How Sugar Suppresses the Immune System January 15 2014 by Simone Denny
This week our lovely guest Naturopath Pernille Koldjensen, shares her wisdom on how sugar impacts the immune system, particularly those of children. Pernille has an Advanced Diploma of Naturopathy and practices in Sydney. She addresses health issues using nutrition, supplements and herbal medicine and has an innate desire to help people live healthy and fulfilled lives. Read more about Pernille below.
The immune system is a very complex system. There are several factors that contribute to its function and maintenance. The known factors that suppress the immune system are stress, lack of sleep, your mental state, too little or too much exercise and your diet, particularly if the diet is high in processed foods and simple sugars.
The immune system is a network of tissues, cells and organs that cooperate to combat foreign invaders such as fungi, bacteria, viruses and parasites. White blood cells make up part of the immune system and help our body fight infection. One way that these white blood cells work is by gobbling up the bacteria and thereby killing an infection. When simple sugars, in the form of honey, fruit juice, soft drinks, biscuits and table sugar are consumed they dramatically reduce the ability of the white blood cells to respond to the infection for up to 5 hours. We are not entirely sure why this happens but we do know that simple sugars cause an inflammatory response in the body. It is thought that the immune system becomes so preoccupied with fighting the sugar induced inflammation that it can only work at a reduced capacity dealing with a bacterial infection simultaneously.
Another way that simple sugars influence our immune system is through the gut. The beneficial bacteria or gut micro-biota that live in our digestive system help to regulate the immune system. The western diet in general, and simple sugars in particular, alter the gut micro-biota and thereby deregulate the immune system, causing reduced immunity or even worse auto-immunity (the failure for our immune system to recognise our own bodies as self).
Children tend to be exposed to germs on a daily basis whether it be at pre-school, school or the playground, and they also tend to like to eat sugary foods. Unfortunately large amounts of sugar inevitably leaves children more susceptible and vulnerable to disease, be it the common cold or something more sinister.
Avoiding sugar is a real challenge and keeping it from you children is almost impossible. However, I find that becoming more aware of the hidden sugars in food is a really good start. Most breakfast cereals, condiments and pre-made dressings have sugar, and some sausages, pre-made meat balls and even breads also contain sugar so make sure you read the labels when shopping for food for you and your family.
Fructose is the worst kind of sugar so steer clear of products containing corn syrup, especially high fructose corn syrup. Although fruit also contains fructose, I still recommend 2 pieces a day consumed in its whole fresh form as it provides you with a lot of minerals, vitamins and fibre which are all so beneficial for overall health. Low fructose options are berries, kiwis, papaya, pear and apricots. Avoid dried fruit and juices.
I bake with rice malt syrup, which is made from fermented rice and contains no fructose. Stevia is also a good alternative as it is a herbal substance that is sweet but does not behave like sugar in the body. I like Nirvana Stevia and used it a lot when I was coming off sugar to curb the cravings.
This recipe is my children's favourite chocolate cake and it lasts for 5-7 days in the freezer:
Summer Chocolate Cake
Refined sugar free, gluten free, dairy free, raw
Needing some sugar free recipe inspiration? The I Quit Sugar Recipe Book by Sarah Wilson is now available on the Nourishing Hub - click here to find out more.
For a range of natural sugar alternatives click here
About Pernille Koldjensen
Pernille is a mother of two young children and through the experience of motherhood has developed a special interest in preconception and pregnancy care as well as post partum recovery Other interests of hers include weight and stews management, cardiovascular risk reduction as well as anti-ageing strategies.
Pernille is a strong believer in the mind-body balance and her passion is to inspire others to establish healthy habits that will manifest into optimal health
Pernille has the following qualifications:
Bachelor of Health Science (Complementary Medicine)
Adv Dip Naturopath
Adv Dip Nutrition
Adv Dip Western Herbal Medicine
Adv Cert Iridology.
Pernille is an accredited member of:
Australian Traditional Medicine Society ATMS (member no.27003)
To book a session with Pernille you can contact here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sanchez A. et al. Role of Sugars in Human Neutrophilic Phagocytosis, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1180-84, 1973
Glushakova O. et al. Fructose induces the inflammatory molecule ICAM-1 in endothelial cells. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 19:1712– 1720, 2008
Rayssiguier Y, Gueux E, Nowacki W, Rock E, Mazur A. High fructose consumption combined with low dietary magnesium intake may increase the incidence of the metabolic syndrome by inducing inflammation. Magnesium Research, 19:237–43, 2006
Wu HJ, Wu E. The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity. Gut Microbes, 3: 4–14, 2012