When Covid’s first wave hit the United States, it became clear that the majority of patients placed in ventilators had a number of underlying conditions. Among them were metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes, both of which have increased in the United States in recent years.
At the beginning of the pandemic, people were amazed at the question: Why does diabetes make it harder to fight the respiratory virus?
First, we know that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can impair blood sugar control in the short term and can lead to a very dangerous blood sugar condition in diabetes, studies show. It does this by binding to receptors found on pancreatic beta cells that produce insulin.
As an allergist and immunologist, I often tell my patients that diabetes means you have a chronic low-grade inflammatory condition that strains your body’s innate immune system and slows the jump of pathogens into your body.
As for our immune system, eating is very important. No ingredient is more harmful to immune health than sugar, especially in the case of Covid.
Sugar: The worst food ingredient for your immune system
When you have high blood sugar – which is due to many factors, but most consume it too much in your diet – it triggers a vicious cycle of insulin resistance and obesity that drives inflammatory cytokines, damages blood vessels and activates the immune system to repair these areas.
This significantly disrupts the immune system and paves the way for dangerous bacteria and viruses that can slip through our body’s defense system.
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.
Eliminating excess sugar from your diet can not only help end this cycle, it can reverse it altogether. Reducing your sugar intake is one of the most effective ways to improve your immune system.
Sugar is hidden everywhere
You may think: I’m not a real sweet person, so I don’t have to worry about this!
But even if you don’t eat donuts, candy, cakes, or biscuits on a regular basis, eating too many simple carbs like bread, pasta, rice, cereals, or even certain fruits and juices can quietly raise your blood sugar.
People often forget – or don’t understand – that there is sugar in ketchup, salad dressings and bars, as well as in juices, yoghurt, cereals and protein bars.
I am interested in preventative treatment, especially for an insidious disease such as diabetes, and I recommend that the first step in your diet – regardless of age – be to ask your doctor to take a fasting hemoglobin A1c test, even if your fasting blood sugar is normal.
Hemogoblin A1c tests measure your average blood sugar over the past three months, so even if your blood sugar is a normal day to see a doctor, the test may detect underlying problems.
How to protect the health of your blood sugar
Once you have an idea of where you are in your blood sugar range, follow the instructions below to improve your health:
1. Reduce obvious sugars.
This means candy, soda, cake and those seasonal bars we all love. These foods and drinks do not provide nutritional value and contain huge amounts of sugar.
Instead, choose dark chocolate, berries, or some other low-sugar treat. I’m not saying you have to eliminate all sugary foods forever. Casual dessert is good! But in the beginning, it’s 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 – I mean all, even things that are advertised as “low sugar” or “healthy.”
The average American gets about 17 teaspoons (71 grams) of added sugar a day, but the American Heart Association recommends up to six teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar a day for women and nine teaspoons (36 grams) for men. .
Remember, we still get natural sugars from fruits, vegetables and grains, so we really don’t have a shortage!
3. Eat more fiber.
If sugar is poison, then fiber is the antidote. Not only does fiber keep your digestion regular, it also helps slow down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream, which protects you from sugar spikes.
Lack of fiber is another reason why soft drinks, fruit juices and sugary coffee drinks are so harmful to health. They contain a tonne of sugar and not any of the blood sugar-protecting fiber found in fresh whole plant-based food.
My favorite fiber foods are black beans and lentils, steel oats, avocado, buckwheat, pears, raspberries, barley and flax seeds.
4. Choose nutrients instead of calories.
Instead of worrying about cutting calories, focus on adding more nutrient-rich foods to your diet that are high in protein and healthy fats.
You don’t have to be low in carbs, just choose the “right” carbs. In fact, eating carbs in the form of vegetables, beans, whole fruits, and nuts and seeds – all foods rich in minerals and vitamins – is a great way to keep your hunger at bay.
There are several applications available to help you track your access. I have asked all my patients to record their eating for a few days to see how much added sugar, fiber and other nutrients they are actually getting. It is often eye-opening.
Dr. Heather Moday is a government certified allergist, immunologist, and functional medicine physician. He has also written “Immunotype Breakthrough: Your Personal Plan to Balance Your Immune System, Optimize Your Health, and Build Lifelong Sustainability“Follow him on Instagram @theimmunityMD and Facebook.