This article is shared with permission from our friends at I Quit Sugar.
Our bodies are pretty neat at giving us signs when something isn’t quite right.
So, if you’ve been struggling with a muffin top that won’t budge or persistent tummy troubles, maybe it’s time to listen in. Maybe your body is trying to tell you to quit sugar.
The following are some of the most commonly reported symptoms of a high-sugar diet. Recognize some of these in yourself? It might be time to quit sugar and get back to being your best self.
Editor’s Note: The following segment has been added to this article to bring our Hearty Soul readers the best and most up to date information.
If you find it hard to quit sugar, you’re not alone. A study supports that the unstoppable desire to eat sugar is similar to drug addiction. (1) Addiction works in a cycle of reward and craving. When you eat sugar, your brain rewards you with pleasure, but you are able to feel that pleasure again only by eating sugar. The more you eat, the more you crave and the cycle continues.
You can conquer sugar cravings and unhealthy snacking only if you eat foods that fill you up and keep you full for a long time. According to another study, some of the most filling foods are potatoes, lentils, bananas, and oats, whereas ice cream, cookies, and potato chips leave you wanting more. (6)
Sugar affects the quality of collagen and elastin, two proteins that give strength and elasticity to your skin. Sugar kick-starts a process called glycation which happens when glucose and fructose, two sugar molecules, bond to other proteins and lipids. The contact between these sugars and these proteins is what ages your skin, and high amounts of sugar in your body can quicken the process. Sugar also links collagen molecules together, which makes it harder for them to repair if they get damaged. (4)
To keep your skin strong and flexible for many years, you have to quit sugar or reduce it significantly, so try to avoid sugary snacks and packaged products with added sugar. Hydration is also important for healthy-looking skin. Skin lotions and moisturizers might moisturize your skin temporarily, but drinking lots of water, tea, fruit-infused water, and other watery drinks will hydrate you long-term from inside out. The sun and UV light can also damage your skin, so apply sunscreen and avoid tanning beds as much as possible.
Sugar also impacts the storage of fat in your body, especially around your middle and internal organs.
A study divided participants in 4 groups and assigned one type of drink to each group, including regular cola sweetened with sugar, diet cola sweetened with aspartame, semiskim milk, and water. The participants drank their assigned drink daily for 6 months and the researchers measured the changes in the participants’ body fat after 3 and 6 months. The regular cola group had more visceral, liver, and skeletal muscle fat, and higher triglyceride and cholesterol levels than all the other groups. (7)
A clean, sugar-free diet is the key factor in losing total body fat, but exercise can help you target specific parts of your body. Try these chair exercises that burn fat in your abdomen while you sit, and if you want to push yourself a bit more, do these military-style exercises to effectively work your abdomen at home.
Tooth decay occurs because the bacteria that live in your mouth feed off sugar. These bacteria produce acids that break down two layers of your teeth, enamel and dentin, and cause decay and cavities. Old studies estimated that people shouldn’t get more than 10% of their energy from sugar, but recent studies conducted on a global scale found that the amount of daily sugar intake should actually be less than 2-3%. (9)
These studies also show that adults tend to have more dental damage than children, which increase throughout life. That’s why it’s important for children to avoid sugar as much as possible to have fewer cavities later on.
Candies and sweets are not the only foods that contribute to tooth decay. Other foods can damage your teeth, such as pasta and bread and even healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables. That’s because these foods are carbohydrates and contain fructose and glucose which are sugars. This doesn’t mean that you should never eat carbohydrates, but it’s good to remember that all foods can damage your teeth at some degree, so it’s good to brush your teeth about an hour after every meal.
A study found that children between the ages of 2 and 9 whose diet was full of refined sugar and processed foods were more at risk of developing chronic inflammation later in life than children whose diet was rich in fruits and vegetables. (5)
Another study showed that prolonged consumption of beverages with high-fructose content, such as soda and packaged orange juice, can contribute to gout, an inflammatory arthritis condition, in women. (3) The study documented the beverage consumption of nearly 80,000 women over 22 years and found that women who had at least one serving of high-fructose beverages per day had a 95% chance of developing gout. Sugar-induced inflammation can also affect your digestive system, as you’ll see next.
Sugar can prevent your digestive system from functioning properly. Fructose can contribute to leaky gut, a condition that allows substances to pass through the small intestine and enter the bloodstream. Fructose can cause inflammation in the liver by releasing inflammatory factors and has even been associated with colon, pancreas, and liver cancer. (2)
Sugar also affects your gut flora, the living organisms that reside in your intestines. Sugar can cause an imbalance in your intestines and damage your gut flora which causes inflammation and insulin resistance. (8)
To resolve the intestinal issues that sugar can cause, it’s important to follow a diet that balances your gut flora, and that means eating lots of fiber. All plant foods have fiber, but if you want to get a lot of fiber quickly, fruits such as passionfruit, avocado, and raspberries are your best friend.
Should you quit sugar? Here’s how to tell in 5 seconds flat
(1) Ahmed, S. H., Guillem, K., & Vandaele, Y. (2013). Sugar addiction: pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care, 16(4), 434-439.
(2) Charrez, B., Qiao, L., Hebbard, L. (2015). The role of fructose in metabolism and cancer. Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation, 22(2), 79-89.
(3) Choi, H, K., Willett, W., & Curhan, G. (2010). Fructose-Rich Beverages and Risk of Gout in Women. JAMA, 304(20), 2270-2278.
(4) Danby, F. W. (2010). Nutrition and aging skin: sugar and glycation. Clinics in Dermatology, 28(4), 409-411
(5) González-Gil, E. M., Tognon, G., Lissner, L., Intemann, T., Pala, V., Galli, C., . . . Moreno Aznar, L. A. (2017). Prospective associations between dietary patterns and high sensitivity C-reactive protein in European children: the IDEFICS study. European Journal of Nutrition, 1-11.
(6) Holt, S. H., Miller, J. C., Petocz, P., & Farmakalidis E. (1995). A satiety index of common foods. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 49(9), 675-90.
(7) Maersk, M., Belza, A., Stødkilde-Jørgensen, H., Ringgaard, S., Chabanova, E., Thomsen, H., . . . Richelsen B. (2012). Sucrose-sweetened beverages increase fat storage in the liver, muscle, and visceral fat depot: a 6-mo randomized intervention study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 95(2), 283-289.
(8) Prajapati, B., Rajput, P., Jena, P. K., & Seshadri, S. (2015). Investigation of Chitosan for Prevention of Diabetic Progression Through Gut Microbiota Alteration in Sugar Rich Diet Induced Diabetic Rats. Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, 17(2), 173-184.
(9) Sheiham, A. & James, W. P. (2014). A new understanding of the relationship between sugars, dental caries and fluoride use: implications for limits on sugars consumption. Public Health Nutrition, 17(10), 2176-2184.
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