The Real Worry About The Damage Sugar Causes To Health & Wellbeing
One of the most obvious signs that high sugar consumption is causing damage to health is excessive weight gain but the damaging effects of sugar are not always visible,..yes over consumption of sugar can make you gain weight but most of the damage is happening internal, increased inflammation, diabetes, impaired mental function, imbalanced energy or mood. This is long and growing as we learn more about just how damaging sugar can be.
This is borne out in the women who join us on the Sugar Detox Retreat over half the women who join us are not particularly overweight. They come because their energy levels are unstable and they have been propping themselves up with carbs and coffee and know that cant last. Or they are concerned about the lack of control they have around certain foods, usually simple sugars or processed carb based foods. They want to regain control.
The key interest for us here at The Body Retreat about the impact of sugar was firstly as a clinical hypnotherapist and women’s wellness coach I was fascinated by the effect of sugar on the brain, in particular the reward centres of the brain and how this in turn leads to over eating and ill health.
Sugar behaves in the same way as alcohol, drugs even gambling and sex…sugar fires off the reward centre of the brain which we know with repeated reinforcement can become compulsive addictive behaviour.
We are programmed to enjoy sweet foods and to dislike bitter foods…this is an evolutionary protection that meant that when foraging we would be less likely to eat anything poisonous. So we are born with a sweet tooth…. but when you mix and sweet tooth with reinforced reward at a cellular level in a society when sweet stuff is available 24/7 and for a fraction of the cost of whole foods then its trouble.
What we have found is that it is exactly the addictive nature of sugar that makes it so hard to kick…even if you want to.
Lets say you cut out bread and cakes..they are famously sugar laden…so instead you eat Rye Crackers and Fruit Salad.
Except that its just sugar again in a different form.
Your sweet tooth will find a way to sate itself… but you feel that you are doing something good.
But actually this may prove to be more harmful because now you are over consuming “healthy” invisible sugars… Disaster.
Or even worse you buy the sugar free alternative so you can keep the great sweet taste with no sugar…. so now you are consuming artificial sweeteners, they may be zero calorie but that doesn’t mean they are a good sugar alternative. Your brans still registers the sweet taste and so your pancreas is tricked into releasing insulin, and the sweet taste also means that you are keeping your sweet tooth artificially heightened…actually making your crave more sugar in the long run ( the hormone leptin is released in response to the sweet tastes, but when the calories don’t come the level is not sufficient to make you switch off eating as you would with whole foods)
What we have found at our Sugar Detox Retreat is that we remove up to 80 of all sugar…so thats fruit, starchy veg, dairy, grains. The reason is firstly to reset the taste buds. This means at the end of the week as you start to reintroduce real whole foods with natural sugars …say an apple..it will taste off the scale sweet..this happens time and time again.
We are also looking at rebalancing leptin levels by having a diet that is high in good quality proteins, fats and fibre..the fill you up foods.
By the end of just one week appetites are rebalanced and energy levels are stable.
Next up its looking at the brain and finding new ways to manage the reward pathways… nature hates a vacuum if you just remove the reward you will feel depressed, anxious and very likely to relapse. so we look at tangible ways to fill that gap.
Just this week I watched a video of a health professional claiming that sugar is not addictive…it only creates addictive behaviours…I’ll leave you to think about that one. They suggested that you simply replace the reward with something else that makes you feel good…a hug from a loved one or some breathing exercises!! Obviously they have never really experienced the pull of sugar addiction when you would sell a kidney to get your hands on some thing to give you that lift.
Sugar is complicated. It comes in so many forms. So even when you think you are eating clean you may still be unwittingly creating problems for yourself.