Do you suffer from sugar cravings, mood swings, fatigue, aches and pains, digestive issues? Do you get sick frequently? All of these symptoms and many more are often related to too much sugar in our diets.
According to the USDA, the average American consumes more than 150 pounds of sugar in a year. Wow! Less than 100 years ago, the average person ate only five pounds per year. That’s quite an increase.
I just finished reading a book called Lick the Sugar Habit, by Nancy Appleton, PhD. It is quite an eye-opener to find out about the far-reaching, detrimental effects of sugar on our bodies, and how and why sugar has this effect. Appleton has an interesting personal story to tell about how sugar affected her life, and how it motivated her to study clinical nutrition.
Let’s begin by defining sugar for the purposes of this discussion. Simple sugars include sucrose, honey, fructose, glucose, dextrose, levulose, maltose, raw sugar, turbinado sugar, maple sugar, galactose, brown sugar, dextrine, barley malt, rice syrup, corn sweetener and corn syrup.
Are you addicted to sugar?
To get an idea if sugar is affecting your health and life, I suggest that you take Nancy Appleton’s Sugar Quiz. If you answered “false” to more than four of the statements, you are likely addicted to sugar. If you answered “false” to fewer than four statements, you may not be addicted to sugar, but it may still be affecting your health.
How does sugar affect your health?
Our bodies are always striving for balance: balance of minerals, balance of hormones, balance of overall blood chemistry. If something upsets this balance, the body starts down the path to disease. The more unhealthy one is, the longer it takes for the body to recover from nutritional indiscretions and find its way back to balance. It can take as little as two teaspoons of sugar to greatly throw off the body’s chemistry.
One of the things that is affected by eating sugar is mineral balance. Research shows that each mineral works in conjunction with all other minerals. When the level of one is off, the whole group of minerals do not function properly.
When we ingest sugar, the level of calcium in our blood rises. Where does the calcium come from? Our bones. Therefore, the best recommendation for osteopenia/osteoporosis is to stop eating sugar. Taking more calcium just throws the mineral balance off further.
Another sugar-sensitive system in our bodies is the hormonal system. Much like minerals, when one hormone level is out of balance, the whole system is affected. Eating sugar speeds up the functioning of certain glands, such as the pancreas and adrenals, upsetting the whole balance. This lack of hormonal balance can lead to many symptoms such as mood swings, hormonal issues, poor sleep, or to diabetes.
Digestive enzymes are affected by sugar via the mineral balance of our body. Most enzymes are mineral-dependent to do their work. When we eat sugar, usable minerals are depleted and the enzymes in our small intestines can’t digest food properly. This in turn means that our cells aren’t able to use the nutrition that we ingest.
As the above suggests, the food that is in our stomach at the same time that we eat sugar will not be digested properly. This decomposing food will eventually lead to an allergy or sensitivity to the food that is in the stomach. It is no coincidence that the most common allergies and sensitivites are things frequently eaten with sugar, including wheat, corn, milk, chocolate, eggs.
The immune system is affected by sugar on multiple levels. Some studies show that two hours after eating sugar, immune activity is greatly decreased. In other words, sugar greatly decreases how many bacteria are handled by our immune system. The allergy/sensitivity cycle mentioned above slowly fatigues immune function. And, the chronic mineral and hormonal imbalance will break down the immune system over time, all leading to degenerative disease.
The monkey is on our back
As Nancy Appleton writes: “A person’s genes do not cause disease—rather, the culprit is an abusive lifestyle that constantly upsets the body chemistry. We are all born with a genetic blueprint. When you upset your body chemistry continually, the disease of your genetic blueprint is more likely to develop than if you keep your body in balance. This concept forces us to recognize that we are responsible for our disease. It puts the monkey on our back.”
For another recent thought-provoking take on sugar’s negative effects on health and Minnesota’s role in its production, check out “The new Public Enemy No. 1: Sugar,” in the April 26 Star Tribune.