Avoid Refined Sugar, Especially When Sick

Fall came suddenly around here– we’ve got some warm Santa Ana days this week, but there’s still a chill in the air that is distinctly autumnish.

And with it? The first rounds of colds hit our family. Already? I thought, Maybe we’ll get it now and then be healthy the rest of the season! That would be nice, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Instead, I’m getting prepped… I won’t just take a cold lying down. Literally, because as a mom of three little ones, I get little time to lay down and rest during the week. I have to fight, fight, fight until my symptoms subside.

There are so many great homeopathic remedies out there, many of which I’ve tried and many about which I’m still learning. But this time around, something hit me that I hadn’t thought about before as a defense against this virus:

avoiding sugar. 

A Good Reason to Kick the Refined Sugar Habit

There are many reasons to give up refined sugar, not the least of which is that it is addicting and not at all nourishing for our bodies. It is in fact totally devoid of nourishment: refined sugar and H.F.C.S. don’t come with any protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants or fiber (source). Just read this inspiring story about how much better Jennifer felt when she gave it up completely!

When we are sick is when we need to make every bite we eat pack a nutritional, nourishing punch, and that also means choosing foods and drinks that make us feel good, too. Just like most of us stick to the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) diet when something’s going on in the tummy, I’ve been avoiding too much dairy this past week to help my stuffiness (this is torture for me, but that’s a separate topic!).

If I know that sugar is going to just feed my virus, in a sense, that makes it easier to turn the other cheek when that carmel latte is calling my name.

There is talk about whether sugar actually suppresses the immune system, which is not something I want to chance during cold/flu season. How exactly do some think this happens?  “Refined sugar can reduce the action of leukocytes (or white blood cells) whose job it is to fight infection (levels of leukocytes rise when we have an infection)” (source).

It definitely causes inflammation which is also not something I want going on in my body when I’m trying to fight something off.

Photo by kthread

Help! I’m a Total Sweet Tooth!

You’re not alone. So am I! I’m constantly trying to limit my sugar intake with new alternatives to refined white sugar and H.F.C.S, such as maple syrup, brown rice syrup, and most recently coconut palm sugar. These alternatives are less processed in many cases and often lower on the glycemic index. But the truth is, they are still sugar, in fact, so is fruit!

So when I’m feeling under the weather, I just try to be more aware. I won’t say I’ve had no sugar in the last week, but I’ve had a lot less and I think that has attributed to my fighting this cold pretty effectively. I just fight that urge, that addiction, with my ol’ iron will as much as I can.

And when I do need something sweet? I stick to raw honey. Because at least I know I’m getting some nutrition that will help fight against my cold symptoms with that. I love baking with honey, and raw honey in a cup of rooibos tea (decaffinated and full of antioxidants) or spread on toast is total comfort food when I’m sick.

Do you notice sugar impeding your health? Do you avoid sugar? All the time? When you’re sick?

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24 Comments

  1. Andrea @ The Greenbacks Gal

    I’ve honestly never thought about avoiding sugars when sick. I do believe in honey as a very effective cure-all for sore throats though.

  2. Kait Palmer

    I’ve actually never made the connection. I’ll admit I’m a sugar addict–I’ll take something sweet over something salty any time! And for me, something sweet is definitely a comfort food and something I want when I’m not feeling well. I’ll have to try cutting back next time I’m feeling under the weather and see if it makes a difference…

  3. judith

    I dont using sugar at all, only honey/

  4. Leigh

    What fabulous timing! I’m doing the October Unprocessed, and I have to say I didn’t realize how my body relied on it (especially in the afternoons) I’m still feeling withdrawal symptoms but I’m confident I will feel better at the end. By the way I tried to post an article I thought you might find interesting on FB, but I’m just not sure if it got posted so here it is again:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/microbes-may-play-crucial-role-in-human-health-researchers-discovering/2011/09/24/gIQAH5lFYL_story.html

    And a quote from it: “Moreover, scientists are becoming more convinced that modern trends — diet, antibiotics, obsession with cleanliness, Caesarean deliveries — are disrupting this delicate balance, contributing to some of the most perplexing ailments, including asthma, allergies, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, cancer and perhaps even autism.”

    I can’t say I’m surprised.

    • Nicole

      Thanks for the link, very interesting, and yes, not surprising!

  5. Mike Lieberman

    I avoid white sugar at all costs. When cooking/baking I’ll using stevia, coconut sugar, xylitol or raw honey. No processed white sugar for me.

    • Nicole

      That’s what I’m starting to do, too. Just wish the alternatives weren’t so expensive!

  6. Christine (iDreamofClean)

    You don’t know how much I needed to read this today. I’ve definitely been under the weather this week. Even though I’m not usually one to take any kind of medication, I probably would have this time if not for being pregnant. So, I’ve really been trying to find some natural remedies. I think I’ve always known deep down that sugar shouldn’t be eaten when sick (or much at all) but I haven’t exactly been adhering to that lately. Since I’m sick right now, I will definitely cut it out. Thanks for the info!

    • Nicole

      I hope you’re feeling better, Christine! 🙂

  7. julia

    This is definitely something to remember and apply come Halloween season. Thanks for the nudge in the right direction!

  8. Tiffany

    Last winter, I was sick once or twice but this fall, I’m already on my second cold! I can’t believe it. I’m drinking some echinacea, ginger tea with added honey, popping some honey cough drops and headed to bed early!

  9. karen

    This great info can help a lot specially those who had diabetes..I will try also not to use sugar I might use honey is better..Thank you for sharing informative post..Keep up the good work!

  10. Klara

    i always use xilitol, and when sick, honey. in the cold months i always take a spoon honey in the morning, i think it is much better than the multi vitamines.

  11. Tony Scott

    Just when sick? Good, but I try to avoid it even when I’m well. I use only a little and only when necessary. There are no alternatives, you can use it but please in moderate amount, that’s the key.

    • Nicole

      I’m trying to avoid it all the time, but even more when sick! 😉

  12. Successful Woman's Resource Center

    I am a horrible sugar addict. We recently made some changes in our diet and have cut out a lot of processed foods, and choosing to eat more fresh fruits and veggies, but sugar is a very hard one to get away from! I will definitely work harder at it, I do not need anything else to weaken the immune system!
    Bernice

  13. Jeanette

    YES! If I’m stupid enough to eat sugar or even grains (which in all essence turn into sugar in the body when digested) for a few days in a row, I’m in for a really bad week. My body will ache like as in fever, my energy will plummet to the ground… So this is a no-brainer for me, I totally get what you’re saying about the inflammation part. The next time I get an actual fever or a cold, I’ll just try and stay strong (tempting as a coke may be) and have a cup of tea sweetened with honey instead.

  14. renee @ FIMBY

    We have been severely restricting our consumption of processed sweeteners (anything that isn’t whole food – so this includes maple syrup and even honey) for a while now. We still have small amounts during the week, ie: the kids get toast with honey once a week – but that’s a huge treat.

    I find it interesting how people will really work to eliminate a food they know to be harmful to their bodies when they are sick and then go back to eating it when they are well. I do this. If we didn’t eat that stuff in the first place we’d probably get sick a whole lot less often.

    • Nicole

      You are so right, Renee. I just get lazy myself and let my “addictions” take over when I’m feeling well. I can’t imagine doing what you and your family are doing- it sounds awesome, but so hard!

  15. Kristy

    I read about the dangers of sugar in New York Times a couple of months ago and that was it. It is pretty much a goner from our house now. I use bananas in baking or other fruit instead. It has been a positive change in our house and we all remark how SWEET fruit tastes now!

    • Nicole

      Way to go! 🙂

  16. Dermatal

    Thanks a lot for sharing this information with us

  17. Michelle

    Great post! I’m off refined and artificial sweeteners. And you know what? I don’t miss the white sugar at all. It’s addictive and not at all satisfying. I hate how I feel after eating anything with white sugar.

    Except for the occasional baked treat made with natural sweeteners, I’m trying to stick to raw sweets whenever possible. They taste better than non-raw desserts and satisfy my sweet tooth. Never thought that would be possible. 🙂

  18. Irene @ H.E.S.H.

    Great blog! I learned a lot. Now I would prefer using fruit juice as an alternative sweetener for my dishes. I hope everything will turn out the same.

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