Sweet Poison

Sugar! It’s in or added to drinks, prepared foods, sauces, and salad dressings. It’s consumed throughout the day in breath mints, gum, candy and snacks. And recent nutritional studies are saying it’s a cause of strokes, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

Cholesterol was thought to be the culprit: bad fats in the body causing plaque. But animal and trans fats have been greatly reduced in the American diet. Statin drugs, that dump fats from the body, are being prescribed in record amounts. Yet these detrimental diseases are still on the rise. Now studies show that it’s inflammation in the body that’s the problem.

Sugar, along with most other sweeteners, causes inflammation, which can cause pain. In most cases of chronic pain I have encountered, sugar has been a major component. But inflammation in the body not only creates discomfort. The resulting swelling expands and contracts the blood vessels. It’s like pulling an elastic band continually. Sooner or later certain areas become weak. The body then puts a bandaid in the form of plaque over those compromised areas. We used to think plaque was the problem but plaque is just the body’s solution to the problem. When plaque builds up it can cause blockages in blood vessels. If it breaks off and travels to the heart or brain it can result in heart attacks or strokes. If weakened blood vessels break within the body it causes internal bleeding. If blood vessels break in the brain, it’s a stroke. When blood vessels in the brain are blocked or hardened it’s a suspected cause of Alzheimer’s. Many scientists are now calling Alzheimer’s Type 3 Diabetes because there’s such a strong correlation between sugar, alcohol and Alzheimer’s.

There are also strong connections between sugar and cancer. Cancer cells can’t survive without glucose. Everything we eat is converted into glucose (sugar) except for protein, which is converted to amino acids. There are now cancer clinics in the US that, prior to treatment, inject huge amounts of insulin into their patients. This dumps glucose from the body. The treatment then requires much less chemo or radiation to kill the cancer cells. I’ve noticed in the cancer patients I’ve worked with, when they switch to a good diet, which includes minimizing sugar and fructose, their lab results improve along with their overall health and quality of life. If they go back to old habits of consuming sugar on a regular basis or binging on sugar their lab results and quality of life are adversely affected.

In the 1930’s a doctor in Germany, Otto H. Warburg, won the Nobel Prize for his work on cancer. He explained that when the body was too acidic, cancer cells proliferated. Anything in an acidic environment for a prolonged time is going to break down. If the cells themselves become too acidic to function the body has to expel them. The result, he concluded was cancer. Recent studies appear to validate his line of thinking.

Our digestive systems need to be acidic to function properly. But our bodies should be alkaline. Everything we eat, except for vegetables, contributes to an acidic environment. So if the bulk of our diet is vegetables it keeps us healthier. Sugars, in their various forms, and alcohol make us especially acidic.

Sugar used to be a feast day food, something people would eat once in awhile. Most cultures had feast days about once a month. These foods weren’t essential to the diet. They took time and money to prepare that most people didn’t normally have to spare. For holidays there were enough treats to go around but rarely much in the way of leftovers. Common people didn’t have enough available to over consume. Unfortunately these foods are now cheap and readily accessible. Every day has become a feast day consuming foods that are difficult to digest and eventually detrimental to the body.

In Victorian England, when the tax on sugar was lifted it became affordable to the middle and lower classes. The country’s overall health declined so dramatically that health requirements to enlist in the military had to be continually lowered.

In the 1920’s doctors in the US were writing articles encouraging people to incorporate as much sugar and white flour into the diet as they could to “build them up.” Malnutrition was still a huge problem. The majority of the population were farmers. When crops failed due to pests, drought or floods people starved. People who were plump were considered healthy and wealthy. It wasn’t until after WWII, when food shortages were no longer an issue in industrialized countries, that the ideal female figure went from plump to skinny. Before that slender people were considered “sickly looking.’ Before WWII, doctors saw that people with a bit more meat on their bones were the ones to survive famine. Portly people also had natural insulation in a time when most houses were cold, drafty and heating was expensive. If people were too ill to eat, a reserve of fat gave them the added time to recover. Sugar and white flour (high on the glycemic index and converted into sugar quicker than most other foods), doctors noted, put weight on quickly. Therefore, they reasoned, it had to be a good thing. People were encouraged to consume sugar for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and add it to drinks. Mints and candies became daily additions instead of occasional treats.

Today sugar is so ingrained in our culture, in our food, that it has become difficult to avoid. In this country we are so addicted to sugar that restaurants have learned that preparing foods with sugar increases their popularity. Food manufacturers, even of many so-called health foods, know that a bit of added sugar feeds people’s addictions and sells more product.

Other sweeteners lower on the glycemic index, such as Agave, were thought to be a good alternative. Unfortunately, when sweeteners are low in glucose they are typically high in fructose, a type of sugar even harder to digest than white table sugar. The exception is Stevia, which is a healthy choice.

Artificial sweeteners cross the blood brain barrier and can cause neurological disorders. They can be extremely addictive. They’re harmful chemicals that people are putting into their bodies. At one point there were more complaints to the FDA about artificial sweeteners causing health issues than any other food additive on the market. Many Stevia products are now mixed with artificial sweeteners.

People think they are making healthier choices by consuming fruit smoothies, fruit juices or eating large amounts of fruit. Even though these are natural forms, they contain quantities of sugar that are harmful if overconsumed. Juicing vegetables, which takes the pulp out, leaves a higher sugar content than people would be ingesting eating vegetables in their natural state. Blending up the entire vegetable or assortment of vegetables with water is a healthier alternative than juicing them.

There is often great wailing and gnashing of teeth when I suggest eliminating daily sugar in the diet and limiting sugar consumption to occasional indulgences. That’s the Candida talking: the overgrowth of yeast in the small intestines. It lives, grows and thrives on sugar, starches and junk food high on the glycemic index, high in fructose and void of nutrients. Candida’s demand for sugar and junk can be as strong as that of an alcoholic’s for alcohol, because to the body it’s the same thing. Candida is one of the addictive components of alcoholism. Excessive cravings for sugar have nothing to do with willpower. It’s the Candida demanding what it needs to survive and proliferate.

The good news is that often in a week or so patients can have the upper hand on their sweet cravings. Sweets no longer call to them and they are able to resist with no great effort. Foods they previously couldn’t live without suddenly taste unappealing. Treating the Candida and stabilizing blood sugar, with prescribed herbal formulas and nutritional supplements, improves overall health, the immune system, mood, energy and weight control. Utilizing these tools to minimize sugar in the diet enables you to enjoy and maintain a healthier diet, improving quality of life now and in the future.

Health & Happiness, Nancy Burton, L.Ac.