NW Calgary Naturopathic Doctor

The Impacts of Sugar on Your Body

I see a lot of patients in my NW Calgary Naturopathic Medicine practice that love sugar…..and I myself am guilty of having a sweet tooth 🙂 So I wanted to write a blog about the impacts that sugar has on your body, and how to minimize these impacts if you want to indulge in some sugar every once in a while. After all, life is about balance.

 

However, when sweet treats are eaten on a regular basis, and begin impacting health and quality of life (such as energy levels and moods), or become addictive, then it should be addressed.
Humans are wired to like foods that are sweet and high fat, because in times when food was scarce, these foods would contain an excess of calories that would be stored as fat, to help us survive times of scarcity and fasting. However, in today’s society food is usually always available at our finger tips whenever we want it, so we don’t need to go to high sugar, high fat foods on a regular basis. If we do eat these foods on a regular basis, it can lead to host of problems which I will describe below.

Sugar is in all foods that contain carbohydrates, such as fruit, vegetables, beans, bread, pasta, rice, milk, cheese, and more. The sugar in these foods are digested slowly along with fat and protein in those foods, so your cells get a slow and steady supply of energy. The above foods also contain other nutrients such as fiber, minerals and antioxidants, so they are important to add to a well rounded diet.

The problem is more in foods that contain added sugar. The most common of these include pop, fruit juice, cookies, candy, cakes and other baked goods, ice cream, flavored yogurt, and more, even protein bars.
Eating sugar makes us feel good because it causes the release of dopamine, a feel good hormone. It also causes a short lasting increase in energy. This can explain why sugar can be considered addictive. And, the more we eat, the more we need to get the same “hit” of energy and ability to feel good.
This can explain why when you finally cut out sugar, you don’t crave it anymore, but as soon as you start eating it, you keep craving it more and more. And why when you cut it out, you go through withdrawal symptoms.
Besides causing a release of dopamine, sugar causes an increase in insulin, which I have described in previous emails as a fat storage hormone. Insulin causes cells in the body to absorb the sugar circulating in the blood stream. If you are regularly eating sugar, the body will continue to release insulin, which can put you at a higher risk for metabolic syndrome (abdominal weight gain, elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, and Diabetes).
In addition, a lot of people report “sugar crashes” after eating sugar, which is experienced as mood swings, fatigue, headaches, and cravings, as well as weakness, shakiness, anxiousness, poor focus and a need for more sugar.

In the long term, eating sugar regularly can contribute to the development of the following symptoms:

  • obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Acne (increased insulin causes an increase in androgen secretion, oil production and inflammation)
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Fatty liver
  • Elevated triglycerides in your cholesterol panel
  • increased inflammation (causing such things as joint and muscle aches for example)
  • tooth cavities (the bacteria that feed on sugar left behind in the mouth cause cavities)
  • more rapid aging of skin by glycation of proteins that damage collagen and elastin, causing sagging skin)
  • suppressed immune system
  • increased cortisol levels (caused by fluctuations in blood sugar)
  • people that tend to eat high sugar diets are eating sugar instead of high nutrient foods and so can be deficient in vitamins and minerals necessary for optimal health)

 

So what other names could sugar be hidden behind in food labels?

 

  • corn syrup
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • brown sugar
  • corn sweetener
  • sucrose, glucose, fructose, dextrose
  • cane sugar
  • maltodextrin
  • rice syrup
  • turbinado sugar
and so much more……

So what can we do to minimize sugar in our diet?

 

  1. Eat as clean as you can, with whole ingredients, and minimizing packaged/processed foods with long labels. Of course no can do this 100% of the time with our busy schedules and lifestyles, but this is where meal prepping and cooking ahead can help. 
  2. Reduce/eliminate pop and fruit juice. The amount of sugar that can come from these drinks is astounding, and the worst part is that our body doesn’t always register the calories that comes from liquid, so we feel just as hungry as if we never drank them. I have patients that have lost body fat just from cutting out liquid calories
  3. Be vigilant of how much honey/sugar you are putting in your coffee and tea. Someone that drinks 4 coffees or teas a day with 1 teaspoon of sugar per cup is already up to 4 teaspoons of sugar per day.
  4. Flavor food with herbs and spices rather than premade cooking marinades, ketchup, etc.
  5. Switch your morning cereal to a higher protein meal such as eggs and veggies, or oatmeal with chia seeds, nuts, and blueberries.
  6. Switch your flavored yogurt to plain yogurt with your own toppings
  7. If you are constantly craving sugar, talk to me about assessing your protein intake in your diet, and certain nutrient deficiencies such as magnesium and chromium. I will assess you personally for this, and ensure the supplements I prescribe are safe for your particular health condition and/or any medications you are taking.
  8. If you are going to eat sugar, make sure you do it right after a protein containing meal. This will blunt the blood sugar and insulin spike that will occur that would be a lot higher if you were to just eat sugar.
  9. If you are craving chocolate, go for 2 squares of 70 to 90% dark cacao, which has less sugar than milk chocolate, and more benefits such as antioxidants. Combine this with some nuts to balance the blood sugar (sweet and salty anyone?!)
  10. If you are craving sugar because you are fatigued, talk to me about this at your next visit!
  11. Occasionally, enjoy a sweet treat of your choice and don’t feel guilty! Like I said, life is about balance, and is too short to not enjoy your favorite dessert when you really want it 🙂
I hope this email helps you. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me at your next visit! 
Naturopathic Vitality Acupuncture and Wellness Clinic
205-5403 Crowchild Trail NW
Calgary, AB
(403) 719-2594

 

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