You love it. You crave it. You can’t live without it. A meal feels incomplete without it. It keeps you going. You keep a secret stash of it in your drawer. You feel jittery and moody without it.
What if you learned that your best friend is the most deceptive, brutal and uncompromising foe?
What if you discovered that it kills you? Slowly.
What if you made the connection that it is the underlying reason for many of your medical problems?
What if you are addicted to sugar? What would you do?
Big Sugar Shockers
According to the U.S.D.A, we have reached 100 pounds (45 kg) of sugar consumption per year. Let’s break it down here: this means 30 teaspoons of sugar per day, most of which is added sugar.
You might be a good and conscious eater and roll your eyes and say: “That’s not me. I don’t drink Coke”. Good point but here is the problem: sugar today is added to burger buns, soups, sauces, coffee drinks, canned food and juices and the list goes on. It’s often broken down to many different names of sugar, many of them unfamiliar to most consumers, like maltodextrin or maltose (there are over 50 different types of sugars), creating the illusion that there is less sugar content.
In a legendary talk “Sugar, The Bitter Truth”, Dr .Lustig said that the Big Sugar should be subjected to the same scrutiny as Big Tobacco was in the 70s. We all know what happened to the tobacco industry – it thrived for years using clever and misleading claims before it was declared incredibly harmful to our lives. Big Sugar industry is operating in a worryingly similar fashion.
Let’s explore this point for just a moment.
Take a bottle of America’s Happy Factory drink – Coke. Yes, a 12-oz bottle of coke contains 41 grams of sugar (that’s over 10 teaspoons of sugar), but what else? It also contains caffeine – a stimulant but also a diuretic that will make us pee more.
It also contains 55 grams of salt – which makes us more thirsty. So what happens when you become more thirsty and you pee more? Well, you just drink more of it. So why the sugar? The answer is simple and ugly: to mask the salt.
This is not a coincidence. This is not just a formula modification based on “what consumers want”. It’s a deliberate tactic to make us drink more and more. Marketers call it “brand loyalty”.
So you might say you don’t drink Coke. Great! But wait, let’s just pick up that yogurt you see Jamie Lee Curtis telling us about on television that is so good for us. Activia Strawberry Banana yogurt, according to their website, contains 19 grams of sugar – that’s 5 teaspoons.
It’s a tiny container so many women end up eating two or even three of these per day. That’s 10 to 15 teaspoons of sugar alone. Most of it is added sugar coming from highly synthetic sugars that wreak havoc in our liver (more on this later).
There are many more sugar shockers you might discover if you start reading the product labels. Sugar in America is in everything and it’s not in small quantities. Your favorite Starbucks Frappucino is loaded with 69 grams of sugar – that’s over 17 teaspoons. Auch.
This explains why we are so addicted to sugar. We got to this point not because we chose to but because we don’t realize what is in the food we trust and consume.
How Sugar Affect Your Brain
Sugar creates a response in the brain using the same biochemical pathways as morphine and both affect the beta-endorphin system. Beta-endorphin is a substance produced by the pituitary gland and its main function is to dull pain. This explains why people who are addicted to sugar have a far more powerful reaction to sugar than their non-addicted counterparts.
Food manufacturers have discovered this addiction a long time ago. This explains why sugar is added to so many foods, including savory ones like soups, breads, buns and sauces. Food makers who tried to reduce sugar have faced declining sales. We are, simply and plainly, addicted to sugar.
So Why Is Sugar Bad For Us?
In spite of most of the government’s silence on the overwhelming evidence of the havoc sugar causes in our body, there is enough research today showing the toxic effects of sugar on our health.
Here are only some of them:
1. Mineral Depletion
It is now well known that when we consume processed sugar our body must use lots of minerals to metabolize sugar – we are talking magnesium, calcium, chromium, potassium, zinc, and many more.
These minerals are pulled from the blood stream and needless to say this leaves our body in a state of dyshomeostasis, or imbalance. All sugars also need the full range of Vitamin Bs to be absorbed properly and you might have guessed it; most of us are deficient in the B Vitamins (not just B12).
Minerals are needed by our body to function properly. The supplement makers sold us this part of the story really well. What they failed to tell us is that synthetic supplements (in both compounded or isolated forms) do not get optimally absorbed by the human body.
Nancy Appleton in her book “Suicide by Sugar” talks about how mineral depletion is now connected to conditions such as osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hormonal imbalance, low blood pressure, kidney stones, tooth plague and many others.
2. Digestive Issues
This brings us to the next point – mineral depletion causes reduced enzyme production. We need a wide range of enzymes to break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
A reduced production of enzymes creates numerous digestive issues including “leaky gut” and other, more severe conditions like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
The most important thing to remember about the digestive system is that it is the host of our immune system.
Undigested food particles (due to a weak enzyme production) escape through the lining of the gut and get into the bloodstream. The immune system marks them as foreign objects and launches an attack. Which brings us to the next point.
3. Immune Suppression
As we said above, the immune system is now in high defense mode and it needs to mobilize white blood cells to do their job and take care of the ever-present bacteria around us.
According to Dr. Sears, high sugar consumption causes a 50% reduction in the ability of white blood cells to render harmless bacteria. In contrast, when a complex carbohydrate solution that contained starch was ingested it did not lower the ability of these white blood cells to neutralize these bacteria.
We have a pandemic of autoimmune diseases today. They range from less severe conditions like psoriasis, to thyroid conditions (Hashimoto’s and Graves’ Disease), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS), fibromyalgia, Celiac’s and many more.
All of these conditions are caused by the immune system attacking its own body organs and tissue (like the thyroid in Hashimoto’s case, muscles and joints in RA, etc.). The question is: what triggers the immune system to “get so confused”. The reasons are many and beyond the scope of this article, but sugar is most certainly one of the contributing factors.
4. Endocrine Disruption
It’s pretty rare today to meet a woman who can truly say that her hormones are balanced, she has no PMS, no mood swings, no bloating or no severe weight fluctuations. Other common hormonal issues are thyroid-related as 20 million Americans suffer from them today.
The endocrine system is a network of glands each producing hormones which keep our body in balance. There is a beautiful but delicate interplay between these hormones – which means if one goes down, it impacts other hormones and body systems.
Let’s see what is going on in the endocrine system when sugar is ingested. The first gland that gets the hit is the pancreas. The pancreas releases insulin that is like a key to open up the doors in our body cells for sugar to enter. Insulin keeps our sugar levels in check. When too much sugar is ingested, the pancreas gets too exhausted and starts producing too much insulin (which leads to hypoglycemia) or too little (which leads to hyperglycemia or diabetes).
When the pancreas is struggling, other glands step in to help out. This often leads to over- or underproduction of hormones such as thyroid hormones, estrogen, progesterone, cortisol and many more. The whole endocrine system gets thrown into disarray and this is one of the reasons why thyroid problems, adrenal fatigue, infertility, PCOS, diabetes and hypoglycemia are at an all-time high today.
The liver is a key organ in helping us keep our hormones in check as well. Consumption of certain sugars like fructose, which is metabolized in the liver, (other sugars like glucose are not) creates a waste product called uric acid. Uric acid is known to contribute to gout as well as hypertension, which as you know is another pandemic. Consuming fructose elevates ALT, which is a fatty liver marker and triglycerides, which are the key cause of heart diseases.
How To Beat Odds Against Sugar
Has this provided you with enough evidence that it’s time to redefine your relationship with your friend, sugar?
Have you been convinced that it’s not OK to be denying or ignoring to be addicted to sugar?
Here is the thing: sugar won’t kill you today or tomorrow. What it will do, though, is initiate a slow degradation of your health, a chronic inflammation that will exhaust your organs and lead to the numerous diseases we mentioned (and many more we did not).
There are solutions to overcoming sugar addiction. Many people have done it and so can you.
Start with a solid education about sugar – the different types, their ways in which your body metabolizes them and learn to listen to your body’s signals. They are there to save you. From sugar and more.
This is a guest article contributed by Magdalena Wszelaki who is the founder of Thyroid Diet Coach, a nutrition coaching practice dedicated to teaching people with thyroid and autoimmune diseases to heal thyroid with food and good lifestyle choices.
From February 19th to 26th Magdalena is hosting an online live program Sugar Rebound: Redefine Your Relationship with Sugar to Bring Back the Sexy and Energetic you. This intensive, content-rich and empowering program is designed to educate and free your body from being addicted to sugar so you can revive your health, as you’ve always wanted.
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