There has been a lot of talk about refined sugar in the media and I’m so happy to see we are becoming more aware of the negative effects it has on our bodies.
I thought I would talk a little about these effects, and why they can be so detrimental to our health. Most of us are familiar with the affect excess sugar can have on us; our appetites increase and we can have a greater desire for more sweets, which can lead to cravings, mood swings, and the all too familiar energy crash which leaves you reaching for more sugar to pick you back up again.
Eating too much sugar can lead to unhealthy eating patterns as well as an addiction to sugar. This is because sugar is a mood-booster – it prompts the body to release dopamine and serotonin (our happy and pleasure hormones) into the reward centre of the brain. The instant ‘lift’ we get from sugar is one of the reasons many people turn to it at times of stress, difficultly, celebration or when we crave comfort or reward. This is also why people who eat a lot of sugar continually seek out foods that will produce those feel-good and positive feelings again and again. As a kid, we’re often warned about the dangers of alcohol and drugs. But hardly anyone ever cautions us against the health detriments and addictive nature of sugar.
How Does Excess Sugar Affect the Body?
Due to the effects refined sugar has on our brains, there is a greater chance of becoming overweight or obese if it’s consumed on a regular basis. It can override the feelings of fullness and satiety because sugar is filled with empty calories and lacks important food components such as vitamins, minerals, fibre, quality fats and protein which help us to feel satisfied (and nourished).
Another reason sugar may be contributing to obesity is because the food manufacturers have found clever ways to disguise the word sugar which unfortunately can make it harder to identify it in the ingredients list. You can read more about this in my blog ‘Unmasking Hidden Sugars’ where I take an in depth look at where you can find hidden sugars in food products and provide an extensive list of all the sneaky names manufactures use in replace of the word ‘sugar’.
Some of the other negative health effects excess sugar consumption has on our bodies include:
- Insulin resistance
- Increased gut permeability
- Low-grade inflammation
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Oxidative stress
- Tooth decay
- Suppressed immune system
- Vitamin and mineral depletion
- Increased risk of developing cancer
- Increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes
- As well as increased risk of developing other diseases like liver and inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis and mental decline.
But the good news is that you can prevent and even reverse much of the harm done by sugar immediately, simply by cutting refined and added sugars out of your diet.
If giving up your sugar habit seems daunting, I’ll be totally honest with you – it can be hard.
Sugar is addictive and can trigger withdrawal (detox) symptoms in some people if it’s stopped cold turkey. Your moods may change, and some people experience anxiety, anger, headaches and fatigue.
Even some artificial sweeteners can cause these effects of withdrawal, so it’s best not to use them as a way to reduce sugar intake. I recommend you see a professional health practitioner or nutritionist for guidance/support if you are struggling (even with the idea) to eliminate sugar.
If you need a little more motivation to give up the addictive white stuff, then please read on.
What Happens To Your Body When You Cut Sugar Out of Your Diet?
Lowered Inflammation and a Boost To Your Immune System
A study found that eating 100g of sugar lowered the ability of white blood cells to kill bacteria by as much as 50% and this lasted for up to 5 hours. Sugar also contributes to chronic inflammation, which lowers our immune system’s ability to fight off colds and flu. So what happens to your body when you stop eating sugar? Your immune system will improve which means you’re likely to have fewer colds and doses of flu, and it may also help to reduce your allergy and asthma symptoms.
You’ll Sleep Better
People can develop low blood sugar and get night sweats if they’ve eaten something sugary before bed. Eating sugar before bed can also supercharge stress hormones, which can lead to trouble sleeping. What happens when you stop eating sugar? You will get higher quality sleep within 2-3 days of kicking the sugar habit.
Your Moods Will Improve and You Will Experience Decreased Depressive and Anxiety Symptoms
You might think that a tub of double chocolate chip ice cream will put you in a good mood, but actually the exact opposite might be true. There is a strong link between high sugar consumption and depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses like schizophrenia. While sugar doesn’t necessarily cause these mental illnesses, it does appear to worsen symptoms and it also impairs the person’s ability to cope with stress. While eliminating sugar alone may not cure anxiety and depression, it can help to minimise symptoms, boost energy levels, improve mood and the body’s ability to cope with stress.
Better Gut Health
There are many ways that sugar can negatively impact digestion. When there is too much sugar in your body for your bloodstream to absorb, the excess sugar makes its way through your digestive system. The bacteria in the bowels feast on the sugars, producing gasses. This can lead to abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea and/or flatulence. It’s also possible that too much sugar can cause an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, parasites, SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) and candida in the digestive system.
- Parasites feed off of the sugar we consume. Sugar cravings can be a sign you have intestinal parasites as they send you signals to you to eat more sugar so they can grow bigger and stronger.
- Candida uses the energy from sugar to build up their cell walls making it stronger and allowing it to grow quicker and spread throughout the body.
- Sugars found in fruit and sweeteners can feed certain bacteria that are responsible for SIBO and can worsen SIBO symptoms.
- Gut Dysbiosis – simple sugars can cause a disruption in our gut flora and actually increase the bad bacteria which can eventually outweigh the beneficial bacteria and can then cause many different health issues.
- Leaky Gut can be caused by any of the above, so it goes without saying that reducing your sugar intake is the best place to start for all of these types of gut issues.
Less Energy Crashes
Added sugars and simple carbohydrates are digested fast and enter your bloodstream quickly, providing that familiar rush of energy. But once that sugar is metabolized, you experience an energy crash. Many people ride this energy roller coaster all day long, since added sugar is hiding in countless sneaky places. This is why I recommend to always add quality protein and healthy fats to each meal you consume as they’ll supply you with a steadier stream of long lasting energy so you no longer experience those sugar crashes.
When you eat sugar, insulin production increases. Insulin in turn prohibits the body from using fat as fuel while converting sugar to fat, and weight gain is the result of the whole process. By eliminating sugar, you allow insulin to remain at an optimal level. Additionally, when you cut out sugar, you also cut out processed foods such as lollies, biscuits, soft drinks, double chocolate chip ice cream, caramel Frappuccino’s, Cadbury’s chocolate and other junk foods that are devoid of nutritional value. Your health will start to improve because you’ll naturally gravitate towards eating more unprocessed, natural foods. You’ll start to consume more fruit, veggies, seafood, eggs, nuts, grains, seeds and meat. Not only are these foods healthier for you, they’re full of quality fats, protein, fibre, nutrients and vitamins that will fill you up faster, as well as sustain and satiate you for much longer. This means, too, that your snacking and sugar cravings will begin to decrease which can also lead to weight loss.
Sugar has a dehydrating and premature aging effect on our skin. It can also cause more oiliness, breakouts or acne, as well as dark circles under the eyes. What happens when you stop eating sugar? Your whole complexion will improve within days, your face will be more hydrated and plump, with less bags and dark circles and fewer wrinkles than before.
Other Health Benefits Include:
- Better energy levels
- Decreased sugar cravings and hunger
- Lowered diabetes risk and heart disease
- Improved memory and a clearer mind
- Can prevent fatty liver disease
- Improved hormones
- Improved oral health
- Improved blood sugar levels