Help for the upcoming flu season – part 2

Your friends, the white blood cells

White blood cells… they’re our friends. They kill germs. They clear our bloodstream from clutter. They provide that wonderful thing called immunity (that we say fights off disease). They make helpful chemicals. 

There are a couple types of white blood cells (also known as phagocytes). Neutrophils are the most numerous, and are the mobile “soldiers” in our bloodstream. They attack bacteria, viruses, and fungi (and they’re our first line of defense). They kill up to 20 bacteria and these poor guys die in the fight. Then we have the macrophages – the “big eaters”. They line important tissues in our lungs, liver, spleen and lymph nodes. These guys live for months. 

White blood cells work by coming to the area of infection (the germ and inflamed tissue release substances that attract them to the region), they stick to the surface of the germ, surround the germ, engulf it, and eat it. Then they destroy the germ. That’s the story in lay-woman’s terms. I’m not a medical professional. I’m a writer. But that’s the way it works, in plain English. 

Where does a fever come from?

A fever is not necessarily a bad thing. The infected tissue signals the brain that there’s a fight going on, and the brain raises the temperature to stimulate white blood cells. Of course, fevers are not pleasant. They’re not supposed to be! A fever is your cue that your body is trying to get help from its white blood cells. (Note: Some fevers are dangerous, especially very high fevers for childen. We’ll talk about dealing with fever in another post.)

Helping or hurting your white blood cells

  • Moderate exercise helps your white blood cells get movin’. Two-thirds of your mobile white blood cells cling to the blood vessels. Exercise gets them to actively circulate. 
  • High-intensity exercise, on the other hand, reduces the gobbling-up action (a big long word called phagocytosis) and reduces their killing ability. 
  • Alcohol consumption makes white blood cells lazy. So if you want to get them to work for you, avoid drinking alcohol.
  • Smoking at first stimulates the neutrophils, but then it reduces their ability to capture and kill germs. 
  • Sugar (sucrose – refined sugar) suppresses the immune system. 
  • Echinacea is an herb that is known to promote white blood cell’s action against germs.
  • Moderate amounts of vitamin C and E supplements improves the white blood cells’ killing action. 
Sugar, your immune system’s enemy
I don’t think people realize how much their immune systems are compromised by eating sugar, especially during flu season. Here’s a chart comparing the teaspoons of sugar and the number of bacteria that’s killed by white blood cells. 
Teaspoons of Sugar Number of bacteria killed by white blood cell
0 14.0
6 10.0
12 5.5
18 2.0
24 1.0

That said, let’s look at the sugar content of some of favorite American treats. Here’s a neat trick that I learned in nutrition class: 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon sugar. So let’s read some labels! 

  • A Starbuck’s caramel frappuccino, grande sized, with no whipped cream, contains 45 grams of sugar. That is 11 1/4 teaspoons sugar! Our white blood cells would be chugging along at a little over 5.5 bacteria…
  • Nabisco’s Oreo cookies – one serving, 29 grams – contains 13 grams of sugar. That’s a little under 4 teaspoons of sugar. 
  • Kellogg’s Raisin Bran Crunch – 1 cup – contains 20 grams of sugar. That’s 5 teaspoons of sugar per serving!
  • Kellogg’s Fruit Loops – 1 cup – 14.5 grams of sugar. That’s about 3 1/2 teaspoons of sugar per serving.
Let’s think about this… do we want to serve our families sugar-full foods which will hurt their immune systems? 
I, for one, try to cut down on serving foods with lots of sugar when bugs are going around. (This does not mean that we do not get sick. But I hope it helps to aid in a faster recovery, and fewer bouts with the flu!) I try to serve cereals with low sugar content, or make my own cereal at home. Lately, I’ve been serving hot cereal made out of whole grains cooked in a crockpot, and flavored mainly with dates blended with milk, stirred into the grains at the end of their cooking. I also add all-natural dried fruit.
Let’s be careful about how much sugar we serve our families!
Published in: on September 27, 2008 at 10:15 pm  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. WOW, that is great info! NOW I know why my SIL’s kids are always sick ! They have JUNK FOOD all over their house and eat candy and crap all the time…. Thanks goodness for healthy kids!

  2. […] I served this with my sugar-free fruit sauce. So there you have it — a healthy, hot breakfast with only natural sweetener  — basically, no refined sugar at all! Perfect for keeping everybody’s immunity up during flu season. […]

  3. […] now you saved some money, you avoided sugar which lowers immune systems, and you had a quick and easy […]

  4. That is amazing! I had no idea… another compelling reason to cut the sugar…

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