How sugar affects our immune systems

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So, here’s an interesting thought for you today.

As you may already be experiencing, it’s prime cold+flu season in wintery countries like the UK & US, and for those of you who commute on trains, tubes, and buses it can feel like you’re sitting in a metal incubation tube of germs. Gross. So how do you combat that?! Do you use things like hand sanitizer on the reg, take vitamin c tablets, or drink lemon and ginger tea like it’s going out of style?

Well how about considering how much sugar you’re eating in a day? StoneTree Clinic, a clinic of Naturopathic Doctors in Canada, posted in April about a study from the 1970s that showed sugar drastically decreases the effectiveness of our immune systems.

Here’s the excellent explanation of the study and its results from StoneTree ND, Dr Kendra:

Sugar can decrease the effectiveness of our immune systems for up to five hours!! 😱😱😱

That’s something to consider, especially during the holidays when chocolate, cake, pastries and treats are flying around everywhere. Not to mention how much sugar is in that specialty Christmas Coffee. (I mean, I get it, I love an eggnog or gingerbread latte as much as the next person, but…mayyybe I hate getting the flu more than I love the lattes??)

After watching that video I had a few questions, so I caught up with the founder and StoneTree Clinic director Dr Tara Gignac, to get her thoughts on what we can do to help our immune systems protect us from the dreaded colds.

Dr Gignac! Does that mean you should avoid orange juice for breakfast? Does the effect of the sugar override any goodness you’d get from the vitamin C?

You would need to check, is the Orange Juice all-natural or is there sugar added? If it’s natural, then there’s no problem.

Is this all types of sugar, like natural sugars and honey, or just refined sugar?

Natural sugars from honey or fruit is “fructose”, which is biochemically a little different - so not quite the same. The same amounts of honey and whole fruit are no problem in my mind.

What are some good breakfasts or mid-afternoon snacks that people could eat to make sure their immune systems are ticking along nicely during their morning commutes?

You could try a crockpot quinoa for breakfast (here are a few recipes to try! – Laura) and I love nuts and seeds for afternoon snacks – they have lots of minerals, good fats and proteins which are perfect for the immune system!


So will you be reconsidering your sugar consumption this Christmas? I know there’s treats on my horizon, though I have a feeling there might be fewer now…! The last thing I want is a Christmas cold! Everything I eat will be put into my food diary anyway, which will help me pinpoint the cause of any stomach grumbles!