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“High sugar intake can suppress the immune system,” says Irvin Sulapas, MD, an assistant professor of sports medicine in the Department of Family & Community Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. The increased levels of sugar have the potential to inhibit the work of infection-fighting white blood cells, Dr. Sulapas explains. Plus, sugar increases the number of inflammatory markers called cytokines, which can create inflammation in the body. Try to avoid comforting yourself with too many sweet treats (and yes, that includes sweetened juice) until you feel better. Here are 9 other ways you could be making your cold or flu worse.
Thinking of grabbing saltines, buttered toast, or a heaping bowl of pasta? Think again. Refined carbohydrates are broken down quickly into sugar, triggering the same blood sugar rise as sugary drinks and snacks, with the same inflammatory effects, Dr. Sulapas warns. “That being said, not all carbohydrates are bad,” he explains. “Carbs that are low in glycemic index like wheat bread, whole grains, or anything high in fiber can reduce inflammation.” The exception: If you have an upset stomach, simple carbs can help; they’re easier to digest.