Many of us grew up with refined sugar lurking in sandwich bread, granola, tomato sauce, salad dressings, and even dried fruits. Surprisingly, most of us ate it today without realizing it because it is hidden in even more foods and drinks than ever before. Refined sugar is linked to numerous health problems. Symptoms of too much sugar can range from hormonal imbalances to candida, SIBO, obesity, heart disease, high blood sugar (which leads to many health problems including PCOS in women), diabetes, and much more.
For the past decade, I’ve focused on gut health because the bulk of our immune system is in our gut. Aside from the above health conditions, the worst thing about sugar, in my opinion, is that it can contribute to what has been called Leaky Gut. When we get Leaky Gut, the lining of our intestines becomes thinner and food that is supposed to stay in the intestinal lining and intestines enters the immune system. What happens next is your immune system then attacks the food particles like a foreign invader and inflammation becomes systemic in your body. No fun.
Inflammation & Symptoms
This is the time when symptoms appear out of nowhere in your body. This is when you feel inflamed; You may be bloated, have a headache, or have insomnia. This is also the case if your doctor puts you on a pill to manage your symptoms, as they don’t know how to heal your body or figure out what’s going on. All he knows is how to cover up your symptoms and relieve your pain. When you take a pill to relieve the pain, the cause of the pain is still in your body, yelling at you. If you ignore it with a pill, it will eventually manifest in another area of your body. This is not the time to ignore your symptoms, it is the time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what is going on inside you.
Your body gives you feedback throughout the day. When a symptom occurs, you know something is wrong. You need to work with your body to find the cause of curing these symptoms. If you are unaware of the foods you put into your body, or if you are unaware of the hidden inflammatory ingredients lurking in your so-called “healthy” foods, I strongly recommend checking the ingredient labels for sugar. Some ingredients to look out for are sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, barley malt, dextrose, rice syrup, and maltose. There are at least 61 different names for sugar on food labels!
The name of the game here is to focus on slowly reducing your sugar intake day in and day out. Yes, you can have withdrawal symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and cravings like you do when you stop drinking coffee, but after a few days of sugar removal you will feel like a whole new person because you don’t have the energy to high and high Lows you did when sugar was in your lifestyle.
The effects of processed foods on your blood sugar
Processed foods that contain some form of sugar can stimulate the reward system in our brain as much as drugs, which is why it is so difficult to stop eating a donut or soda because we become addicted to these “wrong” foods. Simple carbohydrates like white bread and cookies are broken down into sugar by the body, which enters the bloodstream and can lead to insulin resistance. This means that your cells are not responding to the insulin produced in your pancreas as they should. Also, when your blood sugar levels go up, you experience a high, and then a crash, followed by your desire to reach for foods that are more sugary and high in carbohydrates. This is a cycle and you will feel trapped because you can’t stop eating sugar! Your brain is powerful. So if you keep feeding it sugar, it will always want more.
When we eat, our brain releases feel-good hormones such as dopamine, which we interpret as pleasure. When we eat processed foods, they can cause powerful reward releases, causing our bodies to crave that feeling. You can train your body to let go of those cravings and reduce the amount of sugar you eat by retraining your taste buds with some of these tips.
- Drink a large glass of water with a freshly squeezed lemon or lime every time you feel like it. Add chopped fresh mint leaves for a naturally sweeter taste if desired. We often mistake our thirst for hunger, so it is important to check with us how thirsty we are before we eat. Before reaching for food, have a large glass of water and wait ten minutes to see if you are still hungry. You might be surprised to learn that your body was just thirsty!
- Add ground cinnamon to your favorite recipes like chilli, soups, and oatmeal to add a touch of sweetness with no added sugar. You can also add cinnamon sticks to a cup of your favorite hot tea for a sweet touch without adding a spoonful of sugar.
- Add healthier fats like avocado, walnuts, almonds, extra virgin olive oil, and sunflower seeds to your meals and snacks to balance your blood sugar and keep you from reaching for the candy jar.
- Add naturally sweetened root vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, rutabaga, parsnips, and butternut squash to your meals for a few weeks and see how different you feel. You can toast these options in the oven to bring out their sweetness. Chop one or all of these vegetables and place them in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit on a rimmed baking sheet with a dash of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt and pepper. Fry for 30-40 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Take out of the oven and serve warm.
- Make sure you are eating enough good quality protein with every meal. Your body needs protein and healthy fats to balance your blood sugar. Any meal you eat throughout the day should be made up of fiber / complex carbohydrates (think sweet potatoes and chickpeas), protein, and healthy fats.
- Focus on adding foods that make you feel energized. I know this might not sound like that easy, but it’s worth it in the end because the longer you wait to remove inflammatory foods like sugar from your lifestyle, the more you will deal with health issues and medical bills in the future. Remember, when you eat simple carbohydrates like white bread and cookies, they turn into sugar in your body and your blood sugar spikes, which over time causes health problems in your body and makes you immediately terrible, sluggish, and tired! Slowly remove sugar and go at your own pace. Be patient with yourself and take the time to discover naturally sweet foods, new healthy fats and proteins so that you can be satisfied all day with no snacks from the machine. My 30 day reset will walk you through this thing and I’ll keep your hand on the way!
Amie Valpone is the founder of TheHealthyApple.com and the best-selling author of Eating Clean: The 21 Day Plan to Detox, Combat Inflammation, and Reset Your Body. She recently cured herself of a decade of chronic health problems like Lyme disease, C-Diff colitis, hypothyroidism, leaky gut, candida, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), SIBO (small intestinal bacteria overgrowth), toxic mold and heavy metal levels, and more through detox and an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.
The views expressed in this article are intended to stimulate conversation and highlight alternative studies and are for informational purposes only. We are not here to diagnose or treat any health or medical condition, nor should it be relied on as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, even if it is the advice of a health professional, doctor, or health care professional. If you make any lifestyle or health changes, see your primary care doctor. The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Organic Authority, Inc.
Read more from Amie Valpone:
6 signs you are stressed out and living in flight or combat mode and need a reset
27 signs you have an unhealthy bowel