In recent years, scientific research has begun to reveal the true evils of sugar. Consuming sugar doesn’t just affect your pancreas, insulin, and blood sugar levels. It triggers elevations in blood pressure, cholesterol, and heart rate, as well. Sugar also has inflammatory properties – increasing risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, even some forms of cancer.
Sugar is scary stuff. Just looking at the list above should have us quitting it for good! Still need another reason to give up sugar? The sweet stuff may negatively affect the body’s immune system, specifically hindering the ability to fight off bacterial infections. Yet one more way sugar is making us sick… literally!
One important thing to note is that as a diabetic, high blood sugar is already compromising your immune system. Regardless of blood sugar, our immune systems also weaken as we age. Unfortunately, no one can avoid aging! However, there are ways to protect your immune system
Keeping blood sugar under control is a huge way to improve immune strength. If your body is less occupied by trying to keep your blood sugar at safe levels, it has more resources available to fight other things. Not only that, but by managing diabetes, you reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease, keeping the body healthier over time.
A restful night’s sleep does wonders for the immune system (and for your sanity!) Aim for 7-9 hours every night. Speaking of rest, that includes resting the spirit every once in a while. By practicing relaxation techniques like yoga, prayer, or mediation we can lower the toll on our minds and bodies.
Moderate exercise also helps to keep the immune system stronger. Even if it’s a walk around the neighborhood after dinner, every little bit helps. Smoking devastates the body as a whole, but especially the immune system. If you smoke – quit; if you don’t smoke – don’t start!
If someone in your group of friends or family is sick, stay away. It can be difficult, especially if you are the caregiver for that person. If you must be physically close to someone who is ill, be sure to wear a mask, do not share food or drinks, and keep your surroundings sanitized. (This is as much for their immune protection as it is for yours!)
While those immune-boosting tips may not sound like a lot of fun, here’s one that should appeal to everyone– eat. It’s true! Certain foods can build up the immune system and help to keep you well.
Did you immediately think of an orange, or orange juice? Vitamin C has long held a reputation for helping to fend off sickness. Scientists believe that Vitamin C increases the number of white blood cells in the bloodstream. These white blood cells fight infection and other free radicals in the body. Popular citrus fruits that don’t affect most diabetics include: lemons, limes and grapefruits. The human body does not produce its own Vitamin C, so enjoy a little every day to help prevent illness.
Did you know that 80% of the body’s immune system is located in the gut? This means that probiotics can help you fend off all sorts of illnesses, from the common cold to the flu. You can take a daily probiotic supplement, or get them by eating fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, and kimchi.
Garlic packs not only powerful flavor, but also a serious immune-boosting punch. In one study, 146 people received either a placebo or a garlic extract supplement for 12 weeks; those individuals who were given the garlic were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold. Amazing!
Used for thousands of years in traditional Asian medicine, mushrooms are another highly beneficial food for the immune system, and the body as a whole. These natural disease-fighters increase white blood cell production and performance, helping to defend against infection. Some mushrooms also contain antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that fight bacteria like strep and staph.
The Selenium found in shellfish such as oysters, lobsters, crabs, and clams, helps improve the body’s production of cytokines—proteins that help flush toxins and infections from the body. The Omega-3 fats found in salmon, herring, and mackerel help to reduce inflammation in the body. This improves your ability to breathe deeply and protects your lungs from respiratory infections.
You can drink your way to improved immunity, as well. One Havard study found that participants who drank 5 cups of black tea every day for two weeks had ten times more interferon (a virus-fighting protein in the blood) than the participants who drank a placebo beverage. The amino acid, L-theanine, responsible for tea’s immune benefit can be found in black and green teas. (You can skip the caffeine if you prefer; L-theanine is also found in the decaffeinated versions of these teas.)
Quitting sugar (and the refined carbohydrate products that hide it) will improve not only immune health, but overall health. Sugar holds absolutely no nutritional benefit whatsoever, only wreaking havoc on the body and causing chronic disease. With so many delicious alternatives, we doubt you’ll even miss it! The equation is simple – subtracting sugar equals better health.