Halloween 2020 is sure to be one that we will all never forget. Navigating one of our favorite fall traditions while maintaining social distancing and other precautions due to COVID-19 will surely differ from what we’re used to! And while trick-or-treating may or may not be on your agenda this October 31, we know that the “treat” part probably is! Every year the average US citizen will eat 3.5 pounds of candy on Halloween (1). Not to mention how all the kids tend to put away 3 entire cups of sugar – that’s 26 times over the daily recommended limit (2).
This year as we celebrate amidst a pandemic, these high amounts of candy consumption may put you and your family at higher than normal risk of disease compared to other years. We completely understand the desire to keep things as “normal” as possible this year. Rather than canceling Halloween, we want to educate you on how exactly sugar messes up your immune system. We also want to give you some tips on how you can support your kid’s health this Halloween. That way both you and your children can celebrate stress-free!
Our immune systems are the very things that keep us safe from invaders that might cause our bodies harm, such as a virus like COVID. We have special white blood cells in our immune system that monitor our bodies 24/7 on the lookout for foreign particles. When a virus or bacteria enters the body, these blood cells work to create antibodies (like a unique marker) that they attach to the invader. That antibody signals to another kind of immune cell, the killer cell, to destroy it! Our bodies are exposed to harmful particles and bacteria almost every day of our lives, and the immune system is what keeps us from falling ill each time this happens.
A high amount of sugar can cause problems for the immune system in two significant ways. First, sugar consumption causes the actual immune cells (white blood cells and killer cells) to slow down in the body. Eating sugar can suppress as much as 50% of your immune cells for hours after it has been consumed (3). When these cells are inactive, it much easier for dangerous invaders to get past the immune system and infect our bodies. Another problem with sugar is that it tends to deplete our bodies of vital nutrients that keep the immune system operating correctly. The depletion of essential vitamins following sugar consumption specifically prevents the body from being able to heal itself properly – thus making it more vulnerable to disease (4). These changes in the body due to sugar are why it is important to take additional care of your kids this year on Halloween.
Just because Halloween this year might seem extra ~spooky~ in terms of the health of you and your family, it doesn’t mean your kid should miss out on the festivities. We believe there are ways to support the body naturally to offset some of the side effects of sugar. As we know, health is all about balance! Here are a few things that you can do to prep your kid’s body going into Halloween this year so they can stay happy and healthy!
Hydration is an essential component of anyone's health. Water helps to “flush” toxins out of the body, and when we are dehydrated, this entire process is put on hold. Sugar acts as a toxin in the body by slowing the immune systems and increasing inflammation. What’s more, eating a large amount of sugar can quickly cause dehydration in the body (5). Dehydration only exacerbates the health issues that we discussed previously. That is why leading up to Halloween night, make sure your kids are drinking lots of water to prevent dehydration and flush the sugar out of them faster.
People everywhere are becoming increasingly aware of how their food choices impact their health and the health of their loved ones. Most of the traditional Halloween candies are loaded with sugar, fat, preservatives, etc. The good news is that there are a lot of healthier alternatives, including our candy FAVES, on the market these days. Most of these healthy swaps use natural ingredients and much less sugar in them - meaning your kids can eat tons of it without all the negative effects on their health!
One of the most important parts of maintaining our health is getting restful sleep. Although it may be tempting to let your kids stay up all night on a Holiday, odds are they need rest (and so do you!) A significant number of toxins are cleaned out of the brain and body while we sleep each night, including excess sugar (6). After eating all that candy, your kids are going to need a lot of sleep so the body can heal itself.
Another thing that you can give your kids prior to any trick-or-treating is fruits and vegetables. Sugar is known to promote inflammation, which is one of the reasons it slows the immune cells so dramatically. The fiber in the fruits and veg will reduce this inflammation in the body, which will support their immune systems. Fruits and vegetables are packed full of all of the essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need. Since we know that sugar depletes the body of these nutrients, fueling up on fresh produce will keep that from happening!