Give up sugar? Sure, that’s easy… I have done it a thousand times…
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables. Sugar in moderation is okay, but it is currently overused in our society and is one of the causes of degenerative diseases. If, for any reason, you have tried to avoid sugar and started to read the labels, it seems like it is in absolutely everything--and comes in the form of many names:
After studying nutrition, I learned a lot about sugar and what it does to your body. Below are just a few:
- Sugar feeds the bacteria that causes eczema
- Sugar suppresses your immune system
- Sugar spikes your blood sugar levels and puts stress on your adrenals
- Sugar feeds the candida in your system and aids in the condition that causes leaky gut syndrome--this candida also produces a toxin in your body called Acetaldehyde which can lead to a sensitivity to smells
- Sugar is an anti-nutrient--there are no nutrients in sugar, but your body uses precious resources to metabolize it
- Sugar can cause insulin resistance, a stepping stone towards Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes
- Sugar can contribute to cancer growth
- Sugar can contribute to higher cholesterol and heart disease
- Sugar contributes to obesity
- Sugar contributes to highs/lows in your mood, anxiety, and depression
So, if we know all this, why do we still consume so much sugar? Sugar causes a dopamine release in the brain, and is highly addictive. It could also be that processed foods are cheaper, more readily available and the social norm (coffee with milk/cream and sugar, desserts, alcohol, etc..). It is also convenient... it is so much easier to grab a muffin or doughnut from the local coffee shop than make a home cooked meal.
Anyone that knows me, knows that I love sugar, and simple carbohydrates such as white bread and white potatoes. As a child, I put it literally on everything, and when I was pregnant with my daughter I made several trips to the local ice cream store for an ice cream with a side of ice cream cake (got to love those pregnancy cravings!). At the end of my pregnancy I was 220 pounds, my hands were covered in eczema, my toe nails would suddenly stop growing and a new nail would grow out (this one stumped doctors), my mind was cloudy, I was anxious, and I was tired all the time (not a good combination). My body was finally telling me it had had enough sugar. I think I knew in the back of my head for a while that it wasn't working for me. I needed to make a change but I was in denial.
The birth of my daughter changed me. I wanted to be the best I could be for her (and for myself), and I wanted to give her the best start I could as well. So, I QUIT REFINED SUGAR!
I started my journey in small steps to cut out all refined sugar. Quitting refined sugar was easier for me as I was the one in charge of grocery shopping and preparing meals in our house. I didn't have much processed food to begin with, but I cut out the rest. I found condiments sweetened with honey, and made my own salad dressings. It is easier if you do not have the items in your house as if you have a craving then you have to think about it, get in the car, go to the grocery store rather than just opening a cupboard and eating it.
For me the hardest part was at social gatherings as sugar is such a social item, whether it is going out for coffee and dessert, a family get together or a birthday party that is when I missed it the most. Like everything, there is always more than one approach. I started to bring dessert to these outings and I would bake without refined sugar, that way I never felt left out, and more importantly, neither did my daughter.
The first couple of weeks are the most difficult. The first day you just want it just like when you were a kid and your parents told you that you couldn't have something… it makes you want it more. Then comes the withdrawal. If you consumed quite a bit of processed foods and sugar you might want to take more of a gradual approach as you do not want to quit going sugar free as the withdrawal symptoms are too intense. I personally experienced headaches for a few days, intense cravings and then it felt like a sinus cold where my nose constantly ran and there was a lot of congestion.
After a few days I noticed quite the improvement with my hands, and after a few weeks the eczema was completely gone. When I went to the doctors they just suggested a steroid based cream, which I got, but didn't use as it was just a bandaid effect and did not address the real problem of what was causing the eczema in the first place. I wanted to know why!
The tiredness and cloudiness mostly subsided, I say mostly as I did have a newborn and "mom brain" at the same time. As did the anxiety. Anxiety and depression is also linked to the gut as 80 percent of serotonin is produced in your gut.
The nails are great indicators of your health, white spots could be a zinc deficiency, different ridges could mean malabsorption of nutrients, etc… I do believe if your nails are abnormal in some way, there is something unbalanced in your body. Nails do take a while to grow out, and I am happy to report that mine are finally back to normal!
The lesson that I learned with all this and past experiences is that you need to listen to your body. Your body is always telling you cues when it is unhappy in some way. It might give you digestive trouble (bloating, diarrhea, cramps), eczema, headaches, acne, nail imperfections, recurrent colds and infections, or just plain tiredness. It is better to listen now to help correct the imbalances than to ignore them and have something more serious happen later in life from the inflammation.
As Albert Einstein said, "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." Maybe it is time to start making a change now before a more serious health problem occurs.
Let me assist you in your health journey. We can work together to find the right plan for you, even if it is just a healthy meal plan and grocery list. Any change is a step in the right direction!