Your immune system is complicated because it is not one single biological function it is made up of an array of chemical responses that take place in your cells and organs throughout your body, that work together to protect the body to defend it against infections, it attacks germs and helps keep you healthy. White blood cells, play an important role in the immune system and chew up invading organisms and others help the body remember the invaders and destroy them. When the body senses foreign substances the immune system works to get rid of them. This blog will outline what you can do to improve the function of your immune system by reducing your sugar intake. Perhaps not the first thing you would think about when boosting your immunity.
Sugar affects your immune system
The effect of eating or drinking too much sugar affects your immunity because it curbs or reduces the efficacy of your immune system cells that attack bacteria. Interestingly something as innocent as a few sugary drinks can have an effect that lasts for at least a few hours. Sugary drinks can be anything from fizzy pop to orange juice. The sugar in these drinks can affect the cells in your immune system that target bacteria, sugar affects the way your white blood cells attack bacteria
Sugar has no nutritional value
A diet that is high in processed foods means a swift reduction in nutrients, processed food reduced the vitamin and minerals that your body requires. A longer-term nutrient deficiency can increase your risk level when warding off infection. The food items with high levels of refined sugar are usually nutritionally obsolete.
Sugar increases inflammation
Sugar triggers low-grade inflammation in the body which contributes to diseases that are chronic in nature, things as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. When you have chronic inflammation, your body’s inflammatory response can eventually start damaging healthy cells, tissues, and organs. Over time, this can lead to DNA damage, tissue death, and internal scarring. All of these are linked to the development of several diseases
Sugar affects your brain
Overconsumption of sugar is increasingly being linked to brain-related health issues such as depression, learning disorders, memory problems, and overeating. It impairs memory and your learning skills. In a 2012 study on rats, researchers at UCLA found that a diet high in fructose hindered learning and memory by literally slowing down brain activity. Rats who over-consumed fructose had damaged synaptic activity in the brain, meaning that communication among brain cells was impaired.
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Heavy sugar intake caused the rats to develop insulin resistance. Insulin helps brain cells communicate better and form stronger memories. So when insulin levels in the brain are lowered as the result of excess sugar consumption, thinking can be impaired. It’s a risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia.
A growing body of research suggests that a sugar-heavy diet can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. A 2013 study found that insulin resistance and blood glucose levels are linked with a greater risk for developing neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s.
Sugar increases cravings
When you eat sugar, insulin is released from your pancreas to stop sugar levels from rising too high in your bloodstream. The sugar’s taken to your cells for energy production but if you’re not burning off much energy because you’re working at your desk, watching TV or sitting in your car, insulin will take it to your fat stores to be stored.
The release of too much insulin and sugar being stored away is you feel hungry and crave glucose to replenish and refuel. It makes you hungry and it makes you hungry for more sweet stuff. It creates a cycle of crazy cravings.
When you eat sugar, just like any food, it activates your taste receptors. Then, signals are sent to the brain, lighting up reward pathways and causing a surge of feel-good hormones, like dopamine, to be released. Basically, sugar hijacks the brain’s reward pathway leading you to seek more and more of that dopamine hit. Therefore you crave more sugar, which stimulates your brain’s reward system.
Satiating that craving with a piece of chocolate now and then is pleasurable, but continuous stimulation can lead to loss of control, cravings, and increased tolerance to sugar. I am sure you have noticed on holiday in the past the more you eat sugary treats the more you crave them. It takes a while to readjust.
Sugar increases stress hormone
If your blood sugar balance is out of alignment that causes inflammation in your system and triggers the release of cortisol, your main stress hormone. Sugar makes you stressed and stress is a trigger for your flushes, anxiety, disrupted sleep, brain fog and night sweats.
Sugar makes you depressed and anxious, for example you may have noticed that eating a doughnut or drinking a coke or perhaps even a large glass of orange juice will cause blood sugar levels to spike and then crash and you may notice that feeling of anxiety as that happens. Or perhaps moody or even depressed when this crash happens.
Sugar or high carb foods can affect the neurotransmitters that help keep your mood stable. Eating sugar stimulates the release of the mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin. Constantly over-activating the serotonin pathways can deplete our limited supplies of this neurotransmitter, which then contributes to symptoms of depression.
Give up by using a gradual habit
If you’re ready to give up sugar, great! Cutting all sugar out of your life is next to impossible, so the trick is to lower your glycemic load. Glycemic load is an estimate of how much the carbohydrates in a certain food or meal will raise your blood sugar after you eat it.
Ideally, you want to your blood sugar and insulin levels to remain relatively level all day so that your body uses glucose (your fuel source) efficiently. You want to be a fat-burning machine!
Simple refined sugars cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin. But complex carbohydrates, fibre, protein and healthy fats promote more gradual increases and decreases in blood sugar and insulin, lowering the glycemic load and keeping things nice and steady in your body. There are so many sweet sugary treats available in the form of biscuits, cakes and chocolates but did you know sugar’s hidden in a few less obvious places too. You can find sugar in healthy looking cereal bars, low-fat foods, gluten free processed foods, breakfast cereals, milk, bread and of course alcohol.
3 simple ways to reduce your sugar
- Add in more veggies to your plate instead of the carb choice
- Read food labels carefully and look out for ingredients that ends in -ose. These are all different names for sugar.
- One swap at a time ie reduce your 11am coffee and cake fix, or your end of the day crisps and telly binge. Work on one change at a time.
Plus eating more fruits and vegetables, which are rich in nutrients like vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and zinc will also boost your immunity. Go for a wide variety of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, including:
- berries, citrus fruits, kiwi, apples, red grapes, kale, onions, spinach, sweet potatoes, and carrots.
Other foods which are great for your immune system include fresh garlic, which may help fight viruses and bacteria.
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