Sugar and Low Sunlight Season or Flu Season? Or Both?

Fall is definitely here and Winter is gathering up slowly as the Earth continues to turn.  The generally agreed upon inevitability of these things coincides with the times frame of October to May also considered ‘Flu Season’.  I’ve noticed this time frame starts off with a super dose of sugar due to Halloween, followed closely by the Holiday or Christmas season adding its dose of sugar, alcohol, extra travel, late nights and likely some extra stress.  Once we’ve started recovering from these two typically mega doses of sugar indulgence we hit Valentine’s Day where the stores again overflow with sugary temptations.  You may ask is this really that related to the flu?  It is hard to say for sure in each individual case of the flu but I can certainly assure you that eating sugar hurts the immune system and cannot be helping us on a population or individual level stay healthy.  

The other characteristic aspect of this time frame is that we have many more overcast days starting around October and due to our location on the planet we start to see a lot less sun and the sun we do see is much less intense than during our summer.  Sunlight and warmth make our immune systems function much better simply through heat, in addition to the very important sun induced synthesis of vitamin D. Vitamin D is vital to the functioning of most systems in the body and may act more like a hormone than a vitamin.  With the decreasing intensity of sun along with dramatically less sun exposure our Vitamin D levels are certainly dropping during these months, maybe even reaching their lowest around February or March.  The flu typically hits its peak in February - coincidence perhaps but I’m willing to encourage changing sugar habits and ensure people get enough vitamin D to decrease the risk and severity of the flu.  This change in season also usually means less fresh vegetables and fruits and decreased time exercising outside which are all equally important to a healthy immune system. 

Is refined sugar ever really good for you?  For all you chocolate bar lovers (myself included!) I’d have to say, nope it really isn’t. It’s unfortunate, I know!  It dries out our mucus membranes of the mouth and nose which are the first line of defence when comes to influenza. If these mucus membranes are healthy and strong you are much more protected.  In addition it is no help to your digestive tract which is the next most important immune area since your immune system has a great bulk of its structure residing there.  What we eat matters so so much.  Halloween is around the corner; I encourage all of us to re think what we are giving to the kids and to ourselves.  It’s an important time of the year to be building up our immune systems and spending a week or more damaging them with too much sugar really doesn’t help anyone.   I apologize for the soapbox like paragraph.  However, it’s so important to decrease the amount of refined sugar we are eating I felt the soapbox was worth the risk!  

It’s easy to feel vulnerable and powerless to the influenza virus that is known to cause severe illness and even death in the small population of highly vulnerable.  It is a virulent (strong) infection.  No one wants to get it.  There’s a lot you can do to take control of risk factors for getting sick and decrease the severity of the flu.  Start with eliminating refined sugar, optimizing Vitamin D, getting moving outside, eating lots of vegetables and staying warm and very well rested. Nature rests this time of year and so can we; after all it’s a time of slowing down and resting. Sleep as much as you need this time of year. Remember to stay home in bed and take good care of yourself if you do get sick. Happy (Less sugary ;) Halloween!