Why Sugar is BAD
Words: Dr Taylor Bean
I have a love for sweet things, as do many of us. But this love should be monitored. Why? Because heavy use of sugar, overtime, can lead to some unfortunate health outcomes. When we eat sugary foods, this causes sugar in our blood stream to spike. When these levels are too high, or oscillate widely throughout the day, it can wreak havoc on our physical and mental health. High sugar levels have been linked to such diseases as diabetes, autoimmune disease, obesity, high cholesterol and cancer.
Before we talk about the negative aspects of sugar, lets talk about the positives.
Do we benefit from sugar?
Yes. Sugar, when broken down into its smallest chemical form is called glucose. Glucose is a carbohydrate that is found in all growing and living things. It is the fuel to keep everything going and life cannot survive without it. So why is it so bad if we need it to survive?
This answer is simple. It is the form of sugar and more importantly the amount we consume.
The naturally occurring sugars found in plants and fruit are called sucrose, fructose and glucose. When these natural sugars are processed, any nutrients they once contained are removed creating a more refined sugar. It is these refined sugars that cause a rapid rise in blood sugar, and over time, can lead to serious health issues.
Refined sugars are found on food labels as dextrose, cane juice, fruit sugar, barley malt syrup, and high fructose corn syrup. When you look at the food label, it is best if the product doesn’t contain any of these or is at least listed as the fourth on the ingredient.
How does sugar have a negative impact on our body and why do we have a strong desire for it?
Many are aware that the consumption of large amounts of sugar can lead to the development of Type II diabetes, excess weight gain among many other issues, which I outline later on. One area I want to highlight is its profound action on the brain. When sugar is eaten, it provides a quick reward for the brain and body by two main actions: causing the release of dopamine and causing an opiate-like response. Both of these actions leave the body feeling satisfied but also creates a strong desire for more sugar.
What does the release of dopamine do?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that when released, creates a sensation of pleasure along with feeling safe and secure. It is a neurotransmitter that gives us drive and motivation. Dopamine is important and a healthy neurotransmitter to have around. It is released during times when we feel love, during exercise and sex, and when we socialize. All of these things we want to feel so we obviously would want dopamine to be around. The unhealthy link between dopamine and sugar is stress. Our craving for sugar can then increase when we feel stressed and during these times, we want to achieve a sensation of feeling safe and secure. This is where learning to cope with stress in a more natural way through meditation, breathing or imagery can be very affective so we don’t gravitate towards sugar as a coping mechanism.
Why I encourage patients to reduce their refined sugar intake
There is a balancing act when it comes to sugar. We don’t want too much and we don’t want too little. It takes certain glands and organs to achieve homeostasis, which can be more easily achieved if we consume a well balanced diet.
In addition to throwing off the body's homeostasis, excess sugar may result in a number of other significant consequences. These include
- Suppressing your immune system and impair your defenses against infections
- Feed candida and causing overgrowth causing vaginal yeast infections, thrush, and digestive complaints.
- Causing imbalances with absorption of calcium and magnesium
- Producing a significant rise in totally cholesterol, triglycerides and bad cholesterol and a decrease in good cholesterol
- Sugar feeds cancer cells and has been connected with the development of cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, biliary tract, lung, gallbladder and stomach
- Weaken eyesight
- Cause your saliva to become acidic, tooth decay, and periodontal disease
- Contributing to osteoporosis
- Lower the ability of enzymes to function
- Cause headaches, including migraines
- Sugar can reduce the learning capacity, adversely affect school children's grades and cause learning disorders
- Sugar can cause an increase in delta, alpha, and theta brain waves which can alter your mind's ability to think clearly
- Cause hormonal imbalances such as increasing estrogen in men, exacerbating PMS, and decreasing growth hormone
Knowing that excessive sugar plays a large role in disease, let’s chat about healthy sugar alternatives and how to maintain blood sugar levels
What could be some healthy sweet alternatives?
- Blackstrap molasses, which is full of minerals.
- Maple syrup, which has a high calcium content.
- Stevia is perfect if you like the taste.
- Unpasteurized honey
Tips to help regulate your blood sugar levels
- Healthy fats and lean protein: Alongside protein, healthy fats such as avocados and coconut oil can be extremely effective in regulating blood sugar levels as they assist in reducing the uptake of glucose in the blood, causing you to feel more satisfied.
- Fiber: Fresh fruits and vegetables provide you with the nutrients that you need and helps to keep you feeling full and satiated.
- Chromium containing foods: Chromium is a mineral that impacts glucose metabolism and thus blood sugar regulation and cravings. Foods that contain chromium include lean meats, asparagus, green beans and prunes
Here are a few tips to help support your body and reduce sugar cravings
- Movement: Simple ideas from walking, stretching to yoga. Your exercise regime does not need to be solely based aerobic exercises. Slow movements and stretching are very affective and healthy for your body. Simply just move!
- Sleep: it is best to get into bed by 11pm and achieve at least 7-9 hours each night
- Regular breaks during the day - reconnect with your body. Simply just doing a few deep breaths can really help relax your body.
- Supplementing with specific nutrients. Supplementation should always be tailored to your needs – from supporting digestion, adrenal glands, immunity, or even managing blood sugar levels.
Overall it is about taking care of your body in a holistic way - eating well, sleeping, drinking lots of water, exercise, meditation, and focusing on the positive relationships in your life.