Editor’s note: Wellness Word is an informational column which is not meant to replace a health care professional’s diagnosis, treatment or medication.
Like most American children, I was raised on sugar–popsicles. Fast food take out was a rewards for being good, and pizza for dinner was a common occurrence.
These foods were fun when I was young, but by my late teens I developed problems. Bloating and diarrhea were a common occurrence after meals, and I had high and low energy spikes with consistent brain fog. I tried medicines, hydration, and eliminating foods but nothing solved it.
Then, in my early 30’s, a friend inspired me to change the way I look at food. During a process of nutritional realization, I discovered I was a sugar burner. All of the organs and systems of my body were thrown out of balance. I’ve changed my habits and improved 100% of my symptoms. My journey inspired me to study nutritional therapy and become a practitioner.
Due to industrialization and food giant lobbyists, our culture has been inundated with sugar in its many forms. Most of the pro-sugar message is directed to children. The good news is, when we understand sugar’s role in the body, we can begin to change the way we look at food, the first step to living a full, healthy life.
How did we get here? The earliest human diet consisted mostly of fats and proteins. Fish, animal products including organs and bone broth, seeds, nuts, bugs, and the occasional fruits and leaves, were the main staples. We evolved to operate on the key vitamins and minerals found in these foods including A, D (sun), E, K, B6, B12. Most importantly, we evolved to burn fat for energy.
The last 100 years has seen the mass processing of foods, pesticides, genetic engineering, and a tremendous amount of added sugar. Just look at the common American breakfast, it is mostly dessert.
The good news? There is a better way.
When things work the right way – Energy and vitamins come from the 3 macronutrients: fats (oils, butter, egg yokes, coconut), carbohydrates (vegetables, fruit, whole grains), and proteins (muscle meats, legumes, egg whites). (Note: these are the general foods, some contain more than one macronutrient.)
Sugar appears in the body in the form of glucose. Some glucose is converted immediately into energy. Some is converted and stored as fat to be used for energy later.
Two hormones, insulin and glucagon, regulate this process of conversions. Insulin is the storage hormone. It’s like a doorman at a hotel guiding sugar to our cells. The cells either convert or store. When we need energy, glucose is converted immediately. An hour or two after a meal, when blood sugar drops, glucagon is released and sent out to find the stored glucose.
Any extra glucose is converted to glycogen and stored in the liver and muscles. Extra, extra glucose is stored in fat tissue, sometimes indefinitely. This is when things can get dangerous.
Blood sugar should be in a range of 70-90 mg/dL. If it’s too high or too low, cells are worn out. When we eat an evolutionary breakfast of mostly fats or proteins like eggs, pasture raised meat, and sautéed greens for instance; a small amount of insulin is released. Conversions are made and blood sugar is at a healthy level. So far so good.
When things go wrong – Carbohydrates come in two categories; ‘complex’ carbohydrates including most vegetables, lentils, and squash; and ‘simple’ carbohydrates like concentrated fruit juice, flour, and granulated sugar. Carbohydrates are not bad, but an influx of the ‘wrong carbs’ will screw up the whole system.
Rosemary Fotheringham, Author of Radiant Reboot, 2016 puts it simply: “Now let’s take a breakfast that would be considered by many to be “healthy” – oatmeal with raisins, coffee with a sweetened creamer, and a glass of orange juice. It’s low fat. It’s got whole grains; but once it’s broken down into the body, that breakfast translates into sugar with some sugar, coffee with some sugar, and a tall glass of sugar.”
This meal Rosemary mentions spikes insulin fast. If we consume these sugary carbohydrates too often, hormones can’t control the spike. After a while, insulin gives up and stops being produced. This could lead to massive weight gain, atherosclerosis (heart disease), or diabetes.
Remember, your body monitors the amount of glucose in the blood stream and maintains its balance 24 hours a day. Occasional candy bars and ice cream alone don’t cause diabetes, it’s the over-indulgence of hidden culprits like bread, pasta, and sweeteners consumed daily that lead to problems.
In the next article, I’ll cover the potential harms of blood sugar dis-regulation in the body, and offer better alternatives of energy for every nutritional lifestyle. Hint: the word “fat” is involved…
Benjamin Pitts, NTP, valiantwellness.com, 917.399.7877, firstname.lastname@example.org