Dietary Suggestions to Keep Your Immune System Healthy this Holiday Season.
I often see in my practice an increase in colds/flus and other viral infections in children and families shortly after Halloween. There are many factors that could explain this, including less sleep with Halloween activities and increased time spent in crowds or indoors with the cold weather.
As a Naturopathic Doctor, I believe that the spike in the intake of refined white sugar from Halloween treats, is playing a role in making people more vulnerable to getting sick. In a study from the 1970s, 100 grams of various sugars, such as glucose or fructose, lowered the ability of certain white blood cells to engulf bacteria 1-2 hours following consumption and that this effect lasted for 5 hours! https://ajcn.nutrition.org/article/S0002-9165(23)33417-8/pdf
There is current research indicating that sugar consumption can affect COVID severity/mortality by increasing levels of chronic inflammation. Restricting fructose sugar resulted in measurable changes in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, glycemic control, insulin sensitivity, and inflammatory markers in 9 days! The researcher hopes that hospitals will use COVID as an opportunity to reduce the sugar served to both patients and staff and suggests that hospital cafeterias and inpatient meal services to serve appetizers instead of desserts and limit portions and packaged snacks to contain 5 grams of sugar or less.
So, let’s be mindful of our own sugar intake leading up to the year end as part of our strategy to stay healthy this holiday season.
While you put aside the sugary treats and drinks, try including sources of beta-carotene in your diet. IgA are antibodies that protect the mucosal membranes of the nose, mouth, lungs and digestive tract and act as the body’s first line of defense against pathogens. Vitamin A and its biologically active form called retinoic acid both facilitate the production of IgA in the respiratory and intestinal tracts. A deficiency of Vitamin A can result in lowered IgA levels making us more susceptible to upper respiratory infections, ear & sinus infections, and diarrhea. Secretory IgA is an immune marker present in some stool test panels I use in my practice when working with patients who have chronic intestinal concerns.
Beta-carotene is converted into Vitamin A by the liver. Rich sources of beta-carotene include squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, and red bell peppers. It may surprise you that green veggies such as broccoli, spinach, and romaine lettuce, are also good sources.
As the old saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Simple dietary changes can have a significant impact on how robust your immune system can be!