Sugar and the Immune System

It’s that time of year again, when sugary treats are all around.  Halloween kicked us off and carries us right through Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.  While we all know the sugary treats are bad for our waist-lines, did you know that sugar also suppresses our immunity?  Studies have shown that simple sugars such as glucose, table sugar, fructose, and even honey directly affect our immune system.  When 100 mg of sugar is consumed (the amount of 2 sodas) the ability of white blood cells to consume bacteria was decreased by 50%.  As well, the high consumption of sugar also inhibited the while bloods cells to destroy bacteria by 40%.  Combine the higher amount of sugar consumption with the change of weather and the stress of the holidays it becomes a perfect trifecta for illness. Also, recently a study showed that countries with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in their food supply had a 20 percent higher prevalence of type 2 diabetes than those that did not use HFCS, suggesting an association with diabetes independent of total sugar intake and obesity levels. So what can we do?

The wonderful thing is that we do not have to totally abandon the sweetness of sugar in order to be healthy; we just need to replace it with better alternatives. While giving up sugar is very difficult, replacing it is now very easy.

The good news is that all sugar is not the same.  Complex carbohydrates found in vegetables, fruits, and grains showed no effect on the immune system.  But for most of us, when a sugar craving hits a carrot stick or apple slice just won’t cut it.

On the market today are two healthy and natural alternatives to sugar that not only taste good but have also been proven to be beneficial. These are two natural, organic sugar alternatives that are sweet, easy to use and cook with – stevia and xylitol. They may sound like chemicals but they are completely natural and have been proven not only safe but beneficial for our well-being.

The best sweetener to use is Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) which an herb that has been used in South America for hundreds of years. It is calorie-free, which means it has no effect on our bodies’ production of insulin. Stevia, in its powdered concentrate, is 300 times sweeter than sugar, so only tiny amounts are needed for sweetening.

There have not been any reports of toxicity with stevia, which is consumed by millions of people daily. The only thing that puts off  people from using stevia more  is that it can taste a little bitter in drinks and in some recipes, but this can be overcome by using another wonderful sweetener, called xylitol, in combination with stevia for ideal sugar replacement.

Xylitol is also a natural substance found in fibrous vegetables and fruit, as well as in corn cobs and various hardwood trees, like birch. Relatively high quantities of xylitol are found in plums, raspberries and cauliflower. Even though xylitol is derived from fruits and vegetables, it is not the same as fructose. Xylitol is a five-carbon sugar, which means that it is anti-microbial, whereas all other forms of sugar are six-carbon sugars, which cause bacterial and fungi overgrowth.

looks, feels and tastes exactly like sugar but that’s where similarity ends. While sugar wreaks havoc on the body, xylitol heals and repairs. It also builds immunity.

Some of the benefits of using xylitol as a sugar substitute:

  • Glycemic index of 7 (sucrose is 60)
  • Minimal effect on blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Inhibits yeast, including Candida Albicans (It actually helps fight candida)
  • Inhibits plaque and dental cavities by 80% (Dentists use it and recommend xylitol toothpaste)
  • Retards demineralization, and promotes re-mineralization, of tooth enamel
  • Unlike many artificial sweeteners, it leaves no unpleasant aftertaste.

Here are some recipe links that use stevia and xylitol as sugar substitutes:

Learn more:

Dr. Jared Newman is a Chiropractor and Internal Health Specialist at Newman Chiropractic and Wellness in Encinitas. He has been trained and certified by the Loomis Institute of Enzyme Nutrition to recognize and analyze signs and symptoms of a patients’ problem. He uses that analysis to examine the body for mechanical and nutritional stressors that are a result of a compromised digestive system. He is able to help many people who have structural problems which cause pain and also help them obtain optimal internal health through enzyme supplementation, proper nutrition and digestion of the food they eat.