It’s the villain of the health and wellness world. It’s sneaky and hides in all sorts of non-Paleo foods. It’s cheap, addictive, and blended into just about everything on supermarket shelves today. That’s right—it’s sugar. The effects of refined sugar are seriously bad news for anyone who’s trying to feel better, sleep better, or heal from any type of illness. Sugar and other added sweeteners are hard to get away from, especially since they go by about a dozen different names. But learning to spot the invaders is only the beginning of the battle—you’ll need to don your Paleo armor if you want to help your body heal!
After years of ingesting things like high fructose corn syrup, cane juice, maltodextrin, barley malt, and others, many people’s bodies become weighed down with this “sugar burden” and can’t perform the optimal physiological functions to keep them healthy, strong and clearheaded. One of the biggest benefits of a primal lifestyle is the absence of these highly processed and harmful ingredients, and this is why so many people feel amazing after switching to a Paleo diet. When you finally break up with these sneaky sweeteners, your body can regain balance, and you may find you feel better than you have in years!
If you need convincing that your sugary diet is hindering your healing process, check out these four ways effects of refined sugar negatively to our body.
1. Sugar blocks vitamin C absorption
When we get sick, whether it’s an acute cold or a longer-term infection, we usually reach for vitamin C. We mix up the fizzy packets, swallow lots of pills, and drink tons of orange juice, but if we’re also loading lots of sugar on board, our efforts may be all for naught. White blood cells need vitamin C to fight bacteria and viruses, but when sugar is present, they will absorb that instead of the vitamins they need. The more sugar in your system, the less vitamin C will be able to be used, and the more impaired your immune system will be.
2. Sugar drives insulin resistance
Diabetes is one of the major chronic diseases of our day, with millions of adults and children affected each year. The rise in sugar consumption correlates with the increased prevalence of this illness because sugar and insulin have a close relationship. One of the effects of refined sugar is when you ingest large amounts of sugar, your body has to push out huge doses of insulin to bring things back into balance. When you do this over and over again, it puts a strain on your pancreas, and your cells become less and less sensitive to the insulin it produces. And since blood sugar regulation is tied to nearly every process in our body, when that is off, everything else tends to go awry, too.
3. Sugar provides fuel for cancer cells
It’s been postulated that the incredible rise in cancer rates over the past few decades is due to the increase in both sugar and toxins in our environment. Several research studies have correlated blood sugar levels with tumor growth and cancer mortality rates, showing that sweet stuff is a preferred fuel source for cancer cells of all kinds, especially breast, lung, and pancreatic cancers. The higher your blood sugar levels, the more nutrition you provide for damaged cells to begin or expand their growth, whether or not you currently have a cancer diagnosis.
4. Sugar increases systemic inflammation
Our bodies are pretty smart, using inflammation to control acute infections and disease for millennia. But lately, diet and lifestyle factors have led this typically useful switch to become stuck in the “on” position, and it’s wreaking havoc. Systemic inflammation is present in almost every chronic disease process, and sugar dramatically increases these pro-inflammatory blood and cell markers. Sugar promotes oxidation, the creation of free radicals, and the release of molecules called cytokines, which are present in areas of high inflammation. All of this can lead to aches and pains, accelerated aging, poor sleep quality, brain fog, and more.
If you want to support your body’s natural healing mechanisms and finally get to the place of health and vitality you’ve always dreamed about, maybe it’s time to ditch the sweet stuff and follow a healthy lifestyle. Learn to read labels, choose fresh and organic produce and grass-fed meats, and practice stress reduction techniques. Recognize the places where sugar is hiding, and choose to invest elsewhere. Your body and mind will thank you.
Dr. Patrick Lovegrove is board certified by the American Board of Family Physicians. He was born in Staunton, Virginia, and graduated from the University of Virginia where he majored in Biology. He received a Medical School Scholarship from the United States Air Force. A graduate of Nova Southeastern College of Osteopathic Medicine, his over 20 years of clinical experience includes Family Practice, Anti-aging, Holistic Internal Medicine, Pain Management, Aerospace, Sports, and Emergency Medicine. He believes that holistic medicine should be integrated with conventional medicine in a scientifically based model to achieve the best results for patients.