Blood sugar and flu

We’re still a few weeks away from stashing the beach and patio umbrellas back in the storage shed. But while the weather is still sizzling, there’s something potentially dangerous we all should be thinking about right now….

Even in a normal year, seasonal transitions challenge your immune system. And the change from late summer to fall is one that can knock you on your tush more so than any other time of year. 

Did you know that the biggest surge in rhinovirus infections occurs in fall? No, rhinoviruses (RV) aren’t a disease that affects rhinoceroses. RV’s are the most common type of pathogen that affects humans. They are the number one source of colds and upper respiratory infections. And in the year 2020, the last thing you want to do is have compromised lung function. 

Most people think that winter is the most prevalent season for being sick. But that’s true especially for influenza. But not for seasonal allergies. Fall allergies weaken your immune system. And when your immune system is preoccupied fighting allergens, it makes it easy for viruses to enter your nose and infect your body. 

Again, this is true of any given year. But this year, we have to be extra vigilant about keeping our immune system balanced. The change from hot, tropical weather to drier, cooler air irritates the bronchial passages. While your immune system is busy dealing with that, viruses have an easier time hijacking your DNA and making copies of themselves. 


Keeping Blood Sugar Levels Steady

Depending on where you live, it might start getting cooler in 3-4 weeks. A study from Yale University shows that a 7-degree drop in temperature makes it easier for viruses to replicate in your body. Besides washing your hands diligently, wearing a scarf around your face when it’s cold to shield viruses from entering your nose (maybe this is another benefit of wearing a mask in 2020?), and of course, social distancing, one of the best things you can do for your immune system is to keep your blood sugar levels study. 

Research shows that when you eat a high sugar meal or snack, your infection-fighting white blood cells become inactive for several hours. It’s as if your own immune system experiences a sugar coma and passes out. 

There are dozens of mechanisms by which sugar suppresses the immune system. Obviously I won’t go into all those deets because you’d probably fall into a coma from boredom. 

It’s most likely not a shocking revelation to you that having a ton of sugar is bad for you. But here’s the thing you might not realize: certain foods you’re having might cause high fluctuations in your blood sugar levels. And these foods might not be obvious culprits. You might not be eating candy or drinking soda, but maybe that sushi and couple glasses of wine caused a high blood sugar spike. 

That’s why it’s important to eat foods that keep blood sugar levels steady throughout the day. It’s also critical that you pay attention to drinks as well. Sure, that glass of orange juice might provide 100% of your daily requirements of vitamin C. But it does so at the expense of flooding your cells with almost 30 grams of sugar. And that seemingly-healthy glass of kombucha? It might contain some probiotics but it’s super high in sugar as well. 

Instead, start your day off with 16 ounces of high-nutrient-density Green Drink in the morning. (Only 6 grams of sugars per 16-ounces.)


How Does High Blood Sugar Affect The Immune System?

Why are high blood sugar levels bad for the immune system? Well, I just told you about how after eating a meal that causes a blood sugar spike, your immune system pretty much falls asleep on the job. If you want the geeked-out explanation, here it is, according to this article in Science Daily: High blood sugar unleashes destructive molecules that interfere with the body’s natural infection-control defenses. The harmful molecules — dicarbonyls — are breakdown products of glucose that interfere with infection-controlling antimicrobial peptides known as beta-defensins.

The interesting thing about this explanation from the article is that this mechanism was discovered a mere 5 years ago. And now that scientists are aware of this action, it creates an exciting opportunity for diabetes breakthroughs. 

But if you don’t want type 2 diabetes, and if you want to increase your chances of avoiding getting sick, the time is now to start monitoring your blood sugar levels. 

flu virus particles

How To Keep Blood Sugar Levels Steady

So what are the best ways to stabilize your blood glucose, making sure that there’s not too much sugar swimming freely in your bloodstream instead of your trillions of cells?

Obviously, limit your intake of added sugars. But beyond that, here’s my recipe for steady-Eddie blood sugar levels:

  • Drink mocktails instead of cocktails
  • Buy heirloom wheat (Einkorn, emmer wheat) instead of regular wheat bread
  • Eat wild rice instead of white or brown rice
  • Avoid snacking; limit yourself to one snack a day of a small amount of fruit, a handful of nuts and olives
  • Allow yourself one cheat snack a week like ice cream
  • Drink a ton of water (like twice as much as you do now)
  • Eat a little bit of healthy fats and protein at every meal (a quarter of an avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds)
  • Don’t eat big servings of animal protein. Eating a big piece of meat will raise your blood sugar.
  • Pay attention to condiments like ketchup, which contains high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS interferes with leptin signaling to the brain. Leptin is the hormone that tells your brain that you don’t need to eat anymore. So when you eat ketchup, it can make you want to eat more, even though you’ve had a large meal. 

Pretty soon, most of us will be spending more time indoors again as the weather gets cooler. And that means there’s more temptation to plop down on the couch, watch TV and eat comfort food. Before the cold snap sets in, follow my advice to keep your blood sugar levels steady. Doing so might just help your immune system mount a solid fight against viruses. This year, doing just that has never been more important for your health.


The Truth About Kombucha: Is It Good For the Gut?

The main selling point about kombucha is that because it’s fermented, it contains beneficial microbes that may help colonize the gut. Gut health is so important and I’m glad that the topic of gut health has gone mainstream. Gut health not only affects our digestion, it’s directly linked to our cognitive function, immune system, and mood.

But the truth about kombucha is we don’t know for sure if it’s even good for the gut. As this study from just last year, published in Nutrients points out, “[T]here are no studies of the effects of kombucha on gastrointestinal health and microbiota in humans.”

Another study, also from last year, reviewed 310 articles about kombucha. The researchers were unable to find even one random clinical trial (the gold-standard of research studies) that proves it can help gastrointestinal disorders, “including any of the functional bowel disorders.”

I realize that random clinical trials are super expensive to run. For the most part, only pharmaceutical companies have a vested interest in running a clinical trial with lots of people. Your average kombucha new kid on the block isn’t going to have the millions to fund an RCT. But I think it’s pretty telling that in over 300 studies on kombucha, the researchers weren’t even able to find one study with, say, 10 people, that offers some proof about kombucha’s supposed health benefits on the digestive system.

But hey, if you love it and you think it works for you, then by all means continue to drink it. Personally, I think it’s overrated, especially the big brands sold in supermarkets.


Is Kombucha Healthy? Conclusion

If you want to support your gut health, first of all, you need to limit your sugar intake and consume lots of veggies that contain indigestible prebiotic fiber. Prebiotic fiber feeds the good bacteria in your colon. (Score another point for Green Drink: the 7 leafy greens have the fiber your gut needs.)

And if you want to colonize your gut with even more beneficial microscopic bugs, eat other fermented foods that don’t have added sugar. Think: plain yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi (cabbage), and fermented soybean dishes like natto, miso soup, and tempeh. 

Is kombucha healthier than cola? Sure. But is it healthier than Organic Green Drink? No way. Is high-alcohol kombucha better for your health than a glass of wine because of the probiotics? I think not. Dry wines contain only 1 gram of residual sugar. Plus you get the anti-aging benefits of the chemical, resveratrol, which is abundant in grape skins. 

(Want a boozy drink without the alcohol? Try my low-sugar, high-nutrient-density mocktails.)

I’ve seen some brands of kombucha contain as much sugar as a glass of orange juice (over 20 grams per 8-ounce serving). Drinking that much sugar everyday is just asking for a yeast infection. Even lower-sugar varieties of kombucha, I’ve realized, have too much sugar for my system. (You can water down the booch by making a spritzer.) 

And that’s the truth about the booch.