Your Immune System on Sugar

You may not need more reasons to avoid sugar but if so, here’s one more.

Sugar drives inflammation and chronic inflammation is not great for a healthy you, in particular your immune system.

sugar-1Sugar, especially refined sugar, is devoid of nutrients and can actually be depleting, as nutrients are used to aid in its digestion and processing. Also, diets high in refined sugar usually lack a full spectrum of healthy foods with essential vitamins and minerals. Basically you’re depleting your body and then not filling it back up with the right stuff if your sweet tooth dictates what you digest.

Over consumption of refined sugar, which is prevalent in our society, is associated with increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancers. From an immune function perspective, it’s suggested that simple sugars reduce cells that work to protect you from infection (White blood cells) while revving up other cells designed to cause inflammation (inflammatory cytokines). One study even suggests that a 100g of refined sugar can delay your immune system cells that act like packmen gobbling up pathogens by up to 5 hours! (Sanchez et al).

So what are refined sugars?

They are your refined grains (mostly white in colour) like pasta’s, bread’s and table sugar. They are ingredients in pop, processed foods and confectionery foods.

What to do?

  • Assess your diet. Determine how much sugar you are taking in. Free online sites / apps exists such as: myfitnesspal or FitDay
  • Find out why you crave the sugar? This may be due to hormonal factors related to stress, menstrual cycle or purely habit.
  • Mix your sugars. If you are eating foods high in sugar make sure you eat them as part of a snack or meal that includes good sources of fats / protein / fiber.
  • Eat breakfast! And eat throughout the day! For ideas on sugar free breakfast click here.


Sarah Kent, ND

Sarah KentDr. Sarah Kent is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor specializing in your health.  She blends traditional knowledge with current scientific understanding to generate wellness within her patients. She has received specialized training in naturopathic sports medicine, applying the principles and tools of naturopathic care in treating athletes.






  • Myles, IA. Fast food fever: reviewing the impacts of the Western diet on immunity. Nutr J. 2014 Jun 17;13:61.
  • Improving Nutrition Information on Food Labels: Better Understanding the Sugar Content of Our Foods – Government of Canada website
  • Sanchez et al. Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis. Am J Clin Nutr. 1973 Nov;26(11):1180-4.


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