The Little Known Cause of Cold & Flu Season [Sugar!]

Written By

Rhea Dali

Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.



Halloween is practically here—at least according to the kids at the pediatric clinic where I work two afternoons per week as an occupational therapist—helping kids thrive in their own lives.


Really, ever since the turn of the month of October, the kids have been talking about Halloween.




Halloween means two things in kid-speak:


Number One: Cool costumes!—getting to be anyone you want to be!


“I’m going to be Super Mario!”


“Princess Ana.”


“Darth Vader.”


“A football player.”




I’ve heard it all. (I’m still planning my costume).


The other obvious thing on kids’ radar right now is…Number Two: Candy!


After all, what kid doesn’t like candy?!


Turn on the TV and see commercials for ‘giving you a break’ (Kit Kat) or how to bite into your Reeses; And walk into any grocery store right now, and chances are, the front displays have it all out for the taking:



Mini Snickers, Butterfingers and Hershey’s bars. M&M’s and Skittles. Dum Dums and Tootsie Pops. Gummy bears and worms. Your Kit Kat bars and Reese’s.


What was your fav as a kid?


I personally loved the Jumbo Pixie Sticks (straight up sugar in a tube folks) and Candy Corn (a highly underrated ‘kid favorite’).


(And you have to see my Reese’s recipe below! A homemade version of the peanut-buttery goodness treat).


Ah, sigh…memories…


Although Halloween (and all that candy) is typically associated as a “kid-holiday”, and all that candy as “kid treats”, there is NO denying that Halloween marks the kick off of a long fall and winter season of LOTS of sugary sweets and treats for kids and adults alike (think: Halloween candy, Pumpkin Spiced Lattes, Pecan Pie, holiday fruit cakes, homemade banana bread, Christmas cookies, Christmas candy, candied yams, cranberry sauce, etc.).


Oh boy. The holiday season is upon us!


And without fail: America’s sugar addiction comes out in full-fledge this time of year!


You’ve heard it before—The average American consumes 150-170 lbs. of sugar each year; that’s about 22 teaspoons of sugar a day—that’s 88 grams (mostly hidden), or about FOUR to FIVE-TIMES the recommended daily allotment (20 grams of added sugar—not including fresh fruit—is recommended at the most—that recommendation is about half of the amount found in 1 cup of Yoplait yogurt, or your son’s Powerade at football practice, your morning Vanilla Latte or blueberry muffin from Starbucks).



Unfortunately, the food industry is not working in your favor. There are 600,000 processed foods in the marketplace—80 percent of which have added hidden sugar.


Couple these daily statistics with a “special time of year” (like Halloween, and the holidays), and you have found yourself in a sugar frenzy!


Even though you may have heard these statistics, it still seems foreign.


You say:


“Ok, so sugar, even artificial sugar, is practically in everything (from yogurt and cereals, to granola bars, protein bars, tomato sauces, deli meats, canned veggies, breads, bacon, sausage, etc.)—you name it, it’s there…BUT I am still living and breathing here. Is it really THAT bad? What does it do to you really?”


I am a firm believer that a little dirt never hurt (80/20 philosophy with ‘clean eating’ people), but given the fact that we consume more than a “little dirt” with our hidden sugar epidemic, here’s the dirt on too much sugar.





  • Overloads your liver. Eating a lot of fructose (simple sugars found in candy, processed foods, cakes, cookies, etc.) overloads the liver, forcing it to turn the fructose into fat. And, when repeatedly eating large amounts of sugar, this process can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver and all sorts of side effects (low energy, weakness, poor judgment, loss of appetite, pain in your belly)


  • Confuses your tastebuds. Sugar tastes good…and the more you eat it…the more you think it tastes good…and the more you think it tastes good…the more you ‘need’ it and crave it. In other words: it tricks your brain. Sugar eaters, unlike balanced eaters (those who eat balanced diets with protein, veggies, fats, fruit, some starch, little sugar and lots of water) are susceptible to more intense cravings and emotions around food. Tell a sugar-craver to consider taking a break from indulging in sweets every night after dinner, and chances are they will try to negotiate with you. They “need” it. They can’t tell you ‘why’ they need it…except that it tastes good. Now, taste is certainly a great reason for eating (it’s like the best part!) and I will say it again, a little dirt never hurt (moderation!!)…BUT “moderation” proves to actually be quite challenging with frequent sugar eaters because they let their tastebuds, emotions and cravings control their consumption.


  • Promotes resistance to the hormone insulin, which can completely throw off your blood sugar! (Insulin moves sugar into your cells…however when you are resistance, your body can easily get overloaded and not know how to regulate the sugar you are eating—leading to all sorts of side effects). Essentially, your body goes on a roller coaster of highs and lows throughout the day: feeling hungry, eating food, followed by a crash (low energy, shakiness, headaches), followed by a quick burst when it gets more food, then followed by another crash, and on and on. Insulin resistance is the leading cause of diabetes, the ‘obesity epidemic’, difficulties with weight management, and symptoms of low energy, shakiness and headaches around meals. Insulin resistance and blood-sugar dysfunction is also the leading cause to adrenal insufficiency and STRESS (impacting both your mind and body).


  • Is linked to higher incidences of cancer. No duh Sherlock! So many things ‘cause cancer’ nowadays, but sugar is one of those factors that you have more control over than others. Multiple studies show that people who eat a lot of sugar are at a much higher risk of getting cancer (1, 2, 3).


  • Is addictive. Just like drugs, sugar causes a release of dopamine in the reward center of the brain (4, 5). You may not ‘do drugs’, but if you regularly consume sugar…you do.


  • Raises cholesterol and causes heart disease. For YEARS, the FDA has wanted to blame fats—like butter, bacon and eggs—as the culprits for causing heart disease and cholesterol issues, but NOPE…it’s sugar. Sugar found in all those processed and packaged foods Americans consume as part of their daily diets. Studies show that large amounts of fructose can raise triglycerides, small, dense LDL and oxidized LDL (very, very bad), raise blood glucose and insulin levels and increase abdominal obesity… in as little as 10 weeks (6). Other studies have revealed a strong statistical association between sugar consumption and the risk of heart disease (7, 8). The bottom line? Sugar + trans-fats found in hydrogenated oils in the packages of foods on shelves=heart disease…not the bacon, or animal meat, or eggs, or butter. Eat the butter!


  • Lowers Immunity. Head colds, stomach bugs, even allergies and autoimmune conditions. Sugar makes you sick! How so? 80% of your immune system is located in your gut—in other words, a HEALTHY GUT=HIGHER IMMUNITY…and an UNHEALTHY GUT=LOWERED IMMUNITY. How does a gut become unhealthy? Through irritation. Think: toxins and bacteria we consume (this is why a probiotic is vital!), and ‘gut irritating’ foods, like gluten and processed grains, processed dairy products, trans-fats, and added sugar—foods the human gut was not designed to eat in the amounts that are consumed by many folks today. What does a plant need for food? Water and sunlight right?! You wouldn’t give a plant gasoline, and dump that fuel on top of it, would you? Your body is the same way. Your body was designed to eat real food—when you don’t…when you call that Cliff Bar “breakfast”, that broken down, overheated Lean Cuisine or frozen rice bowl “lunch”, that sugary cookie “snack” and that flatbread pizza “dinner”, your body feels deprived. And try as it might to function its best off of what you gave it to ‘work with’ today…it is deprived (and your gut lining becomes irritated over time: “What do I do with these foreign foods?!”). Consequently, your unhealthy gut and poor food choices impact your immunity…and chances are, if you are one to ‘come down with something’ a handful of times every fall and winter (“no matter what”)—there’s something in your food source your body is not happy with.


With the holiday ‘season’ (and fall and winter) upon us, this last point is the main point of our discussion today:


Sugar is linked to illness.



Think about it: When do people tend to ‘get the most sick’ during the year?


The fall and winter right?


Why is this time of year touted as ‘cold and flu’ season.


Sure it’s cold outside—but we aren’t living outside. In fact, we are probably inside a heck of a whole lot more than we are outside during any other time of the year.


This time of year, as mentioned above, is correlated with INCREASED sugar consumption.


Is sugar making you sick?

Or making you more at risk to catching a cold, a flu, or bug this season?


Don’t let it be.


Before the season “gets the best of you”, face the facts now.


Take an honest inventory, asking: Am I addicted to sugar?




Here are five clues that may hint at a dependence on sugar, flour and/or processed food:



  • You consume certain foods even if you are not hungry because of cravings.


  • You need more of the foods you crave to experience any pleasure or reduce negative emotions.


  • You worry about cutting down on certain foods, or feel like that means you will be ‘depriving yourself’ if you were to stop eating _____ (ice cream, bars, snack crackers, salad dressings, cereal, etc.).


  • You feel sluggish or fatigued from eating or overeating.


  • You experience health or social problems (affecting school or work) because of food issues and yet keep eating the way you do despite negative consequences.


If any of these clues resonates with you, there’s no time like the present before the holidays strike to get a better handle on your sugar consumption.


Consider joining me for my unique THRIVE Fuel Program.



Just in time for the holiday season, I am re-launching this 30-day Easy-to-Follow Fuel Program aimed at jumpstarting you towards reaching your health goals and re-wiring your body to thrive.


This is NOT a diet, quick-fix program, or ‘paleo challenge.’


THRIVE Fuel is an individualized program for clients living anywhere—available in both in-person and distance formats.


Over the course of 30 days, you will begin to:

  • Implement sustainable life change in your nutrition
  • Establish a solid foundation for reaching your goals (body composition, hormonal balance, health restoration, etc.)
  • Learn how to incorporate and prep delicious food that makes you feel alive
  • Conquer cravings or restrictive eating habits
  • Enhance your energy
  • Revamp your lifestyle factors holding you back
  • Improve your digestion
  • STOP calorie counting and weighing/measuring your food
  • Break up with fad diets
  • Learn how to listen to your body
  • Get to the root of your struggles around food, weight or your body
  • Start THRIVING in your health and life!


What’s Included?

  • 3 Sessions with Dr. Lauryn (1:1 or Distance Skype/Phone)
  • 28-Day THRIVE Fuel Guide (All You Need to Know & More)
  • 28-Day Meal Template & Grocery Guide
  • Education around fueling your body and making sustainable change that is EASY andDELICIOUS
  • Support in your specific struggles, questions and concerns
  • Weekly Encouragement and THRIVE Projects for continued success
  • Coaching and tricks for conquering your sweet tooth, caffeine addiction, restrictive or binge eating habits and more
  • Optional: Grocery Store Tour, Pantry Sweep &/or Simple Meal-Prep Lesson
  • Optional: Family-edition for helping parents transform their kids’ eating habits in a healthy, fun, kid-friendly way


Ultimately, you will learn how to nourish your body and eat intuitively for life!!!


Is THRIVE Fuel for me?


Answer these questions:


  • Struggling with conquering cravings or repetitive habits no matter how much you try or think about it?
  • Want to HEAL your metabolism so you canlose or gain weight naturally by working with (not against) your body?


  • Ready to take ACTION now so you can see RESULTS?


  • Tried adhering to certain diets, programs or food philosophies, but struggled to make it stick at the end of the program or when you felt alone in it?


  • Tired of feeling OVERWHELMED searching for the answers to your health puzzle, but always feel like you can’t find the missing piece?


  • Do you want results BETTER and FASTER than you can get on your own?




Enough said…Let’s chat!


Contact me today for a free initial consult to find out more about the program and how it can work for you.



Meal Prep Fridays


As always, here are a few MUST-TRY recipes for this weekend ahead! I like to post these on Friday so you can go stock up at the store this weekend for some new eats (and treats). Dessert is first…



Homemade Almond Butter Reeses




  • 1 cup smooth Almond Butter
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon raw honey
  • 1 cup Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips (or dark chocolate chips)




  • Place almond butter, oil and honey in a glass bowl then microwave for
  • about 30 seconds or until melted. Stir in shredded coconut until evenly
  • Divide the mixture into each opening of a mini muffin tin
  • (fills 12).
  • Place the chocolate chips in the glass bowl then microwave for approx 30 seconds or until melted. Pour melted chocolate on top of each muffin tin then place the tin in freezer for about an hour.
  • Remove muffin tin out from freezer. Carefully scrape a knife around the edges and the peanut butter cups will pop out fairly easy.


Butternut Squash Lasagna


  • Coconut oil or ghee
  • 2 medium or 1 large butternut squash
  • 1 pound lean ground beef, bison or turkey
  • 28 oz canned tomato sauce (no added sugar or salt)
  • 4 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup sliced olives (optional)
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • Sea salt & pepper, to taste



  • Preheat the oven to 400-degrees
  • In a large pan over medium heat, add coconut oil to sauté diced onion until soft.
  • Add meat, garlic and oregano and raise the heat to medium-high. Saute until the
  • meat is cooked through.
  • Add olives, tomato sauce and paste to the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat to low and simmer while you slice the squash.
  • For squash: Peel the butternut squash. Slice into very thin rounds by laying the squash on a cutting board.
  • Now it’s time to assemble the lasagna: Break out a 9×13” glassware baking dish (or two small round ones) start with a bit of sauce to cover the bottom of the dish. Then place the squash in a single layer. Now add another layer of sauce; then add about ⅓ of the eggs and mix it around. Repeat the squash-sauce-egg sequence 1-2 more times, depending on how much you have left (I used two 9″ round pans so each ended up with two layers). Finish with a light layer of sauce on top.
  • Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until a knife or fork easily pierces the squash.



Bacon, Apple & Balsamic Chicken



6 chicken breasts, pounded thin

1-2 slices bacon per chicken breast

1-2 apples (depending on size), cored and thinly sliced

balsamic vinegar

1 tbs. chopped fresh thyme

garlic powder

salt & pepper

1-2 tbs. olive oil



Preheat oven to 350. Season chicken breasts with salt, pepper and a little garlic powder. Place apple slices on top of chicken, enough to cover it. Sprinkle chopped thyme on top of apples, and then drizzle with balsamic vinegar.


Roll up chicken breast and wrap with bacon. Pin closed with toothpick. Sprinkle outside of chicken with additional salt and pepper, if desired.


Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add as many pieces of chicken will fit and cook for about 3 minutes a side. Repeat with remaining chicken.


Place chicken in a baking pan and cover with tin foil. Bake for 20 minutes or until no longer pink.




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