When the first wave of Covid hit the United States, it became clear that the majority of the patients placed on ventilators had a number of underlying conditions. Among these were metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes, both of which have been on the rise in the United States over the past few years.
One question that puzzled people at the beginning of the pandemic was: Why does diabetes make it harder to fight a respiratory virus?
First, we know that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can make blood sugar control worse in the short term and potentially throw people with diabetes into a very dangerous blood sugar state, studies show. It does so by binding to the receptors found on the beta cells of the pancreas, which produce insulin.
As an allergist and immunologist, I often tell my patients that having diabetes means you are in a chronic low-grade inflammatory condition, which strains the body's innate immune system and makes it slower to jump on pathogens as they enter the body.
When it comes to our immune system, what we eat matters a lot. And no ingredient is more harmful to your immune system than sugar, especially under Covid.
Sugar: The worst food ingredient for your immune system
When you have high blood sugar - which is due to many factors, but the biggest one is consuming too much of it in your diet - it starts a vicious circle of insulin resistance and obesity that drives up inflammatory cytokines, damages blood vessels and activates the immune system to repair them. areas.
This creates a major distraction for the immune system and paves the way for dangerous bacteria and viruses to slip through our body's defenses.
If you have already been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or diabetes, this may sound like bad news. But it is not; Type 2 diabetes does not have to be permanent.
Removing excess sugar from your diet can not only help end this cycle, but it can reverse it completely. Calling back on your sugar consumption is one of the most effective ways to improve your immune system.
Sugar hides everywhere
You might be thinking: I'm not really such a person, so I do not have to worry about this!
But even if you do not eat donuts, sweets, cakes or cookies regularly, too many simple carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, rice, cereals or even certain fruits and juices can quietly raise your blood sugar.
People often forget - or do not realize - that sugar is in ketchup, salad dressings and lattes, as well as in juices, yogurts, cereals and protein bars.
I'm about preventative care, especially when it comes to an insidious disease like diabetes, and recommend that the first step you take in your nutrition journey - regardless of age - is to ask your doctor to perform a fasting hemogoblin A1c test, even if your fasting blood sugar is normal.
The Hemogoblin A1c test measures the average blood sugar over the previous three months, so even though your blood sugar is normal on the day you see your doctor, the test can detect underlying problems.
How to protect your blood sugar health
Once you have an idea of where you stand on the blood sugar spectrum, take the following steps for better health:
1. Cut down on obvious sugars.
That means sweets, sodas, cake and the seasonal lattes we all love. These foods and beverages provide no nutritional value and they contain huge amounts of sugar.
Instead, choose dark chocolate, berries or another low-sugar delicacy. I'm not saying you should take all sugary foods out forever. Occasional dessert is fine! But in the beginning, it is important to get to a place where your blood sugar is stable and healthy.
2. Read the labels.
Now it's time to check the amount of added sugar in each item in your pantry - and I mean everything, even things advertised as "low sugar" or "healthy".
The average American consumes about 17 teaspoons (71 grams) of added sugar a day, but the American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar a day for women and nine teaspoons (36 grams) for men.
Remember that we still get natural sugar from fruits, vegetables and grains, so we certainly do not lack!
Eat more fiber.
If sugar is poisonous, then fiber is the antidote. Fiber not only keeps your digestion regular, it also helps slow down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream, protecting you from sugar spikes.
Lack of fiber is another reason why sodas, fruit juices and sugary coffee drinks are so harmful to your health. They contain a wealth of sugar and none of the blood sugar protective fibers that fresh whole plant-based foods have.
Some of my favorite high-fiber foods are black beans and lentils, steel-cut oats, avocado, buckwheat, pears, raspberries, barley, and flaxseed.
4. Choose nutrients over calories.
Instead of worrying about cutting back on calories, focus on adding more nutritious foods to your diet with plenty of protein and healthy fats.
You do not have to go on low-carb, just choose the "right" carbs. In fact, eating carbohydrates in the form of vegetables, beans, whole fruits and nuts and seeds - all mineral- and vitamin-rich foods - is a great way to keep these hunger pangs at bay.
There are several apps that help you track your intake. I get all my patients to log their eating for a few days to see how much added sugar, fiber and other nutrients they are actually getting. It is often very eye-opening.
Dr. Heather Moday is a board-certified allergist, immunologist and functional medicine doctor. She is also the author of "Immunotype breakthrough: Your personal plan to balance your immune system, optimize health and build lifelong resilience"Follow her on Instagram @theimmunityMD and Facebook.
Do not miss: