nutritionists and health advocates claiming that HFCS is the real driver of the current epidemic of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, dementia, and of course, Type 2 diabetes.
Sugar Addiction and Acupuncture
Many studies have shown that sugar is one of the most addictive foods. Sugar releases opioids and dopamine and thus has a huge potential to be addictive.
Food addiction is one of the many addictions that can be treated with acupuncture, specifically using the NADA protocol. From a traditional Chinese medicine point of view, an addiction is typically the result of a strong emotion — fear, sadness, frustration, etc. — that has not been released and is creating disharmony. By moving the energy of a specific organ system, the emotions can be released, ultimately leading to an addiction-free person.
Find out more about how acupuncture can help you by scheduling a 15-minute consultation today.