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Sugar, Soy, and the Flu

Sugar, Soy, and the Flu

Fructose vs. Glucose

Our first question comes from Sue. “I have found that there is a difference in my body and in my brain between how fructose and glucose are metabolized and their addictive components. Can you talk about the differences between these two sugars?”

It all starts with one word: insulin. Glucose, in the form of starch, spikes your insulin, while fructose does not directly spike your insulin. However, that does not mean that fructose is good for you and glucose is bad for you. Excess fructose goes right to the liver and triggers lipogenesis (the production of fats, such as triglycerides and cholesterol), which leads to one of the major causes of liver damage known as fatty liver disease.

What’s so bad about having a fatty liver? Well, two of the major repercussions are:  inflammation, which triggers insulin resistance and pre-diabetes, causing your body to deposit fat into your liver and other organs – including your belly (this is called visceral fat); and increased risk of heart attack.

There is a difference between having a small amount of fructose from fruit, versus having fructose from other foods like sports drinks. And when you combine glucose and fructose into one product (like table sugar, which is 50% glucose and 50% fructose) that is really bad.  Remember:  There are 257 names for sugar, and despite very minor variations, they all create the same damage.  If you have type 2 diabetes, you might even need to stay away from fruit sugars all together; but for the most part, low-glycemic fruits should be fine for many people.

So yes, high fructose corn syrup is absolutely worse for you than the natural sugar found in berries and apples, but for the most part, sugar is sugar is sugar.  It all it all wreaks havoc on your health.

Preventing and Treating the Flu

Our next question comes from Julie who asks, “What’s your natural prescription for preventing the flu and how do you make symptoms easier once it’s contracted?”

As a Functional Medicine physician, I approach the flu in the same manner as all imbalances in the body.  I don’t assume the human body is subject to illness when the proper diet and lifestyle precautions are taken.  These precautions all start with the diet. Here are my steps for preventing and dealing with the flu if you are misfortunate enough to catch it.

Let food be your medicine:

  • Avoid simple sugars such a sweet treats, desserts, white flour and refined grains. Refined sugars can suppress your immune system for hours after ingested.
  • Include protein with each meal. Proteins are the building blocks of the body, including your immune and detoxification systems. Organic, clean and lean animal protein, as well as plant-based proteins (legumes, nuts, seeds) are important to consume with each meal and snack.
  • Add garlic, onions, ginger, and lots of healing spices (oregano, turmeric) to your soups, vegetable, main dishes and bean dips and sauces. Garlic and onions offer a wide spectrum of antimicrobial properties. Eat multiple servings of colorful fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamins C and A and phytonutrients that support the immune system. Choose more leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower), peppers, sweet potatoes and squashes. Aim for three to four servings of fruits and four or more servings of vegetables every day!

Drink plenty of fluids: With the dryer air inside and out, winter can be a particularly challenging time to stay hydrated! Consuming adequate fluids supports all of your body’s functions including the immune system.

  • Make soups and broths (from scratch with fresh vegetables is always best) and enjoy them throughout the week.
  • Drink herbal teas like ginger and echinacea daily.
  • Keep a bottle of filtered water with you at all times.
  • Avoid concentrated fruit juices and sweetened beverages because the sugar content is harmful for the immune system. If you do drink juice, dilute it with 2/3 water!

Try a daily saline flush. Along with staying hydrated, flushing your sinuses with mild salt water helps to keep mucous membranes moist, protecting you from microbes. You can use a neti pot, or easy to carry plastic bottles that come with saline packets to take with you when traveling or working at the office! Be sure to rinse them well with warm water and soap and air dry between uses. Studies have also indicated that flushing one to two times daily is appropriate and you should not go over this.

Get sufficient sleep! We all know sleep restores and heals the body. Without adequate sleep, optimal immune function is next to impossible! On dark winter nights, try heading to bed earlier and aim for seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Incorporating various relaxation and breathing techniques throughout the day to help relieve stress and allow your mind to rest is also very helpful!

Take the following supplements:

  • High-quality multivitamin/mineral
  • Vitamin D3 (studies have shown that people with vitamin D deficiency are 11 times more likely to get a cold or flu)
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc citrate
  • Probiotics
  • Natural antiviral/Antibacterial herbs (many herbs have broad-spectrum antimicrobial or immune-enhancing effects; look for formulas contain different immune boosters such as astragalus, echinacea, green tea extract, elderberry, andrographis, goldenseal, monolaurin, various immune-enhancing mushrooms, and beta 1-3 glucan)

Cordyceps and mushrooms extracts (these provide immune supporting properties; cooking with medicinal mushrooms, like shitakes, is also helpful)

To make it easier to fight the flu, I’ve put all of the above supplements into an immune-boosting kit for adults. You can find it here.

To Soy or Not to Soy?

Our next question comes from Instagram. A reader asks, “To soy or not to soy? So many conflicting theories out there. I’m a post menopausal woman with rheumatoid arthritis and probably some thyroid/leaky gut issues.”

I wish that the answer was clear cut, but unfortunately it’s not. The truth is that for some people, soy is a great choice, while others might need to avoid soy.

Soybeans — along with other beans, nuts and seeds — contain compounds called phytates which bind to minerals inside your body and contain some potentially harmful compounds.

The Asian cultures that have traditionally consumed soy typically ferment it first. This process breaks down the soy and makes it easier to digest. Plus, fermentation adds extra nutrients and probiotics (“good” bacteria) to soy. For these reasons, I prefer fermented soy foods, such as miso, natto, tempeh and some tofu.

If you are going to eat soy, remember these two very important guidelines:

  1. Say YES to whole, real soy. The Okinawans are the world’s longest-living people, probably in part because of their diet. For more than five millennia, they’ve eaten whole, organic and fermented soy foods – again, such as miso, tempeh, tofu, soy milk and edamame (young soybeans in the pod). One to two servings a day of any of these foods are fine.
  2. Say NO to processed soy. That includes soy protein isolate and concentrates, genetically engineered soy foods (typically made from Monsanto’s Roundup soybeans), soy supplements and soy junk foods like soy cheese, soy ice cream, soy oil and soy burgers. They are processed and contain unhealthy fats and other compounds. I have real concerns about these types of soy.

For someone who has leaky gut and/or thyroid issues or other autoimmune conditions, like our reader, soy may not be the best choice. Normally, when I am working with autoimmune conditions, I would recommend removing dairy, grains and beans (like soy) all together for a period of time and then reintroducing them, one-by-one, to see how their body reacts. It’s called an elimination diet, and it can be a powerful tool in your journey toward better health.

Now I want to hear from you. What are your thoughts on fructose vs. glucose? Do you have experience with treating the flu naturally? How about soy? Do you eat it? Comment on my Facebook page. If you liked this video, be sure to share it with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter. Also, submit your questions to drhyman.com, and maybe next week I’ll make a House Call to you!

Wishing you health & happiness,

Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman MD is the Medical Director at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, the Founder of The UltraWellness Center, and a ten-time #1 New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.