This blog post is dedicated to Mrs. Potatohead. Sugar. It used to be a treat. Something to be enjoyed on a birthday or special occasion. Certainly not something that most people had on a daily basis. Even honey and maple sugar were utilized sparingly. Now it is part of every meal, and almost every beverage. The average American consumes over 100 pounds of the white stuff a year. It is addictive. It feeds the same craving as alcohol. When an alcoholic gives up booze he almost always turns to sugar, and in large amounts. He finds it harder to give up sugar than booze. It is everywhere. It is in almost everything!
Is this a problem?
I am a chiropractic physician and I can tell you when every major holiday is. I have a sudden upsurge in patient visits the weeks after the holiday. The adults come in complaining of musculoskeletal pain and the children have colds and flu's. I ask them what they have been eating and the story is always the same. There has been an overindulgence of sweets. I ask them if it is worth it. They ponder the question and then say "no!". Alas, the next time temptation on a plate is put in front of them, they forget and so the cycle continues. Maybe I shouldn't tell people how sugar works. It does keep me in business. I understand human nature well enough, that I know there is no danger of a sudden universal attack of self-control. My business will always have a steady stream of overindulgent patients.
What does sugar do? Why does it cause these problems? Let me give you a few basics...
1. Sugar increases inflammation. Anything that ends in "-itis", sugar makes it worse. Whether it is arthritis, dermatitis, sinusitis, etc. sugar makes it worse. All those chronic complaints suddenly become a major pain with the addition of sugar.
2. Sugar suppresses the immune system. It makes you more vulnerable to any passing cold or flu.
3. Sugar makes you more vulnerable to stress. Sugar requires drawing the B vitamins out of your system in order for your body to metabolize them. It upsets your blood sugar levels which puts extra stress on your adrenals. The adrenals have to work extra hard then on long term blood sugar stability. They have less ability to handle their other function of adapting to life stresses.
4. Sugar can cause depression. The constant ups and downs of the blood sugar make your body more prone to depression.
5. Sugar feeds cancer cells. If you have cancer in your body, the tumor has the fastest uptake of sugar of any tissue in the body. Your doctor knows this. That is why they attach a radioactive isotope to a sugar molecule, and inject it in your body to check for metastasis (cancer spreading). There has been some excellent research that indicates that a low carb diet ( less than 50 gm of carbohydrates) along with other therapies really improves the outcome of many cancers.
These are things to seriously think about.
I'm a mom with six children. How do we do it? First, I tell my children that it is not sinful to eat sugar. It is not wisdom, though. Second, My children have learned that a bite or two of sugar satisfies your curiosity of the taste. After that, you are just eating to eat. They generally will take a piece and split it up and they don't feel bad about leaving some on their plate. (We have a different rule for veggies.) We don't keep sugar in the house. If we bake we generally use honey or maple syrup as a sweetener. We try and keep the baking for special occasions and company. We got the sugar out of the house about 8 or 9 years ago. Prior to that we got sick just like every other family. We got fevers, colds and flu's a couple times a year. Since we gave up the sugar, we have only had children sick with fevers 3 times. Now when the children start to get a cold or not feel well, I ask them, "What did you eat?" Then it is confession time. I don't yell or punish, I just connect the behavior with the consequences. They have gotten smarter over the years and they very rarely indulge now. I do have one or two that threaten to go out and eat a bunch of sugar, just so they can get sick and get some time off of school. We didn't have any sick days the last school year for our children. I will admit that the stomach flu's have not been totally banished from our house - they seem to have different rules that they go by.
I hope that you have found this at least thought provoking. I am planning to write some more general nutrition posts in the coming months. What are your questions?