Is Sugar Robbing You of Your Immunity?
Hi, I’m Dr. Marie Starling
At The Healing Center Denver, we help people like you reach their full potential.
I specialize in adjunctive care for internal disorders, autoimmune conditions, IBS, thyroid symptoms, diabetes, and other complex health issues.
By LuCinda Miller
As we embark on cold and flu season, it’s a good time to consider introducing immune boosting strategies to protect your health. One common practice is to reach for extra vitamin C at the sign of the first sniffle, but is this an effective strategy? It can be if you cut out the sugar.
Your Immune System at Work
When exposed to bacteria, viruses and other foreign invaders, your body goes on attack. The white blood cells (WBC’s) of your immune system are called into action to gobble up these invaders. This is called phagocytosis. If your immune system is strong, your WBC’s will get their job done and the pathogen will never take hold, keeping you from getting sick!
The Vitamin C Connection to Immunity
It has been known since the 1970’s that vitamin C is critical to the function of our WBC’s through the work of Linus Pauling. Through his research he discovered that WBC’s must contain 50 times the concentration of vitamin C on the inside of the cell than the outside. Therefore it is critical for WBC’s to accumulate vitamin C to maintain their phagocytic function.
The Problem with Sugar
Here is where the problem with sugar arises. Sugar (glucose) and vitamin C have a similar chemical structure. They also share the same receptor sites for entry into the cells. This puts them into direct competition for absorption, so the more sugar available the less vitamin C can get into the cell. As a result the 50 time internal concentration of vitamin C doesn’t occur in the WBC and suppresses the immune system’s ability to take out the foreign invaders. It then takes 4-6 hours to rebuild the vitamin C levels inside the cell again. NOW you get SICK!
- A blood sugar level of 120 (1 can of soda) reduces phagocytosis (Immune function) by 75%
- Consumption of sugar can suppress your immune system for up to 6 hours
- American Heart Association recommendation for sugar consumption (gram/4 = tsp):
- Women < 100 calories/day = 6 tsp
- Men < 150 calories/day = 9 tsp
- High doses of vitamin C have been shown to boost immune function
- Always remember 50% vitamin C & 50% Bioflavonoids for max effectiveness
- Beware of the sugar content of popular vitamin C supplements; Emergen-C is over 50% sugar so it isn’t the most effective choice to raise vitamin C levels!