Diabetes and Immune System

How blood sugar goes into a tailspin during infections

Welcome to the flu season! Many are now plagued by flu, colds and sore throat. The change from wetness, coldness and dry heating air causes problems for our mucous membranes. The cold viruses are wreaking havoc – whether at work, on public transportation, the subway or while shopping. It doesn’t take long to catch a cold.

For healthy people with a strong immune system, a cold is usually just a trifle. But not for diabetics and people who have already developed insulin resistance. In this case, flu infections can have unpleasant consequences.

Whether cold, flu or gastrointestinal infection – for diabetics this means additional stress. In addition to the “fight” against bacteria and viruses, blood sugar also gets into the mix.

High blood sugar values block the immune system

Increased blood glucose levels, as scientists have been able to demonstrate, have a strong influence on the functioning of the immune system. For example, the scavenger cells are restricted in their work, i.e. unwanted viruses and bacteria cannot be trapped and eliminated by the scavenger cells with the usual speed. The migration of the defense cells to the affected tissues or to the lymph nodes, which also support the defense, is also impeded with high sugar levels.

High blood sugar levels are also responsible for the skin and mucous membranes being drier and often poorly supplied with blood. As a result, the skin barriers are weakened and pathogens can overcome them more easily and penetrate the body, where they multiply quickly.

Blood sugar fluctuations due to infections

When the immune system is fighting viruses or bacteria, fever often occurs as an accompanying symptom, which leads to an increased need for insulin. What is the connection here? Well, once the body has recognized a foreign body such as a virus, it tries to fight it off with all its might.

The metabolism really revs up and releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. At the same time, other endogenous substances are formed to fight against unwelcome bacteria and viruses. These processes cause the body temperature to rise. Fever develops and viruses and bacteria, which consist of protein, can be killed by the heat. 

To generate the heat, the body mobilizes its energy reserves, which are stored in the liver and muscle cells in the form of glycogen. In this process, the stress hormones and the hormone glucagon are instrumental in stimulating the liver to release glucose, which causes the blood glucose level to rise. As a result, insulin levels also rise, because insulin is needed to open the door to the cells so that blood glucose can be absorbed and burnt in the cells. As body temperature increases, so does the need for insulin, which is not a problem for an otherwise healthy organism. For a diabetic, however, this means that blood glucose must be monitored closely in order to be able to react quickly to fluctuations. If insulin resistance already exists, but diabetes has not yet been diagnosed, this can also seriously upset the metabolism.

Although infections generally raise blood sugar levels, there is a risk of drops in the case of a gastrointestinal flu. Vomiting or diarrhea compromises the absorption of carbohydrates. If there is too much insulin, but the person does not eat or vomits the food eaten, hypoglycemia can result. The severity of this depends on insulin sensitivity.

Prevention and strengthening the immune system

Unfortunately, you cannot prevent a cold completely, but you can strengthen your immune system. Those who exercise a lot and are also in the fresh air, who also observe hygienic rules of behavior such as keeping their distance, washing hands, etc., are already doing a lot for their health.

Nutrition is also crucial for physical well-being and a strong immune system. A predominantly alkaline diet provides true nutrient boosters to strengthen the immune system. It consists of lots of vegetables, herbs, legumes and nuts and is rich in antioxidant vital substances. Numerous studies show that especially vitamins A, C, D, E and beta-carotene, but also the trace elements zinc, iron and selenium as well as secondary plant compounds are essential for an active and strong immune system. These micronutrients activate the immune cells, stimulate antibody formation and also influence the production of natural killer cells.

Therefore, the Metabolic Balance nutrition plan is ideal. It provides a portion of alkaline foods three times a day, thus supplying the body with sufficient amounts of all vital nutrients. In addition, spices such as ginger, turmeric and chili with their essential oils strengthen the immune-stimulating effect.

Unfavorable food combinations or overeating can harm the body’s defenses, as necessary nutrients for an intact immune system are missing.

It is undisputed that we need sugar for our metabolism – but the guiding principle “the dose makes the poison” applies more than ever. When selecting carbohydrates and thus also the available sugars, be sure to choose natural products with long-chain carbohydrates and a high fiber content to achieve a slow rise in blood glucose levels. These foods are richer in vital nutrients compared to refined and highly processed foods, keep blood sugar at a healthy level, and provide long-lasting satiety and fullness.

Plenty of exercise and sufficient sleep

In addition to a diet rich in vital substances, moderate endurance activity such as long walks, hiking or cycling are suitable for supplying the body with sufficient oxygen and with that also strengthening of the immune system. Another guarantee for a healthy, strong immune system is restful sleep. When we feel unwell, a flu is on the way or we are simply tired, the need for sleep often increases significantly. The advice “sleep yourself well” does not come by chance. During sleep, the immune system works at full speed. Studies show that natural killer cells and phagocytes are more active during sleep and thereby protect the body. Stress hormone levels also drop during sleep, which also has a positive effect on blood sugar levels. A lack of sleep can therefore impair the functioning of the immune system and is partly responsible for blood sugar fluctuations.

The metabolism in balance

Diabetes is a metabolic disease that you do not necessarily have to be defenseless against. Many people do not even know that they are already in the early stages of diabetes. “Pre-diabetes” is on the rise worldwide. But with the right diet you can do a lot for your own health. A Metabolic Balance diet enables the body to produce the correct quantities of the enzymes and hormones that are important for its metabolic functions, and thus influence insulin secretion in a natural way – without having to sacrifice taste and enjoyment. With the help of nutrition according to Metabolic Balance guidelines, it is possible to keep the insulin level in the body constantly low and at the same time strengthen the immune system in a natural way.

Sources:

  1. Heidemann C & Scheidt-Nave C. Prävalenz, Inzidenz und Mortalität von Diabetes mellitus bei Erwachsenen in Deutschland – Bestandsaufnahme zur Diabetes-Surveillance. Robert Koch-Institut: Journal of Health Monitoring 2017
  2. Hemmingsen, B. et al.: Diet, physical activity or both for preventionnor delay of type 2 diabetes mellitus and its associated complications in people at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus. In: Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017
  3. Jacobs, E. and Rathmann, W.: Epidemiologie des Diabetes. In: Diabetologie und Stoffwechsel 2017; 12(06): 437-446.
  4. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e. V.: Ballaststoffe – wertvoll für Ihre Gesundheit. 1. Auflage, 2013 https://www.dge-medienservice.de/ballaststoffe.html
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  6. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e. V.: Stellungnahme – Gemüse und Obst in der Prävention ausgewählter chronischer Krankheiten. 2012 https://www.dge.de/fileadmin/public/doc/ws/stellungnahme/DGE-Stellungnahme-Gemuese-Obst-2012.pdf
  7. Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung e. V.: Fettzufuhr und ernährungsmitbedingte Krankheiten – DGE veröffentlicht 2. Version der evidenzbasierten Leitlinie. Presseinformation vom 20.01.2015 https://www.dge.de/presse/pm/fettzufuhr-und-ernaehrungsmitbedingte-krankheiten/
  8. Toeller, M.: Evidenzbasierte Empfehlungen zur Ernährungstherapie und Prävention des Diabetes mellitus, 2005, Ernährungs-Umschau 52, Heft 6

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