Limit Sugars and Highly Sweetened Foods
This is probably the most critical step of basic beginner’s nutrition plan, and the one you may well struggle with initially. I recommend that you reduce and stop as many sweet foods in your diet as possible. And what do I mean by sweet foods? These are the foods that you may have become accustomed to eating plenty of in your diet, they are refined carbohydrates like breakfast cereals, cakes, biscuits (cookies), breads, muesli bars,as well confectionery and sweet drinks like fruit juices and those cola drinks. Have you noticed that nearly all of these foods contain either refined flours or refined (white) sugars and many are made from wheaten flour or contain significant amounts of cane sugar, corn syrup or other sweetening agent?
Eating foods containing sugar will have several undesirable health effects on your body, including a weakening effect on your immune system and the promotion of intestinal yeast growth. A though provoking document is 141 Ways Sugar Can Ruin Your Health by Nancy Appleton PhD. When your immune system becomes weakened your defense systems become impaired and you leave yourself wide open to virtually every disease known. Like any naturopathic practice of long standing, we have seen countless patients in our clinic over the years with dysbiosis (poor bowel flora)and candida yeast infections, and most of these patients can relate to a diet high in refined carbohydrates.
Here are some quick links that will take you to different pages of interest:
- Health On A Budget
- Healthy Food Choices
- High Value Foods
- What Is An Antioxidant?
- Dietary Supplements
- Lifestyle Changes
Sugars and refined carbohydrates deplete adrenal energy
A diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugars can also lead to adrenal fatigue, common
symptoms of which include feeling mentally and emotionally stressed, sugar and salt cravings,
mood swings, feeling weak and lethargic, brain fog, depression, dizziness and a host of other complaints. The adrenal glands are very much affected by sugar in your diet. Your adrenal glands are the tiny glands that sit on top of your kidneys, and are a major part of your HPA axis (your body’s system designed to allow you to recover from any stressful event). The two major hormones manufactured and secreted by your adrenal glands are adrenalin (epinephrine) and cortisol.
Adrenalin has a profound effect on blood sugar levels in the short term, and cortisol has a profound effect in the long-term. Controlling your blood sugar levels will go a long way towards giving you the energy when you want it, and avoiding refined carbohydrates in your diet as much as possible is one of the best ways to control hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).One of the duties of your adrenal glands is to release adrenalin after you eat sugar or high-carbohydrate foods, as well as cortisol when you blood sugar drops, to allow you to access more stored sugar (called glycogen) from the liver. While insulin removes sugar from your blood stream, cortisol and adrenalin work in tandem to counteract too much sugar being taken out by releasing stored glucose from your muscles and liver. This is your body at work, trying to maintain homoeostasis, or perfect balance, for optimal health.
Your pancreas, insulin and dietary sugar
The other important hormone worthy of mention when it comes to sugar in your diet is insulin, which is produced by your pancreas. Some experts believe that the high pancreatic cancer rate we now see is in part due to the increasingly high consumption we now see of carbonated fizzy, sugary drinks (sodas). The release of adrenaline is one of the major reasons why eating sweets and drinking caffeine can make you feel jittery, upset, or nervous. More than three cups of coffee per day can cause excessive release of adrenaline due to the caffeine and sugar consumption, leading to the future depletion of adrenaline.
Your adrenals have to perform a constant secretion of cortisol and adrenalin each and every you eat sugar, which eventually places an enormous stress on your entire body.
Do you drink those black cola (soda) drinks? Look at the amounts of sugar you are consuming with the regular cola drinks. Those non-diet fizzy carbonated soda drinks have up to an amazing 8 teaspoons of sugar in each can. Most boxed breakfast cereals cereals also have sugar as their major ingredient, just look at the label and you will see. Why else do you think kids love them? Most foods that people absolutely love to eat are the sugar or salt or fat containing foods, and the take-out businesses know this, because all their foods are essentially based around these three ingredients – sugar, salt and fat.
Besides sugars, these soda drinks contain plenty of phosphoric acid – which is linked with rotting teeth in children especially. I can remember recently speaking with a dental nurse who said that it is sad to see New Zealand’s indigenous Maori children with so many decayed and rotten teeth – due to soda drinks like Coca Cola. When the price of Coke is significantly lower than the price of milk, those who are economically deprived will choose Coke, and the health of their offspring certainly suffers as a result. Do you drink soda drinks on a regular basis? You may want to re-think these kinds of “beverages” because they certainly have NO place in a healthy diet. Stick with water, which is what these drinks are based on anyway.
Soft drinks linked to osteoporosis
According to Michael Murray ND and Joseph Pizzorno ND (Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Revised Second Edition)
“The allergenicity of penicillin in the general population is thought to be at least ten percent. Nearly 25 percent of these individuals will display hives, angioedema, or anaphylaxis upon ingestion of penicillins. hives and anaphylactic symptoms have been traced to penicillin in milk, soft drinks, and even in frozen TV dinners.
“Many general dietary factors have been suggested as a cause of osteoporosis, including: low calcium-high phosphorus intake, high-protein diet, high-acid-ash diet, high salt intake, and trace mineral deficiencies. It appears that increased soft drink consumption is a major factor that contributes to osteoporosis.
Soft drinks have long been suspected of leading to lower calcium levels and higher phosphate levels in the blood. When phosphate levels are high and calcium levels are low, calcium is pulled out of the bones. The phosphate
content of soft drinks like Coca -Cola and Pepsi is very high, and they contain virtually no calcium.
The United States ranks first among countries in soft drink consumption. The per-capita consumption of soft drinks is in excess of 150 quarts per year, or about three quarts per week, New Zealand and Australia are not far behind, in NZ (with a population of 4.2 million) we consume in excess of 1 million litres of Coca Cola every 24 hours!
Soft drink consumption in children poses a significant risk factor for impaired calcification of growing bones.” “Of the fifty-seven children who had low blood calcium levels, thirty-eight (66.7 percent) drank more than four bottles (12 to 16 ounces per bottle) of soft drinks per week, but only forty-eight (28 percent) of the 171 children with normal serum calcium levels consumed as much soft drinks These results more than support the contention that soft drink consumption leads to lower calcium levels in children. This situation that ultimately leads to poor bone mineralisation, which explains the greater risk of broken bones in children who consume soft drinks.”
Limit natural sweeteners
Try hard to limit, or better still – avoid most natural sweeteners (including corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, honey, sucrose, maltodextrin, dextrose, molasses, rice milk (again, check the label for added sugar), almond milk, grape juice, fruit juice (many are sweetened with sucrose, read the label), brown rice syrup, maple syrup, date sugar, cane sugar, corn sugar, beet sugar, and lactose). When in doubt about the sugar content of a food, look at the list of ingredients and see how many grams of carbohydrates (sugars) are listed. Unless the carbohydrates are from vegetable crops grown above the ground you should be concerned that they represent sugars that could alter your insulin levels. These sugars can also give you insulin resistance, meaning you need more sugars to give you that same level of satisfaction like you used to consuming lesser amounts. Take a look at Eating for Fatigue, it is a very popular page which has many views.
Health Tip – AVOID Artificial Sugars – They have been linked to cancers and brain disease
While refined sugars are best limited in your diet or better still avoided, none of them are as bad or as toxic as artificial sweeteners. So if you must have carbonated (fizzy) drinks, the plain version (with sugar) are superior to “diet” drinks. Many studies are now only beginning to highlight the link between soda drinks and the sharp increase we have seen globally in pancreatic cancer.
Many people ask me about Splenda, Equal or Nutra-Sweet (Aspartame). If you really value your health, then these artificial sweeteners need to be eliminated totally from your diet and your life. You will find artificial sugars in many foods today, including weight-loss or “diet foods”, chewing gum, canned and processed foods and more. read the label, and if in doubt, leave it out. Apparently there are more adverse reactions to NutraSweet reported to the FDA than all other foods, colourings, flavours, preservatives and additives combined. In certain individuals, artificial sweeteners like NutraSweet can have devastating consequences. What sugars do I recommend? I recommend that you take a serious look at Stevia and Xylitol as safe, natural alternatives. These natural sugars are hundreds of times sweeter than plain white refined sugar and have virtually no calories. Some don’t like its taste, but I have found that most people can easily adapt by having less sweeteners in their diet.
How to Avoid Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar)
Hypoglycemia means low blood sugar and the term ‘functional’ refers to an inability of the blood sugar stabilising mechanisms to function in the correct manner. Functional hypoglycemia often accompanies other complaints, especially those associated with prolonged periods of stress or anxiety. Including chronic fatigue syndrome and post-viral fatigue syndrome sufferers. Premenstrual Syndrome sufferers may experience symptoms that are similar to those of function hypoglycemia, and is often improved by a hypoglycemic diet.
A diverse group of symptoms can be associated with hypoglycemia—having one or a few symptoms is not necessarily diagnostic of hypoglycemia because these symptoms could accompany other complaints. True hypoglycemia should respond to adequate dietary change within a week, if this does not occur, other reasons for the symptoms should be sought.
The main symptoms
- Tiredness, vagueness or shakiness which is alleviated by eating.
- Tiredness or irritability if meals are late, or first thing in the morning.
- Sugar cravings.
- Hungry all the time or soon after eating.
- Headaches when meals are delayed.
- Inappropriate feelings of anxiety or inadequacy, which disappear after eating.
- Waking in the middle of the night feeling abnormally hungry.
Stress – Prolonged stress or prolonged periods of stress trigger the ‘fight or flight mechanism which causes a series of changes in hormone levels and can fluctuate blood sugar levels,
Diet – A number of dietary factors adversely affect blood sugar levels including an over consumption of refined carbohydrates and sugars, and an inappropriate alcohol intake (alcohol without eating, or alcohol with sugar-based mixers).
Dieters often develop hypoglycemia because of their low energy diets. This causes them to break out and eat large amounts of starchy or sugary foods. (Like chocolate, biscuits or some other sweet treat) The rapid drop in blood sugar initiates a very counter-productive cycle of sugar craving, hypoglycemic symptoms,and no doubt, weight gain. Following the diet for hypoglycemia (below) is a successful way to lose weight slowly and progressively because it breaks the cycle of fast and feast. Short-term ‘crash’ diets are only asking for trouble.
The most effective treatment for functional hypoglycemia is dietary change. Usually strict adherence to the diet is required for about three weeks and then a slightly more relaxed routine can be adopted. This will depend on each individual’s response to the regime and the severity of both the complaint and the underlying causes.
Health Tip – Overcoming hypoglycemia (low-blood sugar)
- Eat small amounts of protein regularly at meals and with snacks.
- Eat small, frequent meals.
- Avoid all sugar, honey and dried fruit.
- Consume only small quantities of unsweetened, dilute fruit juice.
- Avoid all stimulants such as tea, coffee, chocolate, and cola drinks.
- Avoid alcohol and cigarettes.
- Eat only whole grain foods. Avoid white flour and refined cereals.
- Always eat breakfast.
Carbohydrates cause the release of insulin
Most people in the Western world eat too many grains (bread, biscuits, muesli or snack bars, cakes, etc) as well as foods containing sugars, which cause us to have large amounts of insulin circulating in our blood. Every time you eat something sweet, insulin is released. When you finally decide like I did stop eating grains like wheat, your body may take several days to lower your insulin levels. In the meantime, the continued high circulating insulin levels may well cause you to experience many various disturbing symptoms like dizziness, confusion, headaches, and generally feeling miserable. I used to suffer for years when I was younger not knowing that it was my own fault.
So, try this – eat a small snack every two hours for the first few days of your transition you will be able to avoid this temporary side effect. You will need to eat some protein, such as an egg, a piece of chicken, turkey, fish, or some seeds or nuts, along with a vegetable such as a piece of celery, cucumber, or red pepper. This will help to prevent hypoglycemia and normalise your blood sugar.
Even after your system has adjusted, it is wise to eat 4-6 smaller meals per day. Eating more frequently has been shown to normalise insulin as well as cholesterol levels. It will also help your adrenal glands better regulate cortisol levels. Cortisol bolsters you during more long lasting stresses, such as during a prolonged illness or when you have chronic mental or emotional stress going on in your life. If your adrenals are exhausted from a high-sugar diet, your body will be less capable of dealing with, and healing from, longer-term stresses.
Choose the right carbohydrates for your diet
- Fill over half of your plate with vegetables. It is a known fact that the more colourful vegetables are the ones which are highest in antioxidant value. So the more colour and variety of vegetables on your the plate, the better. Potatoes, French fries, sweet potato and pumpkin don’t really count as vegetables, because they are high in fast-digested starch, which has a similar roller-coaster effect on blood sugar and insulin as the more refined carbohydrates such as white bread and confectionery (sweets). These blood sugar surges (in the short term) can lead to hunger and overeating, and you will find that in the long term these blood sugar fluctuations can lead to weight gain and obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other health problems related to inflammation in particular. Read more about why vegetables over fruits. Try to eat fresh fruits away from your main meals, as a snack, but if you suffer from adrenal fatigue, I’d like you to read the article entitled eating for fatigue to gain a better understanding on why eating lots of fruit for breakfast is one of the worst things you can do if you suffer from fatigue. This concept was quite popular in the 80’s in particular, with the “Fit For Life” dietary approach.
- Vegetables confer many health benefits. It’s hard to argue with the health benefits of a diet rich in vegetables and fruits, amongst the many health benefits you will find lowered blood pressure; a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke, and probably some cancers (one third of cancer is linked to diet) ; lower risk of eye and digestive problems; and a mellowing effect on blood sugar that can help keep appetite in check.
- Did you know that potatoes don’t really count as a vegetable on your plate? For optimal health, aim for at least 4½ cups of vegetables and fruits each day. Select a variety of different kinds and colors of produce, to give your body the mix of vital nutrients (especially the trace elements and minerals) it needs. The best vegetables? Go for the dark leafy greens, cooked tomatoes, and any brightly coloured vegetable for example courgette (or zucchini), bell peppers, tomato, spinach, eggplants and radish.
- Choose whole grains—whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat and foods made with them, because they tend to have a gentler effect on blood sugar and insulin than the refined carbohydrates like white bread, white rice, and other so-called refined grains. The less processed the grains, the better, and certainly limit refined grains like white flour. Read more about whole grains.
- Don’t fall for the “It’s 99% fat free” hype. The food and beverage industry would like you to believe that “fat makes you fat” and should be avoided at all costs. Have you noticed on TV: “But it’s 99% fat free”. I recently saw an advertisement for example regarding 2 minute noodles, claiming they were “fat free”. How can refined carbohydrates NOT be classified as weight-gaining foods when they cause such dramatic blood-sugar responses to occur? Remember, it’s the carbohydrates that are more inclined to make you FAT (bread, wine, chocolate, take-out pizza, soda drinks, candies, etc) than the animal fats. Choose the RIGHT carbohydrates – vegetables are the best source.