The Real Problem With Refined Sugar
Sugar has been the "blame" for many of the diseases of modern society for some time now, everything from dental decay ("sugar rots your teeth") to obesity ("sugar makes you fat"), to type 2 diabetes, to metabolic syndrome, yeast infections and a whole host of other issues.
Why IS sugar so "bad" for you?
And are all sugars "bad"?
Most people think sugar is bad because it is quickly absorbed in the bloodstream, because it spikes insulin levels, or because it leads to cravings or blood sugar instability but the REAL reason excessive sugar consumption is a problem is because sugar is food for bad bacteria in the gut.
Yes you read it right. It has to do with digestion, which is, over 70% of your immune system and plays an irrefutably crucial role in how your body looks, feels, and functions.
WHY SUGAR IS SO "BAD" FOR YOU:
Pathogenic bacteria in both the mouth (where digestion begins) and in the intestines LOVE simple, refined sugars, and as they feed on sugars and colonize, they begin to wreck havoc across your entire physiology.
For example, in the mouth, they'll produce acids that wear away at the enamel and dentin of the teeth. Over time they can even make their way into your gums and leak their acids and other endotoxins (their poop) into the bloodstream as free radicals. Free radicals eat away at veins and artery walls, the heart, joints and other tissue systems across the body. They can even injure the pancreas and the liver.
As it pertains to insulin sensitivity, when these free radicals reach the cells they can infiltrate and damage cell membranes, and the pathways that transport glucose (stored sugar) into cells. This is why "sugar" gets blamed for insulin resistance, because this can contribute to cells becoming LESS sensitive to glucose and insulin. And when the heart, blood vessels, liver, and pancreas become damaged by these endotoxins they cannot function optimally. Even the tiniest bit of incoming sugar can then pose a threat because 1) a pancreas that is damaged cannot produce the insulin needed and 2) the damaged cell membranes (as I mentioned above) can't adequately absorb glucose.
What's more, when the liver becomes compromised, glycogen deficiencies result. These deficiencies throw off the balance between blood glucose levels, glycogen levels, insulin and fat storage. This whole mess is what's widely termed "metabolic syndrome", a state of full body inflammation that increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Metabolic syndrome is categorized by things like increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
While this can seem "surprising" research has long confirmed that probiotics can help reverse glucose and metabolism disorders, simply by helping to change the bacteria in the gut. Science has also found that long term high fiber, no refined sugar diets can slow and even REVERSE glycemia problems. Since diet and probiotic treatments can help manage and treat metabolism and glucose issues and diabetes, it stands to reason that one contributory factor to these diseases is refined sugar consumption.
This is further affirmed when you look at yeast infections. Simple sugars are GREAT foods for yeast. It's part of why people battling SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) are encouraged to embark on a low sugar low carb diet, because bacterial overgrowth and yeast overgrowth are often the result of too much consumed sugars.
The bottom line is the biggest problem with refined sugar isn't it's caloric content, or even how it impacts blood sugar. It's that it creates a buildup of pathogenic yeast and bacteria in the body.
WHICH SUGARS ARE THE WORST?
The sugars that tend to be the best foods for bacteria and yeast are refined sugars that produce the most FRUCTOSE (fruit sugar) and GLUCOSE.
So this would be:
1) Foods with refined SUCROSE (breaks down to 50/50 glucose and fructose)
2) High fructose corn syrup (ranges from 40-90% fructose and the rest from glucose)
3) Evaporated cane juice (99% sucrose)
4) Brown sugar (83% sucrose)
5) Cane sugar or organic cane sugar (99% sucrose)
Refined versions of honey, agave and fruit juices are also pretty bad. These are different from RAW honey, WHOLE fruit juices and maple syrup. The latter sweeteners are SLIGHTLY better because their sugars are still complexed within plant nutrients and polysaccharides. Once you strip away the plants own antibacterial ingredients, leaving naked sugar molecules you are opening the doorway for pathogenic bacteria to thrive.
1. Minimize your consumption of the types of sugar that allow pathogenic bacteria to thrive. Also be sure to watch artificial sweetener consumption (especially sucralose and aspartame) which has been shown to result in higher levels of Clostridium and Enterobacteriaceae in the intestines, both of which are associated with disease.
2. Focus on consuming whole, quality foods in a wide variety.A diverse microbiota is considered to be a healthy one because the more species of bacteria you have, the greater number of health benefits they may be able to contribute to.
3. Increase your fiber consumption (both soluble and insoluble) for whole body health
4. Eat prebiotic foods. Prebiotics are foods that promote the growth of beneficial microbes in the gut, mainly fiber or complex carbs that can't be digested by human cells. Instead, certain species of bacteria break them down and use them for fuel. Many fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain prebiotics, but they can also be found on their own. Resistant starch (cooked and cooled starches) can also be prebiotic. This type of starch is not absorbed in the small intestine. Rather, it passes into the large intestine where it is broken down by the microbiota.
5) Eat (and/or drink) tolerated amounts of fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, kefir etc. If your gut is healthy they likely won't have an impact, science has shown their strongest effects appear to be restoring the microbiota to a healthy state after being compromised.