In the year 2020, it’s all about keeping your immune system healthy. And one of the easiest ways to support your immune system is by eliminating added sugars. Easier said than done for many people these days.
But here’s one way to illustrate the link between sugar consumption and the immune system. In 2015, scientists from Ohio’s Case Western Reserve University discovered a molecular mechanism that shows how high blood glucose levels destroy molecules that interfere with the body’s natural infection-control defenses.
Another way high blood sugar suppresses the immune system involves T cells. These are special white blood immune cells that are part of the adaptive immune response. But if you have high blood sugar, these T cells bind to abdominal fat and can trigger hyper-inflammatory responses. This in turn also makes your body more resistant to insulin.
Just drinking a soft drink is enough to suppress white blood cell function by nearly half for several hours. It’s like your white blood cells have themselves fallen into a carb coma.
The Importance of Insulin Sensitivity For Immune Function
Many people are aware of the importance of managing A1C blood glucose levels. But less attention is paid to insulin, the hormone secreted by the pancreas that escorts sugar into the cells. The more resistant your cells are to insulin, the harder your pancreas has to work to release the blood-sugar-normalizing hormone.
Insulin resistance has become a very serious health concern over recent years; the condition is now considered a core component of metabolic syndrome. In a research article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, out of 8,814 surveyed in the USA, over 40% of people 60–69 years old surveyed were insulin resistant.
The ubiquity of high-fructose corn syrup is largely to blame for the spike in, well, blood sugar spikes and consequential rates of diabetes and obesity. The American consumption of fructose has significantly jumped from 37 grams per day in the 1970s to a record high of 62.5g per day in the 2000. [SOURCE]
Consuming loads of sugar affects more than your waistline and immune system. For instance, in one long-term study, participants with type 2 diabetes at the beginning of the study were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Clearly, we are a country of sugar addicts. Although adaptogenic herbs are no stand-alone substitute for a healthy diet and exercise, these special medicinal plants have been shown in research studies to support blood sugar.
How Can Adaptogenic Herbs Support Blood Sugar?
Traditional herbalists don’t pay attention to A1C levels or T cell activity. But herbalism has several millennia of experience managing blood sugar and metabolic imbalances.
According to co-authors David Winston and Steven Maimes, in the book, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief, adaptogenic herbs help regulate blood sugar by keeping cortisol levels in balance. And by doing so, adaptogenic herbs enhance the body’s use of glucose.
Glucose (a simple sugar) increases cortisol secretion during a stressful event. In one study, cortisol levels were increased by glucose, by a factor of almost 4 times (from 5 nmol/l to 23nmol/l).
According to Chinese research on traditional herbs that are classified as adaptogenic, adaptogens strengthen the functioning of each bodily system. They also promote optimal response, promote recovery of function, and help regulate energy use by improving the function of neuroendocrine system. Moreover, adaptogens enhance cellular energy transfer, which can make the body utilize oxygen, glucose, lipids and proteins very effectively, thus providing us with a steady supply of energy. [SOURCE]
We often think about stress in terms of paying the bills and having a hectic job. But eating lots of sugar is just as stressful to the body. That’s why adaptogenic herbs may play a useful role in supporting healthier blood sugar levels.
Adaptogenic Herbs That Support Blood Sugar
Winston and Maimes list the following herbs to help normalize insulin and blood sugar levels:
- American ginseng
- Asian ginseng
- Dan Shen (aka “poor man’s ginseng” or codonopsis)
- Eleuthero (Siberian ginseng)
- He Shou Wu
- Holy Basil
- Licorice Root
Many of these herbs are contained in Sun Horse Energy’s proprietary Global Resonance Formulation.
(New to adaptogens? The more of them working in a formula that’s crafted by a master herbalist like our founder, Dan, the better. Try Ultimate Energy to get started.)
Rhodiola rosea was found to stimulate glucose uptake in muscle cells. The more glucose your muscles use, the less of it will be stored as glycogen (glucose in the liver, which if not burned off gets stored as body fat.) Salidroside is the main active ingredient in rhodiola that reduces stress impairment. [SOURCE]
Ginseng has also been shown in research studies to support blood glucose levels. The main phytochemical class in ginseng, appropriately called ginsenosides, are believed to lessen the severity of insulin resistance, especially the ginsenoside, Rb1. Both cell studies and human trials suggest Rb1: “Exerts various pharmacological effects on metabolic disorders, including attenuation of glycemia, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia, which depend on the modulation of oxidative stress, and the inflammatory response.”
Licorice root (not to be confused with licorice candy, which goes without saying, is horrible for blood sugar management) has been shown to support fasting blood glucose; visceral adipose tissues (where dangerous body fat accumulates); and supports overall weight management. [SOURCE]
Rhodiola, ginseng, licorice root are featured in our Global Resonance Formulation. Another one shown in research studies to support blood sugar is astragalus root. Like licorice, it lowers fasting blood glucose, as well as increases insulin sensitivity. It also regulates levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which in turn regulates cortisol levels.
Fungal adaptogens like reishi (also included in the Global Resonance Formulation) and chaga are blood-sugar-supporting natural ingredients.
Along with eating a balanced, low-sugar diet and getting plenty of exercise, taking adaptogenic herbs is a smart strategy for supporting your blood sugar levels. And when your blood sugar levels are balanced, your immune system has a better chance of also operating effectively in balance.