Sugar and why to avoid it

Edwige Fajfer, Naturopath

Translation Iona Eberle

Sugar is virtually the sole fuel for our brains and the preferred fuel for our muscles. However, we all know it: sugar and especially refined sugar (white sugar) is bad for your health. When sugar is consumed in large quantities it turns into fat, which is difficult to get rid of, it spoils our teeth, it can cause acne and pimples, it exhausts the pancreas, can give you a headache, it feeds the candidiasis (the famous candida albicans), and in its refined form, sugar contains almost no nutrients (minerals and oligoelements) and therefore has little nutritional value.

Beyond this pretty picture, there are two main reasons why sugar should be banned: it acidifies your body and is pro-inflammatory. It has now been demonstrated that our modern way of life accentuates chronic acidification and inflammation: refined food (stripped of all nutrients), stress, pollution, pesticides, and electromagnetic fields that are getting more and more dense are the drivers behind the current explosion of lifestyle diseases: type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, cancer.

Let us avoid adding to this through an excessive consumption of sugar.

One does not necessarily notice a latent inflammatory state, because it is a low-grade, often silent inflammation. There are no clear-cut symptoms, but you may experience joint or muscle pain that comes and goes, chronic fatigue or a bloated and sore belly, even stomach palpitations. If this is the case, it means that your digestive system is inflamed, and the consumption of sugar, amongst other, is responsible.

Eating sugar elevates your blood glucose (your blood sugar), which can lead to the following:

– Increased levels of tutor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF) and interleukins, which are pro-inflammatory molecules made by our white blood cells. Their presence reflects an “excitation of the immune system” – and an over-stretching of the immune system, can cause us to fall sick more easily.

– Increased oxidative stress linked to the auto-oxidation of glucose, which makes our cells age faster.

– Risk of cell resistance to insulin. After eating a meal containing sugar, cells in the pancreas release insulin into the bloodstream to allow sugar to enter the cells and be absorbed. Heavy sugar intake may cause cells to become resistant to insulin, the sugar no longer be absorbed and will instead lodge as fat around our abdomens. The consequence – the appearance of unattractive abdominal fat and increased risk of disease, and in the long term, the risk of type 2 diabetes.

We cannot control everything in our environment – things like pollution, exposure to electromagnetic waves etc. – but we can control our sugar intake. Being one of the most addictive foods, it is however difficult to resist the craving for sugar. A very good report from ARTE recently showed that lab rats addicted to both sugar and cocaine, actually chose sugar over the hard drug. The effect of sugar on the brain is just like that of a drug, as it causes endorphins to be released, those famous molecules of “happiness”.

So, what should we do in the event of a sugar craving?

– Change your train of thought: the craving will only last a few minutes. Take a few deep breaths, move around. The craving will disappear.

– Eat fruit: Natural sugars are found in fresh and dried fruits (organic) and have a low glycemic index, which can compensate for the craving for biscuits or sweets. If you are the type of person who likes to eat something sweet at the end of a meal, a good tip that will curb this craving is to eat fresh fruit 30 minutes before the meal. You will have had your dose of sugar and the desire for dessert afterwards will be less present.

– Have a hot drink: the time it takes to prepare and drink it, will minimise the desire for sugar. Teas like Yogi Tea that contain spices like cinnamon, are naturally sweet without the presence of sugar.

– Add sufficient good fats, rich in omega 3, and protein to your diet. Then your body will have the fuel it needs to produce energy and will not crave sugar as much.

When it comes to the preparation of food, the following alternatives to white sugar can be used:

– Rapadura (unrefined, organic cane sugar): it is the richest in amino acids and minerals, it protects your teeth and strengthens the body.

– Coconut sugar.

– Honey, agave syrup.

All of these can be found in any good organic food store. Generally choose foods with a low Glycemic Index (GI) (which won’t cause your blood sugar to rise too much). Good overview of foods and GI can easily be found on the net.

Stopping the intake of refined sugar does not just happen overnight, especially when you are used to consuming quite a lot. It requires a re-education of sorts, like all major lifestyle changes. And when you decide to stop using sugar, you will have withdrawal symptoms: fatigue, irritability. No worries, that is normal! The body is cleansing itself and you will afterwards realise that you will not be able to eat the way you did before. You will find new energy, improve your digestion, get a less bloated stomach, and you will lose weight. You will be more stable from an emotional point of view (sugar is an exciter!) and your skin will look better.