Why Unicorns Won’t Quit Sugar!
“Stuck with another day, how should we pass it? If anything worked for you before —I’d give that preference.” – Mirabai, 16th Century
The thing about giving preference to sugar restriction, is that it can – at least for a certain amount of time – feel quite good.
It can also – when it means truly harmful ingredients inside so called ‘high sugar’ foods are consumed less – be potentially quite beneficial.
Either way, there will always be people talking about how much better they started to feel, after having removed some, or all, of the ‘sugar filled foods’ from their diet.
Reality is, they are actually referring to the removal of completely different products with different compositions, different ingredients added, and different effects.
Because individual circumstances and issues range quite significantly – and approaches taken vary a great deal – results are inconsistent and unreliable.
Here are some of the common ways people approach the idea of sugar restriction, and some explanations for why they might notice – at least for a time – an improvement in the way they feel.
A typical line of attack for many attempting to reduce sugar intake, is to begin by removing items considered to be the worst junk foods – fast food items, donuts and the like – popularly known as ‘sugary’ foods.
Most of these kinds of foods are filled with a range of problematic ingredients. Some have very little white sugar or sucrose in them at all. It isn’t uncommon to find large quantities of the polyunsaturated fats (PUFA), many types of chemicals and preservatives, as well as a variety of toxic gums, heavy metals, and other potentially harmful things.
Often the ‘sugar content’ is in the form of carbohydrates from wheat glucose (and other varieties of pure glucose) or different grains and starches. Not so much sucrose anymore.
The polyunsaturated fats interfere with metabolic function. They promote digestive distress and chronic inflammation, and are a big part of what is responsible for the onset of the symptoms of degeneration – including obesity and diabetes – popularly blamed on white sugar ingestion.
There are plenty of reasons why removing ‘junk foods’ can lead to immediate metabolic improvement. Restriction in consumption of ‘refined’ white sugar isn’t high on the list.
The combination of PUFA and starch can be particularly damaging to metabolism. Together they can interfere with proper blood sugar regulation, promote insulin issues and encourage the release of many inflammatory stress promoting substances.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids damage the cells ability to use sugar, and starch (and other complex carbohydrates) – when they change into glucose – raise blood sugar levels at a much faster rate than simple white sugar. Reducing intake can lead to health improvements on numerous fronts.
Avoiding PUFA in particular, can lead to a reduction in the stress issues associated with hyperglycaemia, which promote inflammatory disease states and commonly get wrongly put onto sucrose or fructose consumption.
This can eventually allow for improved utilisation of sugars remaining in the diet, better functioning energy systems, more regeneration potential, stronger digestion, more optimal immune system performance and an increase in overall health.
If there is still enough sugar being consumed – preferably from fruit and honey and white sugar – in combination with sufficient protein (and other important nutrients) from dairy products and some other sources, there is greater potential for the effects of chronic stress and suppressed thyroid metabolism to start to fall away.
Often times sodas made of simple ingredients like cane sugar, caffeine and carbonated water (hint hint), are thrown out with ‘junk’ foods, missing the opportunity to experience their beneficial effects.
Some people make the decision to remove as many things from their diet which contain simple sugars (including sweet fruits and fruit juice), leaving starchy grains and vegetables as their sole carbohydrate source.
Rapid blood sugar rising impact aside, the ‘healthy complex carbs’ are composed of difficult to digest fibers and starches (and a variety of other chemicals), known to interfere with digestive function.
Seeds, grains, nuts and legumes are a major source of PUFA, and PUFA directly suppresses digestive function. These types of carbs can promote bacterial overgrowth, causing an increase in endotoxin, which in and of itself interferes with metabolic function and promotes inflammation.
All of this encourages stress and thyroid dysfunction, and can involve excessive levels of the inflammatory metabolism suppressing stress substances, including serotonin, estrogen, cortisol and nitric oxide.
When issues are worsened – or at least remain unresolved – it is common for the belief to be that this is because there is still too much ‘sugar’ left in the diet.
The next decision – removing all carbohydrates – to go more deeply into sugar restriction territory – can cement confusion by creating an immediate improvement in feelings of well-being.
Initially (at least until thyroid metabolism slows in response to the stress of lack of energy), there can be benefits which arise out of improvements in digestion, due the removal of many of the inflammatory hard to digest bacteria promoting things.
This can sometimes lead to genuinely positive flow-on effects, where the liver is given the chance to function better, and systemic inflammatory issues can be reduced.
But it is misleading to suggest that any possibly real health benefits have come from the removal of white sugar from the diet, when in fact it is the reduction in consumption of things that are often seen as ‘healthy’, which may have been the change.
Any initial improvements can be easily offset by rising stress and the reduction in metabolic function, when fuel becomes too restricted and glycogen stores run out. Lack of protein also plays a big part in this stressful thyroid suppressing state.
At this point, the inclusion of ample simple sugars and good quality protein might be wise. Regardless, many still report (at least for a period of time) symptom improvement and increased energy levels, combined with feelings that border on euphoria.
Many of the substances of stress which rise when sugar is restricted, can be responsible for the good feelings mentioned. With continued release however, inflammatory issues tend to worsen and positive effects diminish.
As well as this, as low sugar supply and rising PUFA circulation (as free fatty acids released for fuel) cause energy systems to slow down, immune function is suppressed and nutritional requirements can be temporarily defensively reduced.
This can look and feel like symptom recovery – it’s probably more like symptom avoidance or suppression – but long term damage to metabolic function (often taking a while to become obvious) can be severe.
You won’t meet many people who can let go of the idea that quitting sugar is a good thing until they have become noticeably unwell. Even then it can be difficult for them to let go of the illusion that sugar restriction once really helped.
Without a contextual understanding of why a person might feel better (or look better) when they restrict certain foods, it can easily seem to make sense to conclude that it’s as simple as – ‘I quit sugar, I feel great, and this is going to last.’
Unfortunately however – even for unicorns – not all that glitters is gold.
Stories of suffering due to the crashing of metabolism leading to chronic illness, arising out of extended periods of sugar restriction are far from rare. But they are nowhere near as popularly publicised as the so called success stories.
The least common (but possibly most beneficial approach) might be a diet free of PUFA and limiting problematic starchy fibrous complex carbs, with sufficient protein and nutrients from milk, cheese and gelatin, and an abundance of sugar from sweet ripe juicy fruits, fruit juice, white sugar, honey, and even some sugary sodas or – as they are called in far away mythical lands – soft drinks.
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