Thursday, August 26, 2010

My theory on Fall and Winter sickness

I have been doing quite a bit of research on healthy eating habits as of late. Most of the things I've read say about the same things: eat lots of vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains and stay away from refined sugars. I dug a little deeper and looked into the science of sugar and the body and I found out some very interesting things. And when I say sugar, I don't mean natural sugars that are found in things like fruits and vegetables and honey. Those are fine because they come with fiber, vitamins, minerals and other complex carbohydrates, all of which helps to steady the absorption of the sugar. When I refer to sugar here, I'm talking about the sugar that is processed and refined to a powder or table sugar to be used in desserts etc. Junk sugar. There is a big difference when you actually process a food. For example, take something like the south american coca leaf which many people chew on daily, but process it a certain way and it becomes the very deadly and addictive Cocaine. Or the beautiful, red poppy flower which we use for baking, but when processed in a certain way is turned into Heroine. And of course there's grapes to wine. Okay, so I'm just trying to show that plants are great(many times healing) in their original and whole state, but once changed, can be extremely damaging to our bodies.

Now, going back to sugar. When we put junk sugar into our bodies, it enters the bloodstream almost immediately and a roller coaster ride begins. Even a little bit of sugar makes the blood sugar levels rise, causing the pancreas to release insulin, and then the blood sugar level plunges causing a sugar low. Other hormones are released to try and normalize this low and during this experience many people experience this roller coaster ride with their blood sugar levels and have behaviors and moods that also go up and down with their blood sugar. I've found this to be very true in our family. I must have some very sugar sensitive children(which I'm sure they get from me, because boy am I cranky when I've gone too long without putting food into my body). Not only are they crazy when they haven't eaten in awhile, but when they consume sugar, they act like they're on crack: running around the house, laughing and going crazy, and then the next minute they are on the floor, in tears over nothing.

Another harmful thing about sugar: Do you ever remember your parents not allowing you to eat sugar when you were sick? Do you know why that is? One of the most interesting things I've gathered from my information is the effect sugar has on the immune system. Sugar depresses the immunity. And not by a little, but by a lot. It causes a 50% drop in the white blood cells(those are the good ones that fight all the nasty, sick germs off) ability to engulf bacteria. And for hours, and hours.

This is where my theory comes into play. The fall and winter seasons are considered the 'sick' seasons. Lots of people get colds and the flu. I know that people are inside more during those months because it's cold, which I also think plays a big part in sharing germs and sickness, but after reading about sugar, I've come to the conclusion that another big, huge factor is sugar intake. Think about it. First there is Halloween. And it's not just Halloween night when we're stuffed full of sugar. It's all month leading up to it with trunk-or-treats and making sugar cookies and pumpkin pies, and then of course you collect enough candy from trick-or-treating to feed a small country, or at least your children, spouse and all his coworkers for a month. Then, when that candy starts to diminish, there is Thanksgiving with pies, cakes, cookies, ice cream and on and on. And then there's Christmas and all the baked goods that go along with that holiday, that not only you make, but that neighbors and friends bring to your house and of course stockings stuffed full of all sorts of sweet things. And then you've got New Years and Valentine's Day, both of which also have sweet things to go along with them. So, really, it's not very hard to understand why so many people are sick during that time of year. They are inside more, exposed to more germs, and because they've been eating junk sugar, their bodies can't fight off the germs.

I'm going to test out my theory this winter. And I'm going to do what we've always been told to do during this season as well: We're going to go outside more, sanitize our hands often, eat lots of nutrient rich foods(especially vegetables), be well rested, try to limit our dairy(dairy causes mucus to form which is terrible for colds and congestion), and definitely limit our sugar intake. And of course, after we've done all that we can do to help ourselves be healthy through what we've learned, we'll continue to pray for good health and further insight and knowledge.

With my luck, now that I've posted this, all six of us will get sick and stay sick over the next few months. Let's hope not.

P.S. Like I always say, I am far from perfect. We do still eat sugar, but not nearly as much as we used to. I am using a lot more natural sweeteners when we decide to bake something sweet(though not 100% of the time), but when we go out to a friends house or an activity, if there are treats there, we usually eat them.

This is the website I used the most:
The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone
several other websites but I forgot to record the source


kelley said...

I think there is definitely some truth to your theory. Have you gotten some of your research from Michael Pollan? I recognize some of the referenced research! I find researching all this stuff completely addicting. It's so helpful to know what exactly we're putting in our bodies and what it's doing to us and that the FDA and USDA doesn't really know as much as we/they think they do!

Elisa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elisa said...

Whoops! I didn't include my sources! I'll add them now.

And I still haven't read Michael Pollan's book yet, though it's on my to-do list. We did listen to a 40 minute interview with him about his book, In Defense of Food, and we really liked it. And so I'm sure I also took some insights from that interview as well.

The Clarks said...

I have never heard of that before! (the whole sugar thing) I'm lovin' your theory! And what great motivation to not eat so many sweets for the next 4 months. I'll be one of your test subjects. :) Thanks for the info!