We know sugar can make us gain weight and that it’s bad for us, but have you considered its affect on inflammation?
Inflammation in the Body
I was recently asked by a client if sugar affects inflammation; they had eaten more sugar than normal that week and noticed the tendonitis pain in their elbow increasing. Of course, without hesitation my answer was yes! But how exactly does sugar affect the inflammation in our bodies?
First, it’s important to understand why we need to decrease inflammation in the body. Inflammation is present wherever there is pain or disease. Essentially all health problems happen in an inflammatory state. Problems such as edema, arthritis, gout, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease, and high cholesterol are all linked with inflammatory conditions within the body. So preventing inflammation by eating the proper foods is highly important to maintaining health and preventing or healing injury and disease.
Sugar and Inflammation
So let’s get back to sugar. Sugar is one of the worst foods to eat if you want to keep inflammation away. When I say sugar, I don’t just mean the highly processed white sugar. This includes all forms of sugar: brown sugar, agave, high fructose corn syrup, honey, and even maple syrup or raw sugar. Any ingredient that ends in –ose is a sugar, and all sugars can lead to inflammation. This also includes too much fruit, especially processed fruit juices and products.
Surprisingly, it only takes about two teaspoons of sugar at a time to distress the body’s chemistry and throw off the delicate homeostasis of the body. Homeostasis creates the necessary conditions for maintenance, repair, and the vital cellular functioning that keeps us alive. When the body’s homeostasis is disrupted, the inflammatory cycle is triggered, and eventually pain, injury, and illness will result.
Sugar and Minerals
When we eat too much sugar, it affects the mineral balance of our bodies. Minerals are a major player the body uses to maintain homeostasis. Because minerals work synergistically with vitamins and cells, affecting one or two minerals can have a big impact on the whole system. For example, if we don’t have enough minerals available for use and the pH level of the blood is too acidic, the body will leach calcium and phosphorus from the bones to act as a buffer to balance the pH level. Maintaining proper mineral balance is key to maintaining homeostasis and preventing inflammation.
Minerals also act as catalysts in enzyme systems in the cells of the body. These actions are what allow us to live—it helps us grow and have energy. Because minerals are so important and are present in every cell of the body, even slight changes in the mineral’s status can have a large impact.
Sugar, particularly refined sugar which lacks the minerals needed by the body, drains and leaches these essential minerals from the body in order to be digested. High sugar intake also causes the kidneys to excrete more magnesium than normal, which is especially problematic today. Magnesium is said by many experts to be the most important mineral, necessary for the healthy function of several systems of the body, and yet the majority of Americans are quite deficient in this mineral!
Getting over Sugar
It is also important to note that processed carbs are essentially sugar, which means that consuming refined grains such as breads, biscuits, tortillas, chips, crackers, cookies, baked goods, and other such foods triggers the same inflammatory response in the body. In fact, there was a study done at Harvard that found women who ate more high sugar foods such as white bread or cereal were more likely to have inflammation and higher amounts of bad cholesterol!
A great way to help not only curb those cravings for sugar, but also fight inflammation is to eat an abundance of healthy fats, particularly omega-3 fatty acids. Getting enough healthy fats not only helps the body absorb and utilize vitamins and minerals properly (preventing cravings, as vitamin and mineral imbalances lead to cravings), but it also helps promote a feeling of fullness and satiety. Furthermore, healthy fats, especially the omega-3 fatty acids, are powerful anti-inflammatories that help prevent or heal inflamed tissues.
To conclude, if you are experiencing any pain or illness, inflammation is present in your body! A sure way to help heal this is to greatly reduce the intake of sugar from all forms, as well as increase the amount of high-nutrient foods such as whole, fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy fats.
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