How Sugar Affects Your Health

After Halloween and Thanksgiving, do you find that you can’t get through the day without a sugary snack? You may be one of many people who are “addicted” to sugar. Signs of sugar addiction include irritability, frequent colds/flus, headaches, mood swings and insomnia. Sugar addiction is, in part, a by-product of sugar’s purity – the body is not suited to accommodate this level of refinement. Simple sugars – found in white table sugar, corn syrup, fructose, honey, white flour or any other super-refined carbohydrate- are refined to the point that digestion is practically superfluous. When you consume simple sugars, they are passed quickly into the bloodstream. Blood sugar levels skyrocket, and you experience a lift in energy. But that feeling of increased energy and mental alertness is temporary. As most of us can confirm, sugar highs lead to sugar crashes. And when that buzz wears off, the body cries out for more sugar. This dangerous blood sugar roller-coaster ride sets people up for future health problems, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

Simply providing the body with more sugar does not address the root problem.

Some of the underlying causes for sugar cravings include: low endorphin levels, hypoglycemia, endocrine imbalances, candida overgrowth and nutritional deficiencies. In addition, sugar negatively impacts our immune systems and our moods. In the wake of flu season and the hysteria surrounding H1N1, it is advisable to decrease your consumption of sugar as it compromises the functioning of our immune systems. Also, with the winter months looming, many people are susceptible to Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD – a lower mood or depressive state that results in the winter as a result of declining levels of sunlight and Vitamin D. Incidentally, Vitamin D has anti-viral properties, so it is an important player in the optimal functioning of our immune systems as well. Sugar cravings are often a misguided attempt by the body to increase serotonin levels in the system in order to elevate mood, albeit temporarily. The good news is that there are many other foods that increase serotonin levels without setting you up for negative long term health consequences like sugar.

Withdrawing gradually from sugar is recommended as quitting cold turkey can lead to restlessness, nervousness, headaches and depression. A first step to get off the blood sugar roller coaster is to increase the amount of complex carbohydrates (vegetables, whole grains and legumes) and protein in your diet – these take longer to digest and lead to a steady increase in blood sugar levels that decline gradually over time. Contact your Naturopathic Doctor to customize a nutritional plan for you today – visit www.cand.ca to find a practitioner near you.

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