How Sugar Feeds Illness
How Sugar Feeds Illness
By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
America takes first place… as the top consumer of dietary sugar in the world. Our sugar consumption is a major player behind the skyrocketing rates of chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and cancer. The average American now consumes an average of 130 grams of sugar per day—for reference, the daily recommendation for women is a maximum of 20 grams a day! This is more than just sad: it’s dangerous. Today we are going to outline some of the effects of sugar on our immediate and long-term health.
What is Sugar?
This might seem obvious, but food producers are getting craftier with their labeling as they realize more and more people are making the choice to eat healthier. Sugar goes by many names, with new ones popping up all the time. Some sugars are natural, most are processed, and more and more are being created in labs. Here are just a few names to look out for on product labels:
- Brown sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrates
- High fructose corn syrup
- Honey (raw, pasteurized)
- Invert sugar
- Malt sugar
- Raw sugar
- Sugar molecules ending in “-ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)
What About Fruit?
Yes, fruit technically contains sugar, in the form of fructose. However, there is a big difference between enjoying a piece of fruit as an after-dinner treat, versus having orange juice with breakfast and fruit juices as your beverage of choice throughout the day. Studies have shown that eating fruit whole can lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, drinking fruit actually increases your risk! The fiber you get from eating fruit whole slows the absorption of the sugar and keeps the glycemic index low. Plus, it takes a lot more squeezed fruit to fill a glass than you could possibly eat in a serving, meaning you’re consuming way more sugar than you realize!
The Effects of Sugar
Consuming large quantities of sugar has been linked to an increased risk of a variety of chronic diseases including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) as well as cognitive decline and even some cancers!
There are also many health issues caused by sugar that aren’t as talked about:
Sugar depletes the body of critical electrolytes, antioxidants, and minerals, which leads to cell death, muscle spasms, insulin resistance, and other health defects. Its effects on the immune system leave you prone to getting sick more often and more severely.
Sugar feeds bacteria and parasites, like yeast and Candida. It also depletes the body of good gut bacteria, promoting Leaky Gut and other gut infections. Chronic pain, vision problems, and even wrinkles can be worsened by sugar!
Sugar causes chronic inflammation in the body, and inflammation is said to be the root cause of almost all disease.
How Sugar Feeds Cancer
Sugar consumption has been proved to feed cancer cells and speed up the growth of tumors. Too much sugar consumption causes insulin resistance, as well as a specific protein to be released from your pancreas. This protein causes your cells to replicate and become immortal, which is how pre-cancerous cells can begin to take over.
Cancer cells prefer glucose over oxygen, but our mitochondria can’t use the glucose as energy. White blood cells are our immune system’s soldiers, and need vitamin C to function properly. A cancer patient needs lots of healthy white blood cells to fight the disease, however, sugar blocks the absorption of vitamin C in our bloodstream, weakening our immune system.
In summary, sugar causes cancer cells to reproduce and thrive, and blocks the mechanisms that would slow down or kill cancer cells and tumors.
Sugar addiction runs deep, and can be hard to kick. Stay tuned for Dr. J’s thoughts on artificial sweeteners, approaches to beating sugar addiction, and healthy alternatives for sugar.
Sugar and your Hormones
By Dr. Justin Marchegiani
Americans now consume an average of 150 pounds of sugar a year, which is 20 times as much as was the norm in 1700 when Americans were consuming only 7½ pounds per year! This crazy sugar consumption, about ½ a pound a day, has lead our country to obesity, disease, and all sorts of health issues that are now seen as normal. Today we are going to examine the causes and effects of sugar cravings, and what we can do to properly balance our hormones.
Causes of Sugar Cravings
Sugar cravings can be caused by blood sugar imbalances, which occur due to poor diet (including inflammation-inducing high doses of sugar) or going too long between meals. Blood sugar imbalance leads to more inflammation, hormone imbalance, and sugar cravings. The sugar cravings continue the negative cycle of eating sugar, crashing, and craving more, which only causes hormone imbalances to worsen over time.
The HPA axis, the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands, can be disrupted by a poor diet, stress, and emotional toil: all of which are symptoms of a sugar overdose. The disturbance to the HPA axis can lead to adrenal fatigue, which can lead to blood sugar imbalance and more cravings for something sweet.
Consuming sugar releases dopamine, a feel-good “rewards system” neurotransmitter which is responsible for motivation and emotions. This release of dopamine can be addictive, making it very difficult to cut out sugar, which effectively becomes an addition.
Sugar and Your Hormones
We know consuming too much sugar contributes to blood sugar imbalances, adrenal fatigue, and inflammation. But it goes deeper than that: overconsumption of sugar can throw our hormones out of whack, leading to serious health conditions. Weight gain or weight loss that’s unexplained by your diet and exercise, depression, anxiety, changes in appetite, low libido, irregular periods, fatigue, insomnia, digestive issues, hair thinning or hair loss are all signs of hormone imbalance.
Common hormonal imbalances include:
Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism: Hypothyroidism causes the metabolism to slow, meaning weight gain is a common issue. Hyperthyroidism is the opposite, causing the body to speed up and weight to be lost quickly. Both thyroid disorders can come with anxiety, sleep issues, and other irregularities.
Low testosterone comes with weight gain, fatigue, mood swings, erectile dysfunction, and muscle loss.
Low estrogen can lower your sex drive, cause menstrual and reproductive problems, and cause mood swings.
Estrogen dominance can change your weight, appetite, and sleep patterns. Easier to become overwhelmed by stress, and the metabolism slows.
Diabetes comes with weight gain, nerve damage, fatigue, skin problems, and vision loss.
Adrenal fatigue plagues many people in our over-stressed society. Fatigue, anxiety, depression, insomnia, brain fog, and muscle aches and pains are common.
PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, in which elevated androgen (male hormone) levels cause many cysts to grow in the ovaries of women of reproductive age. Infertility, weight gain, acne, and abnormal hair growth are symptoms of this condition.
How to Balance Your Hormones
Adaptogen herbs are a class of healing plants that are very powerful in protecting against stress. They can support the thyroid, reduce anxiety and depression, support the adrenals, and stabilize blood sugar. Ashwagandha is your go-to for balancing hormones. It can help with hyper- and hypo- thyroidism, as well as help with adrenal function. We recommend Ashwagandha Supreme, or a more complex supplement, like the ashwagandha-containing Adrenal Revive. Holy Basil, or tulsi, also regulates hormones and can help the body deal with emotional stress, as well as give protection against environmental and ingested toxins.
Vitamin D is more of a hormone than a vitamin. Vitamin D keeps inflammation low, and is a very important component of a healthy body; read more about vitamin D here. A high-quality vitamin D supplement, like Emulsi D Supreme, is very beneficial in protecting against hormonal imbalances as well as autoimmune diseases.
Healthy gut function is crucial in virtually all aspects of overall health. Leaky gut, inflammation of the gut lining allowing undigested food particles and toxins into the bloodstream, cause inflammations in other areas of the body, including glands such as the thyroid, which are responsible for regulating our hormones. A high quality probiotic, or probiotics from foods such as sauerkraut and kombucha, can repopulate the gut with good probiotics. Bone broth is also good for healing the gut, as it is soothing to the intestines and contains collagen and other healing compounds.
How to Beat Sugar Cravings
As we know, sugar feeds inflammation and messes with our hormones. Despite knowing that sugar is not good for us, strong cravings make it hard to resist! In the heat of the moment, apple cider vinegar, lemon, or lime water can help curb a sugar craving.
Sugar cravings can also be due to dehydration or a mineral deficiency. Using healthy pink himalayan salt on meals and maintaining proper hydration will allow your body to properly balance your hormones and improve blood sugar.
In the long-term, switching from a diet high in processed foods and carbs to a cyclical keto diet, or a lower carb diet rich in complex carbs and healthy fats, can help you feel satiated and balance your blood sugar.