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.
|Teaspoons of Sugar||Number of bacteria killed by white blood cell|
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.