Can Sugar Cause Inflammation?
Can Sugar Cause Inflammation? Last week we talked about the differences between sugar and natural sugar. Sugar is a passionate topic to me because I believe that eradicating it from our diets can do so much in our healing.
Yet, there is much education to be had before one can make a decision to get off sugar. I understand that! So let me give you one big reason: Inflammation.
Let’s look at how sugar can cause inflammation and different ways of looking at this.
What is inflammation?
That is our body’s immune response. Inflammation is the root of almost every single disease in the body.
If you have chronic inflammation, it will make you recover at a much slower rate. You will be hungry more often. You will burn less fat. You will be more susceptible to sickness. It can affect your libido. It can make you feel horrible.
Inflammation is not a good thing and should be something you aim to keep down every day. Limiting your sugar intake can play a huge role in lowering inflammation in the body.
White table sugar
On average, Americans consume 22 teaspoons of white sugar per day! Yikes! A lot of this comes from high fructose corn syrup (cereals, sodas, baked pastries, etc!)
The American Heart Association says we should have 6-9 teaspoons a day. Personally I think that is still way too high. That will still trigger a lot of inflammation
We have such a huge amount of sugar in the world that we almost don’t even know what to do. It’s everywhere. Cane sugar. Brown rice sugar. Corn syrup. Sucrose. Our society is overloaded.
We have organizations being paid by even bigger organizations to make it clear in the media that their food is healthy, when it is not. They bank on the fact that people don’t understand food labels, and therefore will question them less.
I want you to read food labels. I want you to question them! Your health is everything.
So how does sugar trigger inflammation?
What ends up happening when we end up consuming high fructose corn syrup or white table sugar is it can trigger inflammatory cytokines within the body. This is often indicated by three things: -C-reaction protein (CRP)
-Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF)
-Interleukin 6 & 8
All these three things mean that they are being triggered by white blood cells to attack a certain area OR protect a certain area. With inflammation from sugar– it is often to attack a certain area. White sugar causes our immune system to elevate. This wreaks havoc on the human body. We do NOT want these ginormous spikes of blood sugar happening.
When we look at high fructose corn syrup or white sugar, we need to remember there are no nutrients that will benefit us here. It’s PURELY glucose/fructose that will spike inflammation once our insulin levels are spiked.
White sugar can even slow down absorption of the good nutrients that you might be consuming alongside! So a salad does not balance out that processed cookie.That’s again why I always recommend natural sugars instead! There is so much good stuff alongside the glucose/fructose in natural sugars- like fiber and phytonutrients and plenty of B Vitamins. Reach for what will fuel you, not harm you.
What can spiking your insulin levels do in terms of inflammation?
Spiking your insulin or blood glucose can: Reduce nitric oxide availability (which impacts your heart) and can increase free radicals. This means your liver now has to take care of that! It’s your liver that has to process all that fructose. Our livers are already burdened with so many environmental toxins and stressors. Spiking your insulin levels causes free radicals to go haywire and causes inflammation. It creates an immune response that wreaks havoc on your body. This can make you tired and fatigued in the short term and long term as well. Just another reason to stay away.
Eating a ton of sugar is going to increase symptoms of pain and disease. Rising blood glucose levels on a day to day basis is something serious.
What about the glycemic index and inflammation?
The glycemic index of different foods is important to look at too. We are talking about common sugars, yes. But often “healthy” foods are loaded with processed sugar too!
When you have glucose, the most simple form of sugar out there, that is what our body is trying to break down in order to feed the brain… understand the body breaks food down at different speeds. And lower speed foods, like vegetables, the body can handle the load. Pure glucose? That is the quickest thing to break down. The body does not like that!
The body likes to break down food slow and steady as it’s a unique and complex system that God designed to fuel ourselves in a certain way.
Something like a banana will take twice the time of a snickers bar to digest. This makes sense as a banana has fiber. But there are hidden sugars in food that we wouldn’t even think of! Like many whole wheat breads have so much sugar in them that they digest 1.5X quicker than a banana! You would think “whole wheat bread” is good for you but in many ways, it’s not.
The point here is: Glycemic index of foods matters too when looking at sugars. It is a great way to learn how long it takes something to digest. If it takes a short time to digest, you have a higher likelihood of inflammation from that food.
Inflammation, Sugar, And The Immune System
Sugar can put your white blood cells on hold temporarily after you consume it. Yikes! As we said, we do not want that cytokine storm as that can drive up free radicals into our blood. The good news is that natural sugars from fruit have not been shown to be inflammatory and actually benefit the immune system. So if we have a sweet tooth- we can still meet that “want” through natural sugars. Cane sugar, table sugar… it really is pure garbage. It has no nutritional benefit. One esteemed epigenetics Doctor, Dr. Ben Lynch, once gave a talk where he stated that sugar consumption puts our immune system into a coma for 6 hours. 6 hours! That is a long time to go without a properly functioning immune system.
Fake sugar can also cause inflammation
With fake sugar, like aspartame, often found in diet sodas, that can also be a big problem for the body and inflammation. The Red River Health And Wellness Center said something I found profound. They said,
“A 9-year study of almost 60,000 women showed those who drank two or more cans of diet soda per day were 50 percent more likely to die of cardiovascular disease… Aspartame is not without controversy. Over the years, it has been associated with myriad health conditions, including brain tumors, birth defects, cancer, and memory loss, and is the culprit in numerous health complaints to the FDA…”
Something to think about.
Even fruit juice can cause inflammation
Notice I am not saying vegetable juice (which I’m a huge fan of), or vegetable juice with one or two fruits in them… I am saying completely 100% all fruit juice. The problem with this is there is no fiber with all the natural sugar. Sure, it is natural sugar, but without the presence of fiber this can be tough on your body as it can spike insulin levels. Spiked insulin levels lead to inflammation. It is easier to develop insulin resistance than we think and once we do, it can wreak havoc on our immune systems.
I wanted to share this piece with you because I talk about eating fruit all the time and I didn’t want you thinking that fruit juice also fit into that category. It does not.
Trading in sugar for natural sugars
Things like maple syrup, honey, lucuma, dates, bananas… I promise you, these all make wonderful sweeteners! My entire blog is loaded with healthy recipes and easy swaps to make.
My encouragement is simply this: Just do it. You are so deserving. I promise that after awhile you will feel so much better when you don’t consume as many processed foods. The longer you do it, the more you will see results and the easier it will be to remain constant with the habit.
I’m rooting for you!