Reducing Alcohol and Sugar Consumption! Help Prevent Influenza

Wine glasses

Is it an Old Wives’ tale that a tot of brandy can cure a cold? There has been much debate on the subject over the years and there are different opinions on whether reducing alcohol and sugar in the diet could be helpful in influenza prevention. Being more aware of how certain food and drink can affect our immune system, could be the answer to better overall health.

Can Alcohol Kill a Virus?

Many people have thought that because we often use alcohol to sterilise equipment and clean wounds, that the same might happen if we put alcohol inside of our bodies too. Unfortunately, because the virus is in the blood, we would need copious amounts of alcohol in order to kill the virus, in the region of 60-80%, which would most likely cause us to suffer from alcohol poisoning or death! So the short answer is no. Drinking alcohol to ‘cure’ us would have far more detrimental effects than it would beneficial.

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Can Alcohol Help in Influenza Prevention?

As a general rule, alcohol does not appear to be able to prevent infection. However, a study carried out by Carnegie Mellon University in 1993, found that drinking beer and spirits had no affect on a person’s likelihood of picking up a virus; but drinking wine did. It was concluded that a person was 60% less likely to contract a virus if they drank more than 14 glasses of wine per week! This number increased slightly if they drank red wine. This appears to be down to the antioxidants in the wine, and not the alcohol itself, which is why drinking any type of alcohol does not have the same effect. We are not encouraging the excessive drinking of alcohol, merely pointing out that perhaps finding antioxidants in other foods or drink may be the way to boost the immune system to prevent contracting viruses, as evidently alcohol is not the reason for prevention of colds and Flu.

What Should We Avoid For Influenza Prevention?

In a word, sugar. It’s highly calorific, which leads to weight gain, causing other health problems, such as diabetes. Sugar is not good for the immune system, as it suppresses the immune cells, which are needed to attack any bacteria that enters our system.

There are cells in our system called phagocytes and they help to fight viruses and bacteria by enveloping the bacteria, then killing it and transporting it out of the body to prevent infection. When sugar is consumed, the phagocytes think that the sugar is vitamin C because the structure is very similar. It then absorbs the sugar, which prevents the cells from doing their job, thereby decreasing their ability to kill off viruses/bacteria and depleting the immune system. So in essence, sugar can actually increase your chances of picking up coughs, colds and the Flu.

Avoid Sugar and Alcohol

Alcohol is loaded with sugar. It varies in its amounts in different types of alcohol, but no matter what your favourite tipple is, you are guaranteed to be consuming more sugar than you think.

When sugar is released into the bloodstream, the blood sugar levels rise and insulin is released to bring those sugars back down to a normal level. When alcohol is consumed, the body assumes it is a toxin and works to flush it out of the system to prevent damage. While it is doing this, other processes, such as the release of insulin, are interrupted and the body eventually ends up in a state of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Once the insulin response is exhausted because of too much sugar or alcohol consumption, high blood sugar occurs and diabetes is a real possibility.

The immune system cannot keep up with being subjected to an overload of sugar or alcohol and this is when the body will contract viruses and infections on a continual basis.

Although the old wives’ tale could be correct in the sense that the antioxidants in wine may help to prevent catching a virus – it isn’t the alcohol itself which is beneficial. Antioxidants can be found in a variety of foods; berries, beans, russet potatoes and coffee are just a few which could boost immunity and inhibit the chances of picking up infections. By also avoiding sugar and alcohol, you are giving your immune system the best chance of fending off the Flu or a cold, in the most natural way possible.