Sugar: Why Your Body Needs It
Do you choose stevia or xylitol over natural sweeteners like honey? Do you make an effort to tightly limit natural sugar consumption due to candida issues or fear of weight gain? Then this is the post for you! Also, before we go further, let me say that I am NOT pro white sugar or corn syrup or other processed sweeteners. I do believe that natural, unprocessed sugars (like fruit, raw honey and pure maple syrup) play an important part of a healthy diet.
I tried quitting sugar. It sucked.
Part of my goal with my blog is to share my health experiences with you so that you can learn from my mistakes… without making the mistakes yourself! So here is my mistake with quitting sugar: When I first began a healing grain-free diet called the GAPS diet, my ulcerative colitis symptoms disappeared. Eager to support my body’s healing process (I really only had good intentions), I jumped on the “anti-candida diet” bandwagon (I explain below why this is a bad idea). So here I was on a limited grain free diet, and I decided also to take out honey and fruits. This sounds like an extreme choice, but many candida diets and “blood sugar control” diets actually recommend this intense carb and sugar limitation.
Well, that lasted about two weeks. Things started to slide downhill… quickly. I felt like a rock: I was so fatigued that a walk around the block left me exhausted. I was an emotional wreck and I literally couldn’t handle spilled milk. And then there were the dizzy spells. Every time I stood up or tried to walk up the stairs, my head went spinning and my vision blurred. Now I know this is because my sugar limitation had left my adrenals helpless. Interestingly, it is the adrenals job to constrict blood vessels when standing to prevent this dizziness. But adrenals need sugar to function.
When I began loading up my body with starchy veggies like winter squash, lots of raw honey, and ripe fruit, these debilitating symptoms disappeared in a couple of days. I had learned my lesson: my body needs sugar. But I didn’t know WHY.
Why Your Body Needs Sugar
I was ecstatic nearly to the point of tears when I first read Kate’s and Cassie’s book, I Didn’t Quit Sugar. I finally understand the numerous important roles this demonized nutrient played in my health. I deeply respect Kate’s and Cassie’s no-nonsense, no-dogma philosophy about nutrition. It is truly refreshing.
For the past generations, saturated fats were thoroughly vilified falsely blamed for issues like heart disease. Now we know that extreme low fat diets are detrimental to health. This pattern is repeating with the low-carb and sugar-free fad. But our bodies need carbs. And sugar.
After taking the plunge into a very low-carb or sugar-free diet, many folks experience amazing weight loss and increased energy. Unfortunately, these are actually symptoms of disregulation in the body.
What most fail to realize is that such changes are attributable to a state of cellular stress and a consequent rise in stress hormones (remember, the cells are being denied their favourite fuel). For 3 months, 6 months, perhaps a year (this is affectionately termed the ‘honeymoon phase’), stress hormones will make you feel excellent – they promote euphoria and a heightened sense of wellbeing.
But beneath the surface, stress hormones do exactly as their name suggests – they’re a stress on the body in its entirety. Prolonged elevation can break down body tissue, impair thyroid function, damage the metabolism and devastate the body physiologically -I Didn’t Quit Sugar
Anti-dogma health renegade Matt Stone also states that depriving your body of sugar is going to mean long-term consequences. He explains in his book Diet Recovery:
Most people will eventually develop health problems on a low-carb diet (or low-fat diet, to pick on the fat haters too and anyone engaged in Macronutrient Warfare) – including even gaining a bunch of weight back that they initially lost, and they will eventually crave carbohydrates or find that a carb-free diet has become just too socially crippling.….The real answer is to improve glucose metabolism and digestion.
Risks of a Sugar-Free Diet
Why I Didn’t Quit Sugar goes in-depth to explain the roles of sugar in our body. Here are a few condensed points from the book regarding the consequences of eliminating healthy sources of glucose from the diet:
Elevated levels of stress hormones, which exhausts the adrenals and taxes the body
Impaired thyroid function by lowering T3 production (as a result of increased levels of adrenaline and lack of glycogen in the liver)
Lowered metabolism and weight gain due to impaired thyroid
Weakened digestion and nutrient malabsorption
Systemic candida overgrowth. That’s right–the very thing you are trying to starve out with a sugar-free diet will actually get worse (read why here). The real solution is to correct digestion, heal the gut, and improve metabolism… and you need sugar in your diet to accomplish those things.
Sugar-Free Natural Sweeteners: A Bad Choice
Healthy eating is a lifelong journey and a learning process. One of the more recent things I learned is that sugar-free sweeteners, even if they are “natural” aren’t a good choice for our bodies.
Our bodies are not designed or evolved to handle calorie-free sweeteners–be it natural or artificial. We all know that artificial sweeteners like aspartame are toxic, but what about natural sugar-free sweeteners like xylitol and stevia? Experiencing a sweet taste from a food that is not going to provide glucose confounds our body’s sugar-handling process. Eating a sugar-free sweetener like stevia or xylitol can trick the body into a state of hypoglycemia:
Stevia is “sweet” on the palate, so the body assumes it is receiving sugar and primes itself to do so. Glucose is cleared from the bloodstream and blood sugars drop, but no real sugar/glucose is provided to the body to compensate. When this happens, adrenaline and cortisol surge to mobilize sugar from other sources (liver and muscle glycogen, or protein, or body tissue) to bring blood glucose back up. (Source)