Is sugar making you sick?

Luckily I can count on one hand the number of times Brooks has been really sick- I’m talking more than a cold here. The first time was when he was just under 6 months old. It was right after Christmas of 2012 and he ended up with a virus that gave him high fevers. The second was right around Easter. He was around 8 months old and we were living in Miami at the time. He got croup which turned into ear infections. The last time was just over the last few weeks- right around Christmas. Again, his cold turned into croup which then turned into bilateral ear infections. When I think back to all of these times, there is definitely a trend- it’s always around a holiday. I couldn’t believe he got sick right after his first Christmas. He was solely breastfed. Even in Miami when he got sick, he was still being breastfed. Unlike other holidays, we weren’t even traveling during that time. Interestingly though, the first time he got ear infections, I developed a sinus infection at the same time. This last time, I too developed a cold that then turned into an ear infection. I had been thinking about this and I came up with a theory: excess sugar was making us sick. Easter was the most obvious for me to figure out. I’m obsessed with Cadbury Eggs. Thank God they are only available for a short time. I stock up during the Easter season but instead of saving them, I’ll eat multiple per day. I’ve justified this for years. I eat healthy most of the time. I don’t have a weight problem. But that was before I realized that they have been wrecking havoc on my immune system (and Brooks’s through my milk). Like I just said, Christmas has been the other times we’ve been sick. This year, I made Christmas cookies that we were enjoying daily. Then we went home for the holidays and none of us were eating well. Brooks was allowed to eat way more crap foods- many of them cookies- then he normally does. I totally let my guard down and scarfed down a ridiculous amount of junk. What do you get when you add up a weakened immune system, holiday stress, and germ filled airplanes? Well in our case, you get ear infections.

I decided to do a little research to see if my theory had any backing. I first talked to my acupunturist, who said that “colds feed off of sugar”. When I told her the story of the Cadbury Eggs she told me that the same thing happened when she was nursing her daughter. Her treat of choice was suckers. She went through a phase and sure enough, her daughter got sick.

Certainly interesting but I needed facts…so I went to Google. According to an article in the USA Today (2009), Dr Sears, a well know pediatrician, says “A big dose of sugar can immediately suppress your immune system and make you more vulnerable to colds, flu and other infections.”

Multiple articles that I read site a study done in 1973 which was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. You are welcome to read the abstract (by clicking on the journal). It’s quite scientific and uses large words but to summarize, the study found that the ability to engulf (kill) the bacteria immediately after simple carbs (glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, or orange juice) was significantly decreased and the effects lasted up to 5 hours after consumption. Although some sites discredit this study, it’s exactly the information that I was looking for to confirm my theory.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any more recent studies; however, this study alone is enough for me. Perhaps Brooks and I are both sugar sensitive. I know plenty of people who eat way more sugar and crap than we do and they don’t appear to get sick. Maybe, we are more sensitive because we normally consume so little sugar (with the exception of fruit). Honestly I don’t know. What I do know is that all of those Christmas cookies were not worth having a sick child and being sick myself.

I know that I can’t totally eliminate added sugar in my diet. I love ice cream, chocolate, cookies…What I do know is that I really need to watch how much Brooks and I consume. Moving forward, I will be much more mindful…especially around the holidays.

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