10 Reasons to Quit Sugar
Humans have been eating sugar for over 2,000 years, and although we all know that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, excess consumption of sugar is not quite the same thing. Enjoying sugar and treats in moderation can certainly be part of a healthy diet (and should be!), but it is the overwhelming excess consumption of added sugars and refined carbohydrates that is problematic and the cause of many common health issues. So, if you know you should quit, but are not yet convinced, here are 10 of the top reasons to quit sugar today!
1. Sugar Impairs Gut Health
Of all of the areas that sugar can have a negative impact, our gut health is arguably the most detrimental. You have likely heard the expression “you are what you eat”, but in reality, you are actually what you absorb. Our gut is a complex system that absorbs nutrients, makes minerals, houses bacteria, protects from infection, and relays messages to our brain. It is a hard-working system that allows essential nutrients and water into our body, while keeping toxins and antigens out. Our digestive tract is home to hundreds of different types of beneficial bacteria which work to keep us healthy, however, a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can throw off the bacteria balance in the gut. This imbalance can not only cause impaired digestion; including IBS, gas and bloating, but because the gut is linked to so many other areas of the body, it can also impact skin issues, behavioural issues, allergies, hormonal imbalance, and join inflammation. Our gut health is truly the key to our health, so managing our gut microbiome is vital to overall health and longevity, making it one of the most important reasons to quit sugar.
2. Sugar Impacts Skin, Acne and Eczema
Although not often considered, it is important to remember that the skin is an elimination organ, and it is therefore a representation for what is going on inside the body, specifically the the balance of bacteria in our gut. A disrupted microbiome or poor gut health caused by sugar intake can have very negative impacts on the skin. Not to mention, consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates, have been shown to trigger inflammation and hormonal disturbances impacting skin issues such as rosacea, acne, and premature aging. The rise of insulin levels in the bloodstream, caused by excess sugar consumption, has been shown to increase the activity of oil glands in your skin and increase inflammatory processes triggering acne and pimples. Moreover, when consumed in excess, sugar attaches to collagen protein in a process called glycation, creating a new substance called AGEs. AGEs are incredibly destructive to your body’s natural proteins and have been shown to break down elastin and degrade collagen in the skin causing wrinkles and premature aging, making it one of the top reason to quit sugar.
3. Sugar Causes Weight Gain
Not only is refined sugar a source of “empty calories” that is devoid of its own nutrients, but sugar is the leading cause of weight gain. Every time that you eat sugar or refined carbohydrates you trigger the release of insulin in the bloodstream. Insulin is a fat storing hormone, it’s job is to tell the body to convert the sugar you have just eaten into stored energy to be used at a later time in the form of body fat. The problem is that excess consumption sugar leads to insulin resistance, this means that more and more insulin is needed to get the job done. Therefore, the more sugar you eat, the higher your blood sugar, therefore the higher your insulin levels, and therefore the more you will store fat. Over time, insulin becomes more and more resistant causing the body to store body fat at a more rapid rate, which leads to excess weight gain, specifically in the abdominal region.
4. Sugar Impacts Hormones & PCOS
Eating too much sugar can throw your blood sugar out of whack and believe it or not, you blood sugar is linked to the balance of hormone function in your body. Research into polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) has highlighted the link between sugar consumption, overall carbohydrate intake, and hormonal activity. It has been shown that insulin resistance is one of the root physiological imbalances in most, if not all, PCOS. High insulin levels impact more than just blood sugar, they are linked to other hormones in the body including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, and can tell the ovaries to make more testosterone, a root issue in PCOS. Although more of a recent connection, the need to balance hormones is one the most beneficial reasons to quit sugar.
5. Sugar Reduces our Energy
Sugar consumption directly impacts our blood sugar and our blood sugar directly impacts our energy levels. When you eat a large amount of sugar, or a meal rich in carbohydrates, your body reacts by producing insulin to metabolize the sugar in your blood. This high influx of sugar (or energy) gives you a quick boost of energy, followed by a dramatic dip or crash once the sugar has been removed from the blood stream. This constant disruption in blood sugar will not only leave you feeling tired during the day, but cause you to crave more sugar and refined carbohydrates to bring your energy levels back up. Over time, this cycle become exacerbated and you require more and more sugar for bring up your energy, so your energy levels remain low all day long and only spike briefly when sugar is consumed.
6. Sugar Impacts the Immune System
Every time that we eat something sweet, the pancreas releases insulin to reduce the elevated blood sugar and deliver it to the cells. Insulin inhibits the release of human growth hormone, which depresses the immune system, making us less equipped to fight off infections and viruses. So, over time, excess consumption of sugar can “weaken” the immune system making us more susceptible to cold and flu season, and in the very long-term, can leave us more susceptible to disease, auto-immune issues, and (worst case scenario) cancer.
7. Sugar is Linked to Heart Disease
You’ve probably heard the dogma that saturated fats and cholesterol are the enemies when it comes to heart health, but in reality, it is sugar that we should be most concerned with. It is now commonly accepted by the medical community that it is the excess consumption of refined sugars that is the largest contributor to heart disease, not saturated fats. How sugar exactly affects heart health is not completely understood, but it appears to have several indirect connections including high blood sugar, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, all of which have been linked to heart disease, making it another one of the important reasons to quit sugar.
8. Sugar Causes Cravings
Although most people understand that you can crave sugar, not everyone recognizes that once you start eating sugar, it will cause you to crave more of it. The vicious cycle of craving sugar is not only perpetuated and impacted by the insulin response of highs and lows that you feel while eating, but by the rush of dopamine, our feel good neurotransmitter, that you receive when you eat it. Sugar has been shown to stimulate the reward centre of our brain, which is small amounts can be good, but in excess is detrimental to our health as it becomes more and more addictive.
9. Sugar Leads to Diabetes
This is probably the most well known side affect of consuming excess sugar and refined carbohydrates, and although more long-term than some of the other symptoms, is unfortunately all too common. Over time, insulin resistance can become exacerbated and develop into type 2 diabetes in some individuals. Type 2 diabetes is considered a “lifestyle disease” meaning that it is heavily influenced by diet and lifestyle factors, sugar and refined carbohydrate consumption being the largest contributing factor.
10. Sugar Impacts Mental Health
To date, far less attention has been paid to the impacts of sugar on mental health, but this research and information is now becoming increasingly available. Not only does eating too much sugar impact our insulin which can impact other hormones and neurotransmitters (including dopamine), but our gut is considered our “second brain”. There is a direct relationship between our mental health and our gut health thanks to the gut-brain axis, and 80% of your serotonin (another mood-boosting neurotransmitter) is housed in your gut. Therefore, overconsumption of sugar not only affects the spikes and dips in our energy impacting our mood, but sugar is continually impacting our gut health which directly impacts mood, as well as anxiety and depression.
The Bottom Line
The reasons to quit sugar are endless and the facts don’t lie, sugar is not good for our health. Although in small amounts sugar can most certainly be included in a healthy and balanced diet, it is the excess consumption of refined sugars and refined carbohydrates that you need to pay attention to. Quitting sugar is not about never eating it again, it’s just about doing it in a controlled may. Although it may seem almost impossible to quit sugar after reading this it can be done, you just need to know how. So, in order to give you all of the tools and information that you need, download a free copy of my Quick Start Guide to Quitting Sugar and get started today!