For Your Health: Consider Food Sensitivities this Holiday Season

By: Dr. Chad Larson Advisor and Consultant on Clinical Consulting Team for Cyrex Laboratories.
Edited by Lawndale Bilingual Newspaper

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - HealthWhen it comes to your health and the holidays, family gatherings and home-cooked feasts can take a toll on more than just your waistline. Factors such as stress and indulgent treats, exacerbated by cold and flu season, can strain your immune system at a time when it’s more important than ever for it to be in peak condition. While we may not have perfect control over invisible threats in our environments, such as viruses and bacteria, some immune insults are more easily managed than others. Along with stress management, getting good sleep (and enough of it), keeping up personal relationships and exercising, one critical way to support your immune system is through a thoughtful diet. This holiday season, take control of your health and plan a delicious feast while keeping food sensitivities top of mind. Consider these common holiday treats and meals that might leave you feeling less than 100 percent:

Sugar intake: Studies show that foods with a higher sugar content can suppress your immune system for around five hours after a single exposure. Just 75 grams of sugar can hinder the immune system by weakening white blood cells, which your body needs to fight off infection. During a season where sweet treats are always within reach, sugar consumption can add up quickly. For context, there are approximately 32 grams of sugar in a slice of pumpkin pie, 25 grams in a slice of jellied cranberry sauce and 39 grams in a can of Coca-Cola. If you can’t shake your sweet tooth, remember that moderation is key and aim for roughly 25 grams recommended by the World Health Organization.

Ultra-processed foods: If you are planning to prepare any meal that is grain-based, it is most likely ultra-processed. Examples are breads, cookies, pastries, cakes, pies, chips, and muffins. Ultra-processed food consumption has been associated with inflammation, oxidation, and immune system dysfunction. Ultra-processed foods have also been shown to increase the risk of obesity, hypertension, and dyslipidemia — all major causes of chronic disease today. Unfortunately, ultra-processed foods do not represent an occasional indulgence or treat, they have become a staple, making up almost 70 percent of the diet.

Dairy: You may want to hold the butter or milk in your mashed potatoes or enjoy pumpkin pie without whipped cream. It’s common for aging adults to experience a decrease in lactase production — meaning it’s difficult to break down lactose in the dishes we’ve come to love in our Thanksgiving & Christmas dinners. According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 65 percent of the global population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy. This can lead to the weakening of contractions in the large intestine or bacterial overgrowth, among other symptoms. Immune reactivity to dairy proteins can also be a problem.

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

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