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The Sneaky Secrets of Sugar

Everyone knows the saying, “sugar is bad for you”, but what are people really saying when they say that? Added sugars and refined sugars in your diet can do a lot of different things to your body, things that are not so good. This chemical substance is great at increasing inflammation, causing insulin spikes, adding excess calories, and so much more. Even with all these negative attributes, we still LOVE it.  

Let’s talk sugar. What is it? Where does it come from? Why do we love it?

The sugar association describes sugar as “…sucrose is simply the chemical name for sugar, the simple carbohydrate we know and love that is produced naturally in all plants, including fruits, vegetables, and even nuts”. Sounds healthy, right? So why is it so bad for us? The answer is, sugar is extracted, purified, filtered, and crystalized into raw sugar that is then further refined to what we know as granulated sugars. One problem with these refined types of sugars is that it has all of the fiber extracted from it. Fiber keeps your insulin in check and prevents your insulin levels from spiking which we’ll get to later.  

A second problem is that when refined sugar enters your body, it acts like a drug. It triggers the release of dopamine in your brain. Dopamine surges are addictive and make your brain want to come back for more and more sugar. I’m sorry to break it to you, but the food industry is definitely using chemicals, such as sugar, to lure you in and get your money to enhance their own business growth. 

Inflammation… Did you know that a lot of the pain or problems that you have *spoiler alert* CAN BE CONTROLLED OR MANAGED WITHOUT MEDICATION! (As a side note, we in the chiropractic industry are not legally able to tell you to use or not use a medication. You need to talk to a medical doctor to find out how to safely get off any drug.) Let me tell a bit of my story in this section. I had problems with my hands where they were going numb in my fingers, pain in the palms of my hands and the inability of them to function without braces. My doctor told me I had carpal tunnel at the ripe old age of 22. They told me it was a life long problem. I would never get rid of it; they told me to buy braces and stop lifting weights. If you know me, I am a personal trainer and that wasn’t going to cut it. I went on the Whole 30 diet, a phenomenal food elimination diet protocol. I found out that both dairy, and (wait for it) REFINED SUGARS were causing my carpal tunnel to flare up! Let me repeat this: sugar causes inflammation. Since then, dairy and sugars haven’t really been a part of my diet and most of the time I forget that I have carpal tunnel and my hands are back to normal. (Unless of course I am eating ice cream,  but those are very special occasions. During those occasions, I choose to eat it and know the consequences, aka symptoms will appear, because of it.)

Now I told you we would talk insulin spikes. Like I said earlier, fiber is taken from the sugar source. When that happens, the release of that sugar into the blood stream is MUCH quicker. It takes about 20 seconds for sugar to enter your bloodstream.  If fiber was still a part of the equation, the release of the sugar would be a lot longer of a time period and a more steady release. This would give you a constant stream of energy. Think about a natural form of sugar like an apple compared instead to the cheap candy bar that you ate yesterday. The apple will be filling longer and the candy bar gives you energy for 20 minutes and then you get that energy crash right after. Sound familiar?

Finally, let’s talk excess calories. Sugar is added to so many things to enhance flavor, but along with that addictive flavor comes calories. Did you know that sugary drinks or sugar sweetened beverages account for 39% of our diets. That includes: soft drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks, which together account for 39% of the added sugar in our diets. SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! Which means weight gain and excess calories and no fiber, so here is another case of that “crash and burn” problem that you had at 2pm yesterday when you ate that candy bar. Want a simple fix for this? Try filling your water bottle and drinking it instead. Water is so important – it keeps you alert and helps rid the sugars from your body that increase those aches and pains.

It’s easy to love sugar, of course! It’s addictive, and it’s supposed to be. I’m not saying get rid of all of the sugar in your life, because that’s not realistic and your sanity will be non-existent. Just be aware of what you are eating and what you are taking in. Be smart. Go enjoy your life!