Americans are addicted to sugar. Last statistic I read said we consume about 150 lbs per person per year! When you really think about it that is a lot of sugar over a lifetime. Sugar is in almost everything we eat these days, even products that you would not think it would be. I grabbed a bag of chips the other day and sure enough, sugar was one of the ingredients. The sugar industry is a $100+ billion dollar per year industry.
Many, including myself, would have to confess to being “sugarholics”. I would classify myself now as a recovering sugarholic. Ha! I still have the occasional dessert, but have greatly improved my diet as I know I need to practice what I preach to my patients. A book I recommend you read is “Lick the Sugar Habit” by Nancy Appleton, PhD.
What is sugar?
It can get a little complicated when it comes to different types of sugar – refined white cane sugar, fruit sugar, corn sugar, milk sugar, brown sugar, beet sugar, alcohol, monosaccharides, disaccharides and polysaccharides, oh my! However the focus of this article is refined sugar cane (table sugar). Refining sugar is a process involving many chemicals that leaves the finished product with none of the nutrients, vitamins, or minerals of the original plant. The scary fact is that the original plant is a complex carbohydrate and the end result is a simple carbohydrate that is fractionated, artificial, devitalized by-product of the original. As mentioned above, this product is in so many food products today it is difficult to avoid.
The Effects of Sugar on Your Gut
I have spent much time in my practice focusing on gut health as my experience has been that the gut is where health can be restored and many diseases reversed. It is amazing that our digestive systems work at all with all the abuse we put them through! To be frank, I’d have to label some people as having a “garbage gut” as that is how they treat it.
Like it or not, sugar has a massive impact on the digestive system and as a result, the rest of your body. If you’ve been following my articles on gut health for any length of time, you know that most of your immune system resides in the gut! In fact, I tell my patients, “If the gut ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”
“Heal the gut and you heal yourself.” – Gerard E. Mullin, MD
Sugar upsets the body chemistry and greatly harms the endocrine and immune systems, leading to a host of diseases and conditions including cancer, hypoglycemia, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, headaches, allergies, osteoporosis, asthma, obesity, periodontal disease, tooth decay, and the list goes on.
Consuming sugar can feed infections like Candida and result in bloating and gas. Think of sugar as a “fertilizer” for the bad bacteria and yeast in your system. They love it! Sugar can also contribute to ulcers and leaky gut syndrome.
Eating sugar causes blood sugar spikes – your sugar levels go up and down. A drop in blood sugar kicks the adrenals into high gear, causing them to produce too much cortisol. Cortisol inhibits the production of hydrochloric acid in the digestive system which is needed to break down food properly. The lining of the gut is often weakened at this point from the above-mentioned infections, toxins and poor diet.
Now your compromised intestinal lining allows undigested food particles to leak out into the bloodstream and this can lead to a whole host of autoimmune diseases.
The Depletion of Minerals
To say that minerals are important to your health is like saying the steering wheel is an important part of your car. Too much sugar depletes your mineral supply. Why? Because your body requires minerals in order to metabolize sugar. Some of these minerals that get “zapped” by sugar are zinc, calcium, magnesium, chromium, and potassium to name just a few. Mineral depletion has an effect on your digestion because enzymes are required to break down fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. And guess what causes a reduction of the production of enzymes? That’s right, mineral depletion! It ends up being a vicious cycle as all of these factors are interconnected.
If you have made it this far in this article, I know you probably don’t like me very much right now, ha! Believe me, sugar can be harder to give up than alcohol or cigarettes for some people. It’s that addictive. But the important thing is to take small steps. You’ll make progress if you just implement one healthy step at a time, make it a habit, and then keep going!
If you are interested in learning more about gut health do not hesitate to give my office a call for an appointment.
Dr. Shah, MD