The USDA says:
We consume large amounts of sugar. The average American eats (or drinks) 34 teaspoons of sugars a day, which is equal to 500+ calories. This averages more than 100 pounds of sugars per person each year. Sugar intake has drastically increased over the last century. In 1822, the average American ate in 5 days the amount of sugar found in one of today’s 12-ounce sodas. Now, we eat that much every 7 hours!
This increase in sugar intake has had large and multiple effects on the general populous, and many of these effects take place in the gut.
WHAT IS SUGAR?
If we’re going to talk about the benefits giving up sugar has on the gut, we should first determine what it is that we’re talking about. Sugar, like so many other things, is a general term. It describes any of the classes of soluble, crystalline, typically sweet-tasting carbohydrates obtained from plant sources and other living organisms.
This means that you can find sugar in fruits, veggies, meats, nuts, seeds—anything that came from plants or other organic sources.
Your body needs the natural sugar you get from these sources–if you don’t get enough, you become lethargic and, at an extreme, can go into a coma. In fact, there are eight types of sugar that are essential.
- Glucose- Found in fruits, vegetables, rice, and potatoes.
- Xylose- Found in kelp, berries, aloe vera, broccoli, spinach, cabbage, and more.
- Galactose- Found in cheese, milk, legumes, chickpeas, and fermented soy.
- Fructose- Found in fruits and honey.
- Mannose- Found in peaches, pineapple, apples, cranberries, oranges, and blueberries.
- N-Acetylgalactosamine- Found in bovine cartilage, shark cartilage, a red algae called dumontiaceae.
- N-Acetylglucosamine- Found in shittake mushrooms and bovine cartilage.
- and N-Acetylneuraminic- Found in dairy foods, whey protein isolate and the eggs of hens.
What your body doesn’t need is the overabundance of artificial and refined sugars the modern person takes in. Do any of these sound familiar?
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
These are toxic sugars that you should avoid at all costs. You can find information on what you can replace these sugars with here.
EFFECTS OF SUGAR ON YOUR GUT
1. Weight gain
Sugar is a very inflammatory food. When something gets inflamed, it swells up–like your thumb getting inflamed if you slam it in a door. When the part of your body that gets inflamed is the gut–which is where the food you eat goes–it leads to bloating around your middle. This, in turn, leads increased weight that has nothing to do with excess food or the need to work out.
If you stop eating sugar, that inflammation goes away, and you’ll lose the bloating, and–very likely–some water retention that comes hand in hand with bloating and inflammation.
2. Immune system deterioration
Most of your immune system is in your gut. When a part of the body becomes inflamed–as we saw that sugar causes above–the immune system comes to attack the thing that caused the inflammation. The more the immune system is called on to take care of inflammation from culprits like sugar or food allergies, the more it grows fatigued. If your immune system is fatigued, it is less effective at attacking viruses and pathogens that find their way into your blood stream. This leads to an increased risk of sicknesses and other ailments it’s the immune system’s job to fight off.
In Six Immune System Busters & Boosters, WebMD says:
“Eating or drinking too much sugar curbs immune system cells that attack bacteria. This effect lasts for at least a few hours after downing a couple of sugary drinks.”
If you stop eating the refined sugars, then, your immune system will be better able to fight of colds, flus, and other viruses.
3. Changes the way the gut works
Sugar meddles with the microorganisms in your gut and changes the microbiome. Because a large part of digestion takes place in the gut, this means that you may be unable to digest food properly. If your digestion isn’t functioning properly, neither is your body’s ability to absorb the nutrients from the food you eat. Sugar is also an anti-nutrient, meaning it leaches the nutrients the healthier foods provide to your body. This only adds to that weight gain mentioned above, as well as the tendency for your body to trigger an immune response and become sick. Like we say often at The Wellness Way, your body works like a Swiss Watch–each part impacting the others.
4. Sleep problems
The microbiome in your gut produces neurotransmitters important to mental and physical health such as dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)1. This microbiome also produces hormones, and has a nervous system. One of the hormones that microbiome produces is the sleep hormone, melatonin. Melatonin is what makes you feel sleepy and starts your body on the path to bed and sleep. Sugar counteracts melatonin, negating that effect.
Cut your refined sugar intake and find yourself falling asleep easier and faster. You’ll also find yourself in much better mental health.
Most infections within the body are in some way connected to inflammation–whether inflammation is the cause, or a different, correlated, occurrence. Sugar is the food of choice for all infections and bacteria. It is the chief ingredient for homemade bacterial food for things like petri dishes. This is why people with hyperglycemia are at a severe risk of infection.
Stop eating sugar and stop feeding the infections. This, too, will cause a decrease in bloating, and, therefore, excess weight.
For More Information…
If you want to know more general benefits from cutting out sugar, you can find them here.
Sugar is very addictive, and it can be hard to find recipes without some sort of sugar in it. That’s why The Wellness Way has an entire collection of sugar-free recipes. We also have tips on how to reduce sugar cravings, because no one’s saying cutting your sugar intake is going to be easy.
Find out how your body is handling sugar and how to manage the consequences; contact a Wellness Way clinic today!