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Sugar and immunne balance

Posted Jan 26 2010 2:55pm

Yesterday, through some Twittering, I came upon a fellow Tweep, Dr. Scott Olson, ND, who offers a web-based

God, don't make me give up sour gummy worms!

God, don't make me give up sour gummy worms!

nutrition program called “30 Sugar Free Days.” The idea is that changing your diet to focus on low glycemic-index foods–those whose glycemic index is below 50 and ideally closer to zero–can start making a difference in how you feel within 30 days.

With two high school kids at home and two career parents in our house, it’s safe to say we probably buy too many convenience foods. We always look for low sugar, low fat, low sodium, but as the glycemic index guidance tells you, sometimes packaged foods that are low in fat and  sodium with reasonable calories can still be viewed by the body as though they’re sugar (e.g. many cereals, breads, pretzels, even some fruits).  Other foods like chocolate, beef or red wine, are low glycemic foods that are favorable to the body, from a sugar standpoint.

So I’m giving it a shot, just to see what happens in a month. Some people doing this 30-day program have written that  after a couple weeks they begin getting some jitters or headaches, which the Doc says is a sign of withdrawal from a sugar-laden diet. Wow.

That also got me to wondering how sugar affects the immune system. There are scores of sources out there that tell you sugar reduction is one of the biggest things you can to do improve immune health. But what exactly does sugar do to immune cells?

A good summary here illustrates how elevated blood sugar can depress the normally aggressive response of neutrophils, immune cells that are first-line attackers of pathogens. This alters the “aggressive” end of the immune balance spectrum, disrupting the natural balance status important for healthy immune function.

One active writer in the Wellsphere online health community–to which I also contribute–says sugar can decrease an immune cell’s ability to vanquish a bacterium by 50%.

I’m looking forward to this low sugar adventure.

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