Sweet Tooth Bitter Truth:
Sugar in Your Body & Brain
OUTLINE & TRANSCRIPT
• About Andrea and her road to nutrition
• Purpose of the Class
WHAT IS SUGAR (Chemistry Lesson)
• Simple Vs. Complex
• Carbohydrate Digestion
• Glycemic index VS Glyceic load
WHAT IS SUGAR (Physiology Lesson)
• Mineral Depletion
• Immune Repression
• Blood Sugar Balance
• Brain Function
• Cholesterol and Heart Disease
• Yeast Overgrowth
• Teeth and Gum Health
WHAT DO WE DO
• Reading Labels
• What labels Actually Mean
• Desire to Make a Change
• Bring Sugar to Consicousness
• Go Slow
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• The Big Baddies
• Corn Syrup
• White Sugar
• Brown Sugar
• Unrefined Evaporated Cane Juice
• Date Sugar
• Maple Syrup
• Coconut Sugar
• Barley Malt
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Welcome to Sweet Tooth, Bitter Truth.
I am so excited that you are here today. These two hours are going to drastically
change your relationship to sugar. Whether you consider yourself a sugar addict or
you are just plain curious about how sugar affects your body and brain, you’re going
to experience an actual paradigm shift that will allow you to command a deeper level
of health, clarity and wellbeing. This class is for you if you tell yourself day after day
that today is the day that you are going to bypass the bakery in the afternoon but
you can’t bring yourself to do it. It’s for you if you have a secret stash of candy or
chocolate that you refill more than you would like to admit. If you have diabetes or
you are pre-diabetic, carrying excess weight around your middle. If you struggle with
any mental health issues—depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, ADD, ADHD. This class
is for you if you are interested in cancer prevention. It’s for you if you have been told
you would benefit from or your curiosity is peaked by the idea of following an anti-
inflammatory diet. This class is for you if you have chronic yeast infections or know
you have candida. Or if you are just plain interested in pursuing optimal performance,
health, and longevity. I have to say, that’s just about all of us. And I’ll explain why sugar
affects each of those categories of health and wellbeing in this Sweet Tooth course. I’ll
also teach you how to ditch the sugar habit in satisfying and healthy ways.
I like to start each class teach by introducing myself to you and letting you know why
it is that I chose to teach on the specific topic that I will be addressing--in this case,
sugar. As you likely know by now, I am Nadrea Nakayama. I am a functional nutritionist
based in Portland, Oregon and owner of the online nutrition enterprise, Replenished.
Like many of you, my road to even considering the role of nutrition and health began
with a family health crisis. This was in April of 2000 when my husband, Esamu, was
diagnosed with a very aggressive brain tumor. At the time of his diagnosis I was seven
weeks pregnant. The prognosis for his cancer was very grave. He was given about
six months to live. I have written about this often in my weekly postings. So if you
have been following me or subscribe to my newsletter, you have probably read many
stories about this ordeal from varying perspectives as well as the myriad ways in
which it changed my life—then and now. As you can imagine we kicked into high gear
when we learned of this diagnosis, looking for everything and anything we could do
to support Esamu’s health and survival. While he sat in the library of the teaching
hospital and university researching the latest medical trials, I explored the supportive
aspects of integrative treatments like acupuncture, massage and, of course, food and
nutrition. This last one was somewhat of a no brainer for me as I was already a real
foodie living in San Francisco buying local and organic produce and meats. Of course,
I also needed my own medicine during that time of crisis. I needed it to support my
body and that of my growing baby. To me, food was the answer. It gave me something
I could do every day, several times a day to nurture all three of us and foster our
health. And through the process, food became my greatest ally. It truly empowered
me. It allowed me to make a significant difference in a situation that otherwise felt
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out of and beyond my control. My passion is driven by the desire to share with you
those empowering aspects of food. My husband, Esamu, outlived his prognosis. He
died almost two and a half years after his initial diagnosis in July of 2002 when our
son, Gilbert, was nineteen months old. It was a couple years after Esamu’s death that I
remade my life putting myself back through school to pursue a career as a nutritionist
with the desire to help others find their path to understanding food as medicine and
remedy. Now, as a nutritionist, I work from the core of each individual to engage
the natural resources of the digestive system as a pathway to heal all body systems,
eradicate deficiencies, and open the channels to invite nourishment and healing. The
results are amazing and I am going to share one of the key foundational principles with
you today so that you can begin to experience the results for yourself.
I was speaking about the empowerment of working with food and changing diet to fuel
and heal my family. But the power of food goes even deeper. Not only does adopting
a healthier lifestyle allow you to feel more in control of your own health but food and
lifestyle actually have the ability to influence your gene expression. There is plenty
of research in this area called nutrigenomics. So why am I talking about that now?
Because sugar, as we will see, is such an anti-nutrient that it negatively influences
gene expression, meaning it turns those hazardous genes on that we want to keep
off—but I’m running ahead of myself here. Back to my story.
One of the first dietary changes that Esamu and I made to help him combat his cancer
and sustain his life against all odds was to remove sugar—and you will soon see why.
But the very reason I decided to teach Sweet Tooth, Bitter Truth was not ultimately
because of Esamu though, of course, it has its roots there. It was because of a dear
friend of mine whose teenage daughter had some mental health challenges. Several
years ago a doctor they were working with suggested that the girl remove all sugar
from her diet. I was relieved that the doctor had said so and not me. But the family
was a bit flabbergasted. How were they supposed to do this? Can you relate? Can
you imagine telling your teenager they have to remove all sugar from their diet? Well,
I was discussing this with the mom, my friend since high school, and each of us was a
big heated. This undertaking seemed like an impossibility to her at the time and I fully
understood how to do it. Finally, she said to me, “But is sugar bad for everybody?” It
was in that moment that I decided to write this class.
I’d like to say it again that my intention today is to encourage a permanent change
in your relationship to sugar by promoting a deeper understanding of its effects on
your body and your brain and to initiate the discovery of ways to deal with your own
sweet tooth. And, I’ll confess that I have a sweet tooth, too. I am going to ask you to
do a quick exercise before we move on. What you are going to do in this exercise
is take a moment to consider your relationship to sugar. If you are in front of your
computer, you can pull up your handout package on your Member’s Only page. You
will see there is a Self Survey on the first page of that package. If you can, pause this
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recording and take a moment to answer the questions presented there. If doing the
survey isn’t convenient right now, continue to listen here and ponder these questions
that I am about to ask. How was sugar eaten in your childhood household? Was there
an excess amount of it? Was it considered a treat or a reward? Was there a relative
who made homemade confections? Was sugar completely forbidden and restricted?
Was it hidden and eaten on the sly? Did you grow up in a household with sugared
cereals and packaged cupcakes or one where pie crusts were rolled out from scratch?
Did you sell Girl Scout cookies or candy bars to raise money for a school trip and end
up eating much of your profits yourself? Do you remember a family member that had
an unusual relationship to sweets that got your attention at an early age? What was
your relationship to sugar when you first left your childhood and moved out on your
own? Was it like you finally entered candy land? Did you buy the boxes of pop tarts
that your mother never would? Did you fuel yourself with chocolate and coffee? Or
did you find your way to healthier patterns than you had in your childhood home? Did
you see a friend or a schoolmate who had an unusual relationship to sugar that caught
your attention? And now, whether it’s five, ten, twenty, forty or more years since you
first left your parents’ or childhood environment, what is your current relationship to
sugar? Do you struggle with an on again, off again pattern of eating? Do you have a
secret stash of candy? Do you eat the Halloween goodies before the trick-or-treaters
come? Are you an avid baker and don’t want to leave your meditative kitchen practice
behind? Here’s a little hint of what is to come. You don’t have to! Is there something—
anything—that you want to change about your relationship to sugar? Can you trace
back to when that behavior might have started? Remember to approach this process
As I said, what I will be teaching you today will show you why your relationship to
sugar might be bigger than your willpower. Specifically, what I will aim to teach today
is what is sugar? And this will be our chemistry lesson. Then, we will look at how does
sugar affect you? This will be your physiology lesson and in there we will be sure to
address cravings and alcohol. Then, we will look at what you can do to mitigate its
effects on your body, how you can make smarter choices, and how you can start to
eliminate it should you so choose which I think you will right after this class. We will
also look closely at what alternatives are available and how to use them. We are about
to dive into the meat of the matter here, but before we do I want to acknowledge
that everyone learns differently. If you are unsure about something I have said, please
refer to the accompanying transcript or stop and rewind. Some of the concepts I will
be touching on aren’t easy. The visuals in the Charts and Graphs area are also meant
to help you drive some of these concepts home.
So let’s set the stage here. You may already know this, but what and when you eat have
a direct effect on your mood, self-esteem, energy, and mental function. What we eat
is information for our bodies and our brains. We are literally what we eat. Or more
specifically, or biochemically, we are what our bodies can do with what we eat. I am a
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believer in the concept called bio-individuality which means that one person’s food is
another person’s poison. I believe that for everything except sugar. I am not so sure
about the food part there. If these adjectives resonate when you think of yourself,
you may have a sugar sensitivity—erratic, moody, unable to concentrate, overweight
or unable to lose a little extra weight, cranky, overly dramatic, temperamental, spacey.
These behaviors or conditions are exacerbated by sugar. You may be surprised to
learn that sugar acts like a drug in the body affecting the same brain chemicals as
heroin and morphine. We are going to build on that concept as we move ahead.
So, what exactly is sugar? This is our chemistry lesson. You can go to your Charts
and Graph package if you would like a visual representation of what we are about to
discuss. Everything ending in ‘ose’ is a sugar. We have our monosaccharides which are
our simple sugars. The monosaccharides are the sugars as a chemical constituent not
as an ingredient that we see in things. So, there’s glucose, galactose, and fructose.
Glucose is the most basic form of sugar. It is a single ring that consists of six carbons,
twelve hydrogens, and six oxygens. Glucose is required by all cells in the body for
energy. The brain needs it. The red blood cells need it. Glucose is the only form in
which sugar can be transported directly into the bloodstream. We will talk more about
how this happens shortly.
Galactose is that sugar that is found in Lactose or milk. Notice on the visual packet
how close in structure glucose is to galactose. It is interesting to note that in terms of
digestion, instead of going directly into the bloodstream like glucose, galactose must
first be sent to the liver where it is converted to glucose so that it can then be more
easily absorbed in the bloodstream. So it is good to note, in terms of chemistry and
how our body processes different foods, that such a small structural difference—what
it is here is a sis instead of a tran structure—the direction in which one of the atoms
is facing. That difference can make a huge difference in terms of digestion. I always
think this is interesting because I had someone once ask me, “Oh that’s curious that
you look at nutrition in terms of chemistry.” And I thought, “Hmmm, it’s curious that
that would be a question” because nutrition is chemistry. Everything happening in
your body is chemistry. There is a chemical reaction.
So our next monosaccharide—we looked at glucose and galactose—the next one is
fructose. This is our fruit sugar. You can see it looks quite a bit different. It has five
sides instead of six sides like glucose and galactose thought the molecular formula
is actually the same as glucose and galactose. It’s six carbons, twelve hydrogens, six
oxygens. It’s their similarities that make them all sugars. It’s their differences that
account for the divergent ways in which they are digested and absorbed. So fructose,
like galactose, cannot be absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Instead, fructose
is absorbed by the liver where it is converted to energy, fat or glucose before it can
be used by other organs. The fact that fructose is not absorbed directly into the
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bloodstream is sometimes considered a positive thing but that is now being seen as
more complicated depending on how you look at the physiology. We’re going to build
on this more later because I don’t want to bog us down with the chemistry right now.
There was recently a New York Times article about sugar that got a lot of attention
that elucidated much of the concern about fructose. The article is called “Is Sugar
Toxic?” Some of you might have seen that. I know a lot of folks were forwarding it to
me. So getting back to the basics here, do we need monosaccharides? The answer is
yes. Our bodies need readily available energy. And glucose specifically is our body’s
source of energy.
So, we talked about monosaccharides, glucose, galactose, and fructose and those are
the chemical building blocks for our disaccharides. Disaccharides are double sugars.
These are more of the sugars that we eat or find in our food. They are two of those
monosaccharides bound together. They are sucrose which is table sugar. And sucrose
is a glucose molecule attached to a fructose molecule. There is lactose which is milk
sugar and that is a glucose molecule attached to a galactose molecule. There is maltose
which is malt sugar and that is two glucose molecules bound together. Malt sugar is
found in germinating seeds like barley. It’s also the result of caramelized sugar and an
end product of the brewing process. Finally, we have polysaccharides which are longer
branches of those sugar molecules. Polysaccharides are complex sugars. Poly means
many and that chain can be anywhere from ten to hundreds of monosaccharides long.
Polysaccharides are our plant foods and our complex carbohydrates.
Speaking of carbohydrates, let’s take a look at them to see how this macronutrient
category relates to sugars and our body’s processing of sugars. When it comes to
carbohydrates you will find both simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates.
We have established with our definition of polysaccharides that carbohydrates are
branches of sugars. Simple carbohydrates have less sugars bound. These are your
white foods--your refined foods. Simple carbohydrates are digested quickly meaning
they move into the bloodstream quite rapidly. In addition, many processed simple
carbohydrates contain refined sugars and few essential vitamins and minerals.
Examples of more natural simple carbohydrates include fruit and milk.
Complex carbohydrates have many sugars bound and branching strands. The many
branches slow the digestion of the sugars. Complex carbs are usually packed with
fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Examples are vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
Fiber is actually a many branched carbohydrate that works in a unique way. So there is
a certain visual I like to explain so that you can really take this concept home. Imagine
you are in field. You are dropped off in a field. This field has two trees. One of those
trees has just a few branches on it and the other tree has a whole bunch of branches
on it. You are handed an axe and you are told that you can cut down the branches of
one of the trees and that you will be picked up in the morning. So you have a choice
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here. You can go to the tree with the few branches or you can go to the tree with the
many branches. If you go to the tree with the few branches, you are going to cut down
the branches pretty quickly. You are going to make a fire. That fire is going to burn out
and you are going to be left cold and hungry before you get picked up in the morning.
On the other hand, if you go to the tree with the many branches, you are going to work
really hard to cut down those branches. You are going to make a fire. You are going to
have extra logs to fuel that fire. And, when you get picked up in the morning, you are
going to feel good and warm and really proud of yourself. So, when I talk about sugar
for the rest of this Sweet Tooth class, I will be referring to the substance itself as well
as all simple carbohydrates, refined foods, and white foods.
The glycemic index and glycemic load were developed to speak to this issue of
carbohydrate digestion and how quickly foods break down into sugar in the body—so
how many branches there are on the food. Before we look at the glycemic measures,
let’s take a journey through the digestive system with sugar. This will allow us to better
build on the role of sugar in your body and brain.
As we have now established, only that individual sugar molecule, glucose, can be
absorbed directly into the bloodstream. All other chains of sugars, otherwise known
as carbohydrates, need to be broken down by the digestive system in the body. The
primary organs of the digestive system include the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small
intestine, large intestine or colon, rectum, and anus. Auxiliary digestive organs like the
pancreas and liver play a large role in carbohydrate digestion as well. The breakdown
of carbohydrates actually begins in the mouth with chewing. First, imagine biting into
a thick of piece of homemade bread. Now, imagine one of those very long chains of
carbohydrates--a big long branch of those monosaccharides. In the mouth that bite
of bread made up of those long branches, starts to break into smaller branches with
the help of saliva. The saliva both moistens the food and releases enzymes to aid the
breakdown both physically and chemically.
The enzyme needed for carbohydrate breakdown is called amylase. That amylase
actually chomps and severs the bonds between the sugar molecules. So, enzymes are
like little pacmen in the digestive system. They move through the organs, chomping at
the links that bind two molecules together. In this way, they deconstruct long chains
of sugars into their more singular constituents. You will notice that enzymes always
end in ‘ase’ while sugars always end in ‘ose.’ You can think of this further and that you
need a certain ‘ase’ or enzyme to breakdown an ‘ose’ or any other molecule for that
matter. For instance, we need the enzyme, lactase, to break down the sugar, lactose.
If that chain of sugar is not broken down, then we experience digestive disturbances.
Back to our carbohydrate digestion train. Down the long esophagus, the broken chains
of sugars travel with the help of the saliva and the rhythmic contractions of peristalsis
until they reach the stomach. Imagine your stomach sitting behind the lower portion
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of your rib cage. In the stomach, there is a bit more enzyme activity but the highly
acidic environment of the stomach, important for breaking down proteins, slows the
snipping of those bound sugars. Amylase doesn’t function very well in all that acid.
The chains of sugars then travel on to the small intestine—that long and winding tube
located in your belly just below your belly button. The pancreas secretes another
form of amylase into the first portion of the small intestine called the duodenum. The
amylase cuts the carbohydrates into simple sugars or disaccharides. So, it’s here in
the small intestine that the sucrose and lactose and maltose are formed. And here
come the very specific enzymes—sucrase, lactase mentioned earlier, and maltase—
located in the lining or brush border of the intestine to chop those disaccharides into
monosaccharides. The glucose is then absorbed into the bloodstream through the
walls of the intestine. Once in the bloodstream, glucose is taken to the liver where it
is either distributed to the cells for energy or stored for later use. The liver regulates
the blood sugar levels, but we will touch more on that later.
More complex carbohydrates like fiber that have resisted the enzyme activity do not
get absorbed into the bloodstream and move on to the colon or large intestine. Fibrous
foods spend more time in your large intestine than anywhere else in the body. The
large intestine is about five feet long, moves up the right side of your body, across the
midline, and down the left side. So consider this for timing. Carbohydrates take about
half an hour to travel through the stomach. They move through the small intestine
in about two to six hours but they will spend about 72 hours in the colon. A process
of beneficial fermentation happens in the colon which allows for the production of
nutrients that are key for colon health. The many bound carbohydrates that remain as
fiber bind toxins to move them out of your body and contribute the bulk to your stool.
So what actually determines the speed of carbohydrate digestion? It’s the number and
nature of those branches that we talked about earlier.
And this brings us right back to the glycemic quotient. The glycemic index is the
ranking of sugars and carbohydrates according to how quickly glucose—the simple
sugar molecule—is absorbed into the bloodstream. In other words, how complex is
it? How many branches of sugar are there? And how fast or slow will it be to digest?
The glycemic index compares the rise in blood glucose caused by 50 grams of
carbohydrates--about two ounces--and a particular food to the rise when you eat
50 grams of pure glucose. So an example, pure glucose has a glycemic index of 100.
White bread has a glycemic index ranging from 70 to 90. Whole grain bread has a
glycemic index in the 50s. According to this glycemic index model, low glycemic index
is 55 and under, medium glycemic index if 56 to 69, and high glycemic index is 70 and
above. I’m going to repeat that. Low glycemic index, or GI, is 50 and under, medium
GI is 56 to 69, and high GI is 70 and above. Unfortunately, this ranking system was
found to be problematic because something like a carrot has a high GI and we know
that they have many other health benefits. They are packed with fiber which makes
them one of the many branched trees. In response to this, a new ranking system was
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developed to speak to how quickly sugars are absorbed. This improved system is
called the Glycemic Load. The load considers the total amount of rapidly absorbable
carbohydrates—the starch or the sugar—as well as the glycemic index. The equation for
this--glycemic load = glycemic index x grams of carb per serving / 100. So, according to
the Glycemic Load model, a low glycemic load is 1:10, a medium glycemic load is 11:19,
and a high glycemic load is 20 and over. So again, low is 1:10, medium 11:19, and high 20
and over. In this model of food like a whole grain or a carrot has a lower glycemic load
because the amount of starch or sugar in that food is relatively low compared to its
carbohydrate or fiber content. The bottom line is that if a food has a high GI, glycemic
index, but it’s packed with fiber, it will have a lower impact on blood sugar and insulin
levels which we will be discussing soon. It’s the fibers that slow things down.
So, what do we want? We want foods that are slower to digest. These are better
assimilated into the body’s tissues. They have an inverse effect on blood glucose
and corresponding inverse relationship to diabetes, heart disease, weight issues, and
cancer. We are going to really delve into why that is. These foods also have an inverse
effect on cravings. So stay tuned as we build on that knowledge.
Let’s make sure we understand that index versus load by playing a little game. I am
going to list two foods and you try to figure out which one has a slower time breaking
down to sugar in the body. Remember, that it is the fiber that slows it. Then we will
look at both the Glycemic Index and Load for each of those foods.
So which has a higher glycemic index or load? An apple or watermelon? Watermelon
is higher. The index is 76, the load is 4. For an apple, the index is 36 and the load is 2.
So how about All-Bran cereal versus Cheerios? Cheerios is higher because the All-
Bran cereal has more fiber.
How about rice milk or full fat cow’s milk? Tricky one. The rice milk has a higher
glycemic load and index because the fat in the full fat cow’s milk slows down the
digestion of those sugars.
How about french fries or honey? Another tricky one. The French fries actually have a
higher glycemic load. The honey has more constituents, enzymes, and fibers that are
actually going to flow it whereas the french fries don’t.
So, keep in mind that fiber is both a carbohydrate meaning it, too, is made up of
branches of sugar and one of the key players in our slow train.
Dr. Robert Lustig, who is the professor of pediatrics in the division of endocrinology
at UCFF gave a great lecture two years ago that was referenced in that New York
Times article that I mentioned earlier. In that lecture, he asks what one of the biggest
problems is with fast food. So, what is fast food? It’s a substance that is completely
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devoid of fiber. That means that the sugars in all those fast foods are all just fast.
They don’t have a lot of branches on them. They are going really quickly into the
bloodstream and as we are seeing, they are contributing to chronic conditions caused
by high sugar, increased rates of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. So note that
there was a study in April 2009 that showed that consuming a lower glycemic load
breakfast increases fat oxidation during subsequent exercise. That’s a good thing!
In your handout you have a handout called “What’s for Breakfast?” that gives you
some ideas for how to include low glycemic load breakfasts into your day. It’s also
interesting to note the one time it’s actually good to eat a high glycemic food is after
exercise because it aids recovery and slows the breakdown of muscle protein. But
this can be in the form of watermelon or a banana instead of candy or “energy bar.” In
your recipe packet you have something called “A Snappy Ginger Donut Hole” and that
would be a great post-workout recovery treat.
Okay, you will be pleased to know that you have completed Sugar Chemistry 101 and
you now get to advance onto Sugar Physiology. This can be more interesting as we
finally start to tie what we’ve learned about what sugar is and to how sugar affects
the body and brain. This is also a good time to pause and take a break if you need to.
So what is the problem with sugar? We are going to address eight key physiological
results of sugar consumption. And we will be spending more time on the first five—
quite a bit of time there because I couldn’t teach this class without touching on
the other three. But the eight include mineral depletion, immune repression, blood
sugar balance, brain function, inflammation, cholesterol and heart disease, yeast
overgrowth, and teeth and gum health. It should be noted that all of these areas of
health overlap one another. Your body is one big ecosystem. Those different systems
in the body—the digestive system, the nervous system, the endocrine system, the
cardiovascular system—they don’t exist in a vacuum. They are all affected by each
other and interrelated. But, for our purposes, we are going to touch on each of those
eight key physiological effects of sugar consumption distinctly so we can hone in on
what is going on in there when you raid the cookie jar.
Let’s start with mineral depletion in the body. When we look at mineral depletion,
we are addressing the effects of those refined foods but most particularly the
consequences of eating sucrose or table sugar—the white stuff. Mineral depletion in
your body is the aftermath from the refining process. Refined sugars contain no fiber,
no minerals, no proteins, no fats, no enzymes, and only empty calories. When sugar
cane is refined and bleached all the nutrients and minerals are removed.
I always like to tell a story about a health and wellness advocate and renegade I know
named Daniel Vitalis. Daniel is like a ninja. He is strong and agile. I think I’ve even seen
him leap from the floor to a table top in a single bound while lecturing. Daniel tells
a story of a friend of his saying to him, “Come on, Daniel. What’s wrong with a donut
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on occasion?” And Daniel’s answer, “You’re choosing to eat the most calories with the
least nutrients and I’m eating the least calories with the most nutrients.” So Daniel
Vitalis is aiming for optimal health and longevity. Refined sugar and processed foods
have no place in his dietary regime. It’s bad enough that we are eating empty calories
when we consume sugar, but what’s worse your body must borrow vital nutrients—
calcium, sodium, potassium, magnesium, thiamine, chromium, and zinc from healthy
cells to metabolize that processed sugar. That’s a crime. All sugar, whether natural or
refined, requires B vitamins and minerals for digestion to occur. While the complex
carbohydrates and fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain those vitamins and
minerals, the refined products do not. So the body starts to draw on its own reserves
in order to do the biochemical breakdown of that substance. This is a particular
injustice to our health as our mineral levels, as a nation, are already depleted. In fact,
the USDA reports that there is a significant decline in minerals in the foods we eat
anywhere from 25 to 80%, largely due to the quality of our soil, over farming, genetic
modification, and the prevalence of food processing. When sugar further depletes
our supply of valuable minerals, it can result in serious health consequences like
osteoporosis, arthritis, and a host of other mineral deficient symptoms such as leg
cramps, muscle tightness or spasm, low blood sugar, diabetes, low blood pressure,
premenstrual syndrome, lower back pain, learning disabilities, ADD or attention
deficit disorder, depression, and asthma.
Doctor Tessler, in his book Healthy Habits states it simply. ‘Refined sugar rips you off
of these needed nutrients resulting in raw nerves.’ In the book Rare Earths: Forbidden
Cures which documents Dr. Joel Wallach’s research into the realm of minerals and
their relationship to disease and longevity, Wallach explains that sugar loads increase
the normal rates of mineral loss in sweat and urine by 300% for twelve hours post
consumption. This means that if you routinely eat sugar that there is no amount of
supplementation or dietary support that will allow you to keep up with your mineral
losses. Mineral depletion also causes premature aging including wrinkles and greying
hair. One of the hardest hit systems from mineral depletion is your endocrine system.
This is your hormonal system. Many hormones continue to drop as we age anyway. We
don’t need to aid that decline!
Your adrenal hormones, in particular, are hard hit by sugar consumption. The adrenal
glands sit above your kidneys and are a prime source of your ability to have get up and
go and respond appropriately to the stresses in your life. The adrenals also contribute
to the function of your nervous system, digestive system, liver function, and heart.
Remember that the body is one big ecosystem. So when the adrenals are hungry
for minerals, you may experience insomnia, difficulty digesting food, other hormonal
balances that affect these sex hormones and thyroid hormones, weight gain which
is often a result of those hormonal imbalances, and brain fog. The mineral depletion
caused by sugar also upsets the alkaline/acid balance in the body leaning toward a
state of acidity. In order to compensate for the over acidity, the body tries to find
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balance by decreasing its hydrochloric acid in the stomach. As I noted in our Digestion
Primer earlier, the stomach needs to be acidic to properly break down tightly bound
proteins and fats and also properly utilize necessary nutrients for health like B12 and
iron. Just as highly acidic blood can lead to health imbalances, a low acidic stomach
will also result in a host of problems. I will discuss this issue much more in the
Pharm2Table class on proton pump inhibitors which Dr. Liz Wallace. If you want to
keep an eye out for that it’s Pharm2Table. So if stomach acid is one of your problems,
stay tuned for that.
For now, shuck the sugar and see what regulation might happen there. Think of it this
way. White sugar is made by refining the sugar cane or the sugar beet. This involves
multiple chemical processes that filter and boil the liquid extracted from the original
source using gasses such as sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. It’s those processes that
result in the removal of all the fiber, protein, and minerals which originally counted for
90% of the natural plant. The original plant was a complex carbohydrate which means
it contained all the properties of a whole food—vitamins, minerals, and enzymes—all
needed for proper digestion.
Before we move on to the next physiological way in which sugar bombards our optimal
health, let’s take a closer look at the importance of some of those key minerals and
problem solve in the area of mineral repletion.
We’ll start with calcium. So much calcium is drawn in neutralizing the effects of sugar on
the body that there are now direct links between sugar consumption and osteopenia
which is the precursor to osteoporosis. The calcium withdrawal also affects the teeth.
We need calcium for strong bones and teeth and to prevent tooth loss later in life.
Calcium also plays a big role in blood clotting, nerve conduction, muscle contraction,
regulation of enzyme activity, and cell membrane function. Calcium rich foods are
turnip greens, spinach, mustard greens, collard greens—all your greens—basil, thyme,
cinnamon, milk products as long as they’re full fat, and sesame seeds. Calcium stores
in the body are dependent on ample magnesium and vitamin D as well as the other fat
soluble vitamins—A, E, and K.
As for magnesium, it also helps our bones. Some magnesium works together with
calcium and phosphorous to give bones their strength and structure. Magnesium also
helps the muscles to relax. So when you have a cramp, magnesium to the rescue. To
quote Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride in her book The Gut and Psychology Syndrome,
to metabolize only one molecule of sugar the body requires 56 molecules of magnesium.
Therefore, consumption of sugar is a major reason for widespread magnesium deficiency
in our modern society leading to high blood pressure, neurological, immune, and many
other problems including sleep problems. Magnesium rich foods are pumpkin seeds,
spinach, chard, soy beans, salmon, sunflower, and sesame seeds. It’s interesting to
note the prevalence of calcium-magnesium supplements in American health protocols
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as we become a country more addicted to sugar and the consumption of high fructose
corn syrup. Everyone is talking about how milk does the body good but nobody is
talking about how sugar does the body bad depleting what we need to begin with.
While the B vitamins are not a mineral but a vitamin, I want to make a quick mention
of them here. One of the major B vitamins affected by sugar consumption is thiamine
or B1. Thiamine is needed to produce energy. Balance levels allow for feelings of
composure, clear headedness, and stamina. Thiamine is also really important for the
liver. It activates Phase 1 detoxification where foreign substances are initially broken
down into intermediates for excretion. Thiamine can be found in vegetables, seeds,
whole grains, and legumes. So, instead of running out and buying supplements willy-
nilly to try to achieve homeostasis, let’s look further at your food supplements for
these critical nutrients. In general, great ways to restore minerals are eating seaweed,
eating nuts and seeds, Epsom salt baths, high mineralized sea salt—by that I mean
Celtic, Himalayan or Hawaiian Red—traditionally made bone broth. If you put a little
apple cider vinegar in the broth when you are cooking it, that’s going to draw out some
of the calcium from the bones and you will get that in your broth. Fresh squeezed
juices, especially green juices. When I’m talking about juices, I’m not talking about the
juices you buy in the store in a container that are pre-packaged because those have
been pasteurized and all the enzymes and minerals are gone. I am talking about a
fresh pressed juice that you get from a juice bar or that you make at home.
So a quick note to say that not all sweeteners are created equal. An example of a
sweetener high in minerals is black strap molasses made from the first press of the
sugar cane. Molasses is actually quite high in minerals especially iron and calcium. The
take home message for our big section on mineral depletion is that sugar is not just
empty calories but an anti-nutrient. When the minerals are depleted from the body,
the mechanisms for determining hunger and satiety are compromised. This leads to
overeating. Plus, consider for a moment how refined sugar is made. Do you know
how refined sugar is made? According to the PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment
of Animals, bone share which is used to process sugar is made from the bones of
cattle from Afghanistan, Argentina, India, and Pakistan. The bones are sold to traders
in Scotland, Egypt, and Brazil who then sell them back to the United States’ sugar
industry. So, while not all sugar manufacturers use the bone share which is part of the
whitening process, more of them do than don’t. It’s often hard to track down the sugar
manufacturer in your premade confections. This fact alone has been enough to get
some of my clients and a friend, including some children, to actually kick their sugar
habit. One of my clients actually put a bone in her sugar canister in her home to remind
her of this fact. Okay, that was a really deep exploration of mineral depletion and its
relationship to sugar consumption. I wanted to spend a lot of time there because
mineral depletion upsets the entire body’s homeostasis, or balance.
Let’s now delve into the next physiological implication of sugar consumption on our
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list. That’s immune system repression. The immune system is clearly going to be
compromised by the lack of minerals, particularly zinc—but what else? Studies have
looked at white blood cells to see how well they respond to different bacteria. They
have surrounded the blood cells with liquid with different concentrations of sugar in
them. The result? The higher the sugar levels in that liquid concentration, the less the
white blood cells were able to function. Your white blood cells are the cells of the
immune system. They defend the body against disease and foreign matter.
Another study at Loma Linda University, and these studies are actually quite notorious,
looked at a host of subjects and the ability of their white blood cells to protect them
against foreign bacteria. There were five groups in this study. One group consumed no
sugar, the next 60 spoons of sugar, the third 12 teaspoons, and the fourth and fifth 18
and 24 teaspoons respectively. After five hours, blood was drawn from each individual
in all the five groups. Across the board, as the sugar consumption increased, the
efficacy of the white blood cells, particularly the phagocytes which eat up bacteria—
again, like little pacmen—decreased. Whereas the white blood cells of the first group
were able to eat up to 14 bacterium. The cells of the fifth group were only able to eat
one bacterium. The take home message here is that sugar consumption is decreasing
your ability to fight disease. It is said by many, including Dr. Sears, that one teaspoon
of sugar depresses immune system function for five hours. It’s not surprising then that
upper respiratory illnesses often follow and directly correspond to times of excessive
sugar intake like after the holidays. Sugar does not only decrease our ability to fight
bacteria but also viruses, cancer, and parasites. As Nancy Appleton says in her book,
Lick the Sugar Habit, the constant immune system response eventually exhausts
the body and once the immune system becomes suppressed, the door is opened to
innumerable infections and degenerative diseases.
There are several other factors to consider when it comes to the exhaustion of the
immune system and response to sugar consumption. So high blood sugar itself, which
we will be discussing shortly, is an immune suppressant. Also, glucose competes with
vitamin C which is one of our main immune boosting vitamins for membrane transport
into the cells. They are kind of doing a little battle to get into the cells. Sugar directly
inspires inflammation which we will also soon discuss. And putting out the fires of
inflammation distracts the immune cells from what they might otherwise be achieving
in combating foreign matter.
Sugar feeds tumor growth. And here lies its blunt link to cancer. Think of it this way.
Cells feed on glucose. As adults we don’t have that many actively growing cells in our
body except cancer cells which we all have moving through us all the time. By feeding
ourselves refined sugar we are more aggressively inspiring the growth of those cells.
In his book Life Over Cancer, the renounced Keith Block of the Block Center for
Integrative Cancer Care with a forward by integrative MD, Andrew Weil, states that
“Tumors are gluttons for glucose. They consume this blood sugar at a rate of 10 to
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50 times higher than normal tissues.” In her book Sugar Shock!, Connie Bennett
documents some of the clear research done on the relationship between sugar and
cancer. I’ll share a few of those study briefs with you now.
Research conducted jointly by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health,
the Harvard Medical School, the Instituto de Salud Publica in Mexico, and Brigham
and Women’s Hospital in Boston showed that 1,866 women aged 20 to 75 in Mexico,
amongst those who ate the most carbohydrates, particularly sugar foods, they were 2.2
times more likely to develop breast cancer than those who ate a more balanced diet.
Several other studies looked at women with early stage breast cancer in the U.S. and
in Italy and showed that both higher blood sugar levels and increased consumption of
sugar correlated with a faster progression of the disease.
Bennett shows further research chronicling studies done on colon cancer, endometrial
cancer, heart, lung, and blood cancers. Here was some really compelling information.
This is a quote right from Bennett’s book. “Scientists from the John Hopkins School
of Medicine, the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute, the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, and John Hopkins Bloomberg School for Public Health found
an association between those who died of cancer and those with high blood sugar
levels. After looking at data for more than 3,054 adults aged 30 to 74 from the second
National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the second National Health
and Nutrition Examination Survey Mortality Study, they found that those participants
with impaired glucose tolerance were nearly twice as likely to die from any type of
cancer than those with normal blood sugar levels. Their findings, they concluded,
suggest that—and this is their quote from the study—“In the United States impaired
glucose tolerance is an independent predictor for cancer mortality.” Ooh, that’s a lot!
Now as I said, we are about to talk about blood sugar balance but you can clearly
see there is an obvious effect on the immune system with high blood sugar and as a
result, increased risk of cancer and death from cancer. I am not quite sure which book
I was reading eleven years ago that tipped me off to the fact that my husband and
I should eliminate sugar from our diets to help combat his brain cancer. It may have
been Michael Lerner’s book Choices in Healing, integrating the best of conventional
and complimentary approaches in cancer. I was fortunate that this was one of the first
books that I happened upon. It helped me make a number of suggestions to Esamu
about our complimentary courses of action. It inspired my dialog with food as a means
of support and it showed me the research to back up suggested approaches. What I
can clearly remember, almost like it was yesterday, was sitting in bed next to Esamu
and presenting the idea that perhaps the sugar needed to go. He most certainly had
a sweet tooth but the stakes were really high. He was a young man who was intent on
building a family, who had just learned that his wife was pregnant with his first child
and was told that he would likely be dead in about six months. He was going to adopt
any approach that had some sound research behind it. The relationship between sugar
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and cancer that I was showing him was unquestionable. He was in. Esamu went about
two weeks consuming no sweets at all. And this was after having some medication that
he had to take that made him excessively hungry during which he was having a root
beer float every day. So then, as I researched more and more I found ways that he
could still eat sweets while leaving the white stuff in the dust. He was sold and thus
began my journey into the world of alternative sweeteners. It’s too bad that he never
got to try the naki-yummies that you will get to eat. There is a recipe in your recipe
packet. He would have loved them and I hope you will too. Believe it or not, I can now
make my son a root beer float that is devoid of refined sugar and he loves it!
Moving along with our physiological challenges fulfilled by sugar consumption, we’ve
now covered mineral depletion and immune suppression. We’ve touched on blood
sugar because of its connection to the immune system but let’s look at that more
clearly. Again, we are an hour in now so this is another good time to take a little break
if you need to.
So just how does sugar consumption affect blood sugar? Quite directly as you will see.
So simply when you eat carbohydrates, food made of sugars and starches, your blood
sugar rises and releases the hormone, insulin. Insulin helps your cells draw sugar from
our bloodstream to use as fuel. Imagine a wave image going up and down, up and
down. You have a visual of this in your Charts and Graphs packet. The rise of the wave
is the presence of the sugar in your blood, or blood sugar, after you have eaten. The
faster the food breaks down to sugar or the more sugar that you have consumed at
one sitting, the higher the peak in that wave.
So here comes insulin. Insulin acts like a key delivering glucose to the cells. Once
insulin has done its clean up, the wave is low until you eat again. So let’s dissect
that a little further. Remember that carbohydrates are broken down to glucose in the
small intestine and absorbed through the wall of the intestine into the bloodstream.
So the glucose in the bloodstream cannot be used by the fat or muscle cells of
energy because the glucose channels in those cells are locked shut. The pancreas
then detects the increase of glucose in the bloodstream and pumps out the hormone,
insulin. Insulin unlocks the cell’s glucose channels. And this is what allows the glucose
to leave the bloodstream and enter the fat and muscle cells where the glucose can be
used for energy. As a result, the glucose levels in the bloodstream fall since the sugar
has been taken up by the cells. The pancreas then responds to this drop in blood
sugar by switching off the secretion of insulin. So that’s how it looks when the body is
functioning in balance when blood sugar isn’t rising or dropping too quickly and the
organ systems, particularly the pancreas, are in good health and the body is not over
burdened with sugar.
Let’s look at what happens when that isn’t the case. When we are not in ideal health
or optimal balance. Too much sugar or refined carbohydrates eaten at once or
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consistently over time without anything to slow their digestion result in a greater
amount of insulin release and response to the higher amounts of sugar in the blood.
This triggers your cells to draw sugar more quickly from the bloodstream. That rapid
rise of sugar in your blood makes you feel good at first. But the subsequent plunge
when the sugar in your blood falls, especially when it does so quickly, can make you
feel tired, grumpy, overwhelmed, and spacey. This is exactly when you will crave more
sweets. The cells are asking for more energy and fuel.
So, hypoglycemia is when the blood sugar drops below normal range. Hyperglycemia
is when the blood sugar is above the normal range. What’s normal will be different for
everyone but fasting serum glucose should be around 85 to 100 mg per deciliter. Keep
in mind that discussions of blood sugar are referring to the amounts of glucose in the
blood. So say it again, blood sugar is exactly that—sugar in the blood. Remember that
every carbohydrate you eat, every piece of bread, pasta, bagel, cake, cookie, muffin,
fruit, and also any candy or soda ends up as glucose in the blood either after direct
secretion from the small intestine or after a little visit to the liver where that glucose
conversion we discussed back in chemistry occurs.
Going back to our chemistry for a minute, yes, every cell in your body including
your brain cells needs glucose. But happens when there is too much glucose? What
happens when the cells that need glucose have gotten their fill? Well, the rest of the
glucose is turned into fat. Sugar is stored as fat? You got it! Hold that thought.
Let’s look at diabetes and metabolic syndrome. In type 2 diabetes we see two
complications that are related to the blood sugar and the body’s release of insulin.
One, is that the pancreas does not release enough insulin to deliver all the glucose to
the cells then the blood sugar levels are going to rise. Two, this problem is compounded
when the tissues themselves are insulin resistant and don’t respond properly to
insulin. This, too, will cause a rise in blood sugar. As we saw with the effects on the
immune system, too much circulating blood sugar is a problem. And as we will uncover,
this is true in more ways than one. To make the differentiation clear, type 2 diabetes
is a more modern day problem. It wasn’t even detected until 1935. It’s presence is a
direct result of the higher amounts of carbohydrates and sugars in our diet. Think
about it. The traditional diet didn’t include many sugars at all except in the form of
fibrous starches. According to Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Diet, our ancestors
consumed, on average, only about 80 grams of carbohydrates a day compared to
the consumption of 350 to 600 grams a day in the typical American diet. That is a
significant difference and it certainly comes with consequences.
In contrast to type 2 diabetes it’s important to understand that type 1 diabetes has
been known about since medical conditions have been documented. This condition
usually begins or is detected in childhood or adolescence. It’s caused by a missed
firing autoimmune response where the body starts destroying the pancreatic cells
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that create insulin. Without insulin, the body suffers. High blood sugar causes damage
to the eyes, heart, and other organs. And poor protein synthesis leads to a general
weakening of the body. It used to be that type 2 diabetes was called adult onset
diabetes. Unfortunately, that can’t be the case any longer since we are now seeing
more and more children diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Dr. David Katz explains it
this way. “The rates of childhood obesity have tripled in the past two decades. As a
result, type 2 diabetes, formerly adult onset diabetes, is at epidemic levels in adults
and children alike. Less than a generation ago, type 2 diabetes in children was all but
unknown. Because diabetes is a potent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, the
occurrence of adult onset diabetes prior to age 10 portends the development of heart
disease at an ever earlier age too. On our current trajectory, the day may don when
heart attack is routinely an adolescent condition. Already, children growing up in the
United States will suffer more chronic disease and premature death over the course
of their lives from eating poorly and lack of physical activity than from exposure to
alcohol, tobacco, and drugs combined. Our children may be headed toward a life span
shorter than ours.”
There is a reason that these higher blood sugar levels are typically associated with
excess weight. Dr. Mark Hyman, functional MD extraordinaire, refers to this as
‘diabesity.’ His newest research is in this realm and he says, “Diabesity is a condition
of metabolic imbalance and disease that ranges all the way from mild blood sugar
imbalances to full blown diabetes.” He explains that there are myriad names for the
same or degrees of the same condition. They are insulin resistance, pre-diabetes,
metabolic syndrome, obesity, syndrome X, adult onset diabetes, and type 2 diabetes.
And rates are on the rise. It all boils down to sugar. Excess sugar in the bloodstream.
Excess sugar, the stuff that our cells don’t need for energy, is stored as glycogen
in the muscles and liver. Glycogen is essentially our fuel storage molecule. It’s a
polysaccharide made up of many branches of sugar. It’s kind of a pretty chemical
structure. It’s a structure quite similar to the starch found in plants. Mother Nature’s
design of glycogen was intended to get us through periods of famine but we now live
in a state of feast. As T.S. Wiley says in his book, Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar and Survival,
“Nature meant you to empty your stores in between heavy feedings.” So if those liver
and muscle stores are already filled with glycogen stored for use at a later time, when
happens with the glucose in the blood? It’s an ugly scene of neglect because the
glucose can’t get into the muscle or liver cells because they are full. It remains in the
bloodstream. The pancreas detects there is still too much glucose in the blood so it
rallies to pump out even more insulin to do its clean up. But the insulin receptors on
the surface of those cells become even more resistant because there’s no more room
to accept more glucose. The doors are shut. Ultimately, the insulin helps the glucose
find its way into your fat cells. The glucose feeds those fat cells and is then stored as
But it’s not just insulin and fat storage that is affected by spikes in blood sugar. Each
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time the blood sugar spikes adrenalin is released. If this happens continually, there
is an undue stress on the entire body’s system. This includes hormone production.
Again, think about what you eat for breakfast and how long the food you’ve eaten can
sustain your energy and keep you engaged. Consider whether it will start you out calm
or stressed and how it will fuel you.
I’d like to introduce you to a concept I call the Slow Train and the Fast Train. This is
how I explain it to children. If you put a slow train on a track, it’s going to slowly get
to its destination. If you put a fast train on the track, it’s going to go so quickly it’s
going to derail. If you put a fast train behind a slow train, it can’t go any faster than the
slow train in front of it. So you want to think about this in relationship to everything
you eat. You always want to be on the slow train. That means the slow delivery of any
carbohydrates that you are eating. This is the importance of three constituents that
I am going to introduce you to that I want you to think. This is kind of the Replenish
motto. And that is, fat, fiber, and protein. So fiber is really important. Remember how
slowly that moves through the system. Again, you want to be thinking every time you
eat, where is the fat, the fiber, and the protein?
Let’s take a short moment here to consider the relationship between sugar and
alcohol. Alcohol has no fat, fiber or protein. Basically, it’s just sugar. So what is the
relationship between sugar and alcohol? There is extensive research showing the
connection between alcohol addiction and sugar addiction. Much of this research
shows the propensity of hypoglycemia in alcoholics. That’s a chicken and egg sort of
thing where they are going to want to drink to bring some feeling of homeostasis in
the blood. This is why those who are able to kick the habit of abusing alcohol often
use sugar as a substitute for the drug because they are trying to bring balance to their
imbalanced blood sugar.
It’s also been researched that children who have extreme sugar addiction have a
higher inclination to become drug or alcohol addicted later in life. So you may want
to think about your relationship to sugar as a child, like we did earlier. This is because
a) the underlying imbalance is there so that’s possibly a genetic imbalance, b) that
imbalance isn’t getting addressed, and c) they’ve learn to use some sort of substance
to find temporary equilibrium. So behavior is set. This is called The Gateway
Theory. The message here is that there if there is an overwhelming and seemingly
uncontrollable desire for either sugar or alcohol, there is likely an underlying blood
sugar imbalance. Please note that this is often not an issue of willpower but rather an
issue of disequilibrium. Having one in exchange for the other can sabotage recovery-
-both of the root problem, causing the cravings to begin with and the fact that the
indulgence of one makes it harder to restrain from the other. The good news? Blood
sugar can be regulated.
Take a look at the carbohydrate continuum in your Charts and Graphs packet. After
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class, remember to return to the Cravings page in your handout packet and take a
look there. As I just noted, controlling your sugar consumption isn’t always a matter of
willpower. We have now discussed mineral depletion, immune suppression, and blood
Let’s turn our attention to the effects of sugar on brain chemistry. We are going to
look briefly at three neurochemicals—serotonin, beta endorphins, and dopamine. We
will start with serotonin. This is your ‘feel good’ chemical. Serotonin is the chemical
that quiets the brain and helps with saying no. It takes the edge off. It makes the world
seems okay. It’s sort of like the brakes for your brain and it also helps to inhibit violent
tendencies. If you don’t have enough serotonin, you fret and feel anxious. You may
be angry or aggressive. With low levels, you might have more carbohydrate cravings,
sleep disturbances, and increased premenstrual symptoms. If you have plenty of
serotonin, you feel cheerful and functional. If you have too much and, yes, there can
be too much of a good thing, the result is something called serotonin syndrome. It can
be life threatening. It can cause a fever, seizures, cardiovascular collapse, and death.
Serotonin is responsible for your impulse control--your ability to stop drinking, stop
smoking, stop behaving or exposing yourself to behavior that is not healthy for you. It
can also help to suppress or control your appetite.
It’s interesting to note that physiologically serotonin drops prior to menstruation.
Serotonin, when converted to melatonin, is responsible for how you sleep. It’s critical
for dream state sleeping which allows you to wake rested and refreshed. Serotonin is
not just found in your brain but also in your blood, your heart, and your gut. So, low
levels of serotonin, or depression, can actually feel like a dark heart. And those high
levels are what cause the cardiovascular problems.
So, where does serotonin come from? About 90% of serotonin in the body is actually
manufactured in the gut. This serotonin circulates through the red blood cells in the
bloodstream and has actually been correlated to bone health. It cannot and does
not cross the blood brain barrier. The serotonin in the brain is produced within the
neurons. It’s a process that is the result of the hydroxylation of a tryptophan molecule.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid meaning it must be ingested through your food.
The hydroxylation is a biochemical process of conversion. So, we are just converting
tryptophan to serotonin.
You are likely familiar with the antidepressant drug category called SSRIs or serotonin
serum reuptake inhibitors. These drugs take the serotonin levels that one has in
the brain and help the body to more effectively use them. So they kind of shut off
the neurons and keep the serotonin in the synapse between the neurons instead of
allowing it to fire from one neuron to the next. The SSRIs don’t actually make more
serotonin because this was found to cause problems with the heart. So instead of
being a serotonin factory, the SSRIs are more like a serotonin recycling center. So
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that’s a lot of good foundational tidbits about serotonin, but what does all of that have
to do with sugar? Well, serotonin actually has several connects to sugar. An important
one is that serotonin and the hormone, insulin, are interestingly intertwined. Before
we were discussing the benefits of lowering insulin yet when insulin levels are too
low, serotonin levels are also lowered. As Diana Schwartzbein explains in her book,
The Schwartzbein Principle, insulin plays a major role in serotonin production by
assisting the transfer of tryptophan from the circulatory system into the brain. It is
important to note that while I caution against prolonged high insulin levels, at the
same time, serotonin production, which is essential for good emotional and physical
health depends on an adequate level of insulin. The key is balance. Balanced insulin
comes from a balanced diet including adequate fats. When insulin levels are kept
too low, you can waste away and may suffer from depression, fatigue, insomnia, and
The important thing to note here is that while serotonin does not cross the blood
brain barrier, tryptophan does. We might think we are boosting serotonin by eating
sugar because we get an initial spike in serotonin production and amino acid delivery.
But the sugar itself is actually just stressing the adrenals as we discussed earlier and
leading to crash and burn. As Schwartzbein said, we want to create balance. This can
be tricky and a tough habit to break particularly because the sugar does make feel
like you have a burst of the “feel good” chemicals. But the feeling is quickly gone. And
with it, and over time, the levels of the neurochemical are actually depleted. Can we
boost serotonin levels with nutrition? Absolutely!
Let’s take a look at our tryptophan rich protein foods. But before we do, please take
note that tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin under the influence of vitamin B
and magnesium. Remember that these are nutrients depleted by the consumption of
sugar. So you can see this round robin that happens. So, our high tryptophan foods—you
probably know about turkey but there are some on the list that are actually higher than
turkey. Shrimp, tamari, mushrooms, cod, tuna, mustard greens and spinach, chicken,
turkey, lamb, liver, salmon, pumpkin seeds. It’s also interesting to note that repetitive
movement can increase levels of serotonin and the delivery of serotonin. So it takes
about ten minutes to kick in and this can be anything from knitting to sweeping. Even
chewing gum. You want to chew your gum not with chemical sweeteners but with
xylitol which we will get to in a bit.
Now that you know how to boost and balance your serotonin levels, let’s talk briefly
about how beta endorphins and dopamines are affected by sugar consumption. Beta
endorphins are the brain’s pain killer. They are what allows a mother to lift a car off
of her trapped child or stoically permit a person to run from a wild animal despite
the pain in their lungs. People with low beta endorphin levels have excessive fear of
pain. They are scared of going to the dentist or getting pricked with a needle and their
response to criticism is extreme. They are typically labeled ‘sensitive.’ Those with
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low beta endorphins have a perceived pain of both the emotional and the physical
world. Beta endorphin levels are also associated with self-esteem and general coping
mechanisms. Low levels can result in feelings of inadequacy and the sense of being
stuck. These people have a harder time working their way out of a fix. So who would
have thought that self-esteem could be biochemical? Physiologically, beta endorphins
are endogenous opioids, a classification of neurochemicals that the body naturally
produces by eating food, drinking alcohol or taking morphine. Sugar temporarily
activates beta endorphin levels. People with low levels of beta endorphin naturally
seek the substance that temporarily boosts their levels and make them feel better--
but only temporarily. Consider this. Heroin is a beta endorphin drug similar to sugar.
It boosts the levels of the neurochemical in the body resulting in an increased sense
of self-worth for a sort time. This is one reason why heroin is so addictive. It typically
takes recovering heroin addicts up to six months to deal with the feelings of decreased
self-esteem which is one reason why there is such a low recovery rate.
Interestingly, studies show that it’s the take of the sugar on the tongue that activates
the beta endorphins not its effect on the body. What this means is that we can
activate beta endorphins by eating food that is pleasurable to us and it doesn’t need
to be refined sugar. But we might be in the habit of doing so to boost those levels. For
women, beta endorphins peak during ovulation. During the second half of the cycle
they drop and this is when cravings for carbohydrates, chocolates, and sweets surge
because these are the substance that will evoke the beta endorphins. This is especially
true of alcoholics who might start out with lower levels of the neurotransmitter and
also peri and post-menopausal women because the levels naturally drop.
Kathleen DesMaisons, in her book, The Sugar Addicts – Total Recovery Program,
likens the relationship between blood sugar, serotonin, and beta endorphins and their
impact on sugar consumption to a three-legged stool. She says, “Sugar sensitivity
involves each of the three parts--carbohydrate sensitivity caused by volatile blood
sugar, low serotonin, and low beta endorphin. Sugar sensitivity involves each of the
three parts but it also is affected by the relationship of these parts. Imagine a three-
legged stool with blood sugar, serotonin, and beta endorphin, each acting as a leg. A
deficit in any or all three of the legs makes the stool off balance. Anyone who tries to
sit or stand on it will fall. She explains that often, people who have a sugar sensitivity
have more than one of the three legs afflicted. But, those with the beta endorphin leg
causing the wobble, tend to skate by—not have weight problems, run on adrenalin, and
have the biggest level of addiction. So, again, I just want to say those with the beta
endorphin level causing the wobble, tend to skate by—not have weight problems, run
on adrenalin, and have the biggest level of addiction. I know people like this and they
struggle with sugar. And because they don’t have a weight issue, they sometimes are
not motivated to make the change.
Just as the taste of sugar on the tongue evokes beta endorphins, the taste of sugar
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also apparently releases opiates within the brain. Remember, it’s just the taste. The
opiates then stimulate the release of dopamine. Dopamine is associated with pleasure,
alertness, concentration, euphoria, and motivation. I always think of dopamine as
part of our long term planning. Our ability to do something now that will benefit us
later. This ability is sorely lacking in modern day society where we want a quick fix
for everything. This is particular true with diet. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter, or
reward, and it’s made from the amino acid, tyrosine not from sugar. But much like the
drugs heroin, cocaine, and alcohol, sugar appears to activate dopamine release so
there is no wonder that we turn to sugar when we are feeling stressed and especially
when we feel like we deserve a reward. Do you know that feeling? The one where
you have been working really hard and you feel like you deserve the ice cream or
the Frappuccino? Recognize that as you body’s cry for dopamine and see if you can
stimulate the release in another way.
Foods that support the natural release of dopamine include almonds, avocados,
bananas, dairy, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds. The fat soluble vitamins A
and D also work together like a sort of zipper closing and a physiological system that
ultimately turns on the production of dopamine. You will find that combo of A and D
in really high quality fermented cod liver oil.
Thinking about the brain, it’s curious to think about how the brain can get inflamed.
We are not going to look more closely at the role of sugar and inflammation. Again,
this is a good time for a break before we move into inflammation.
Inflammation is something we consider only when we can see it as in swelling. But
scientific research is now able to connect systemic internal inflammation or silent
inflammation to autoimmune diseases, allergies, asthma, cardiovascular disease,
diabetes, and cancer. And get this, dementia, autism, depression, and anxiety. As I
noted, research is showing that the brain can get inflamed too. Inflammation is an
immune system response. Things swell when they need repair.
Dr. Martha Herbert is a professor of neurology at Harvard. She conducts some pretty
ground breaking research on autistic children including MRI scans of their brains. Brain
size proved to be significantly bigger in these children than those without autism.
So why am I talking about this now? What causes brain inflammation? Some causes
are toxins and stress but the biggest causes are allergens including food allergies,
nutritional deficiencies—what we don’t eat or what our food is depriving us of as we
saw with the mineral deficiencies caused by sugar, but also the foods we eat; namely,
the topic at hand—sugar. It’s not just the brain that gets inflamed. I would like to back
up here and discuss the process of inflammation as inflammation is now seen as the
root factor in most chronic diseases. And if sugar has anything to do with those roots,
we need to dig them up and examine them.
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There are several kinds of inflammation. Acute inflammation is like a sprained ankle,
a cut, a scrape or a bump. Acute inflammation is a localized response. There is a
compression of surrounding nerves, a collection of fluid in the surrounding area to
help signal and bolster your innate immune system. You can usually see this on the
outside. So go ahead and imagine a throbbing stubbed toe. This is acute inflammation.
There is also severe acute inflammation in the cases of major trauma like significant
burns, accidents, and distressing allergic responses. This kind of trauma will elicit
a more massive inflammatory response. White blood cells rush to the area of the
trauma as well as a disproportionate supply of the body’s blood depleting that blood
supply from other body’s organs like the lungs and heart.
And then there is an inflammatory response that is in between the two. This is
considered chronic inflammation or low grade inflammation or systemic inflammation.
It’s known by all these names. This inflammation shows up as diabetes, autoimmune
disorders, high blood pressure, and even autism, ADD, ADHD, eczema, asthma—even
anger and aggression. In the case of chronic inflammation the body doesn’t go into
an immediate response but instead keeps the body in a persistent state of repair
reaction. The body’s regular immunity is compromised because the immune system is
distracted by its job of tending to the incessant and unweaning inflammation. The long
term effects of chronic inflammation have been linked to things like Crohn’s disease,
to cancer, to heart disease. When it comes to any concern of chronic inflammation we
can start by looking at the gut—70% of the body’s immune system resides in the gut or
small intestine. So what you do or don’t put in there is going to inform your immune
system’s ability to quell those fires of inflammation there and elsewhere. An inflamed
digestive tract, evidenced by gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, reflux or any sort
of abdominal pain is certainly a sign of this chronic state of distress and should not
High insulin levels put the immune system on active alert. You have hormones inside
your cells called eicosanoids. These are either pro or anti-inflammatory depending
on their type. When insulin levels are high in the bloodstream, the eicosanoids are
more apt to be inflammatory. High insulin levels also stimulate the production of
enzymes that raise levels of arachidonic acid in our blood. So, while inflammation
may stem from discord in one system or because of an immune system response
triggered in one system, it ultimately affects the entire body. Dr. Mark Hyman, in an
ultra-wellness article entitled “Inflammation and Immune Balance” says it this way. “It
is important to understand that this concept of inflammation is not specific to any
one organ or medical specialty.” In fact, if you read a medical journal from any of the
specialties, you will find endless articles about how inflammation is at the root of
the problem. The issue is the lack of communication between specialties. Everyone
is treating the downstream effects of inflammation instead of addressing the cause—
multiple problems that are really linked together by inflammation. This explanation
of sugar’s role in inflammation makes a correlation between sugar and heart disease
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clear. Inflammation is now seen as one of the major causes of heart disease which is
where we are moving next.
As you already know your body creates inflammation in response to getting a cut.
Your blood vessels constrict to stop bleeding. The blood becomes thicker so it can
clot and that means it’s creating more platelets. Immune cells rush in to the area to
fight bacteria or viruses. And cells divide to repair the tissue leaving you with a scar to
remember the event. So that’s a cut that you can see. A cut in your artery has a similar
process except the scar is called a plaque. High levels of LDL are often a sign that
there is inflammation that the body is trying to clean up. I speak about this issue more
extensively in the Pharm2Table class on statins that I co-teach with Dr. Liz Wallace.
You can find that course on the ReplenishPDX.com website. As we discuss in that
class, high blood triglycerides are a better indicator for heart disease and the LDL or
total cholesterol numbers and high dietary sugar intake raises blood triglyceride which
is your blood fat more clearly than any other substance. More research is showing the
connection between sugar and heart disease as opposed to fat and heart disease.
I would like to stop here and ponder that original question that spurred me to write
this class. Is sugar bad for everyone?
We are going to look quickly at two other health conditions affected by sugar before
delving into what you can do about the sugar in your life. Quickly, is the key here
because I imagine you are anxious at this point to get down to the problem solving.
You may have heard of candida. Candida is a fungal organism that is sometimes known
as thrush, albicans or simply a yeast infection. The yeast is always moderately present
in your intestinal tract but it can actually loom elsewhere in your body. It can present
in your vagina, prostate, lungs, bone marrow, and blood. Candida yeast cells live
among the bacterial flora present in the gastrointestinal tract, mucosa, esophagus,
small intestine, as well as on the body’s surface. In homeostasis, candida is controlled
and mitigated by beneficial bacteria and your immune system. At its core, candida is
a sugar fermenting organism. It feeds on sugar. Candida becomes problematic when
we eat a high sugar diet. We have a weakened immunity or we possess low levels
of beneficial bacteria. Women are typically more susceptible to yeast growth but
everyone has a potential to develop a yeast condition. Candida is a huge problem and
a big topic. I know it’s a subject that I would l like to teach about in more depth.
For our purposes today, it’s important to know that yeast overgrowth can fuel sugar
cravings that feel larger than life. Julia Ross, in her book, The Diet Cure, explains the
process of yeast overgrowth and its relation to sugar nicely. She says, “These yeasts
are exactly like the yeast that bread is made with.” Yeast is great for bread making
because it gobbles up the sugar or honey that is added to it making a big puffy, gassy
mass—like in bigger—as flour is added in. That’s essentially the way our yeast afflicted
clients usually feel—bloated, puffy, gurgly, and distended especially after sweet,
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starchy foods, and alcohol. As a result of all the food groups, simple carbohydrates
and sugars most directly feed yeast overgrowth.
So, what about the teeth? It’s no mystery that sugar causes dental decay. Technically
speaking, sugar doesn’t cause cavities alone. Cavities are actually caused by an
interaction between plaque bacteria and your diet. So those plaque bacteria are
called dental caries. Imagine a microscopic layer of microorganisms living on your
teeth. These are so tiny that they are invisible to the naked eye until, over time, they
build up and cause plaque. The microorganisms produce an acid which lowers the
pH level next to your teeth. This goes back to that acid/alkaline issue I discussed
earlier. Remember that the stomach needs to be highly acidic to break down our
foods, particularly our proteins. The mouth and most other parts of the digestive
system should be more alkaline. If the pH level around your teeth goes below
approximately 5.5, acid dominates and your teeth enamel starts to break apart. So
cavities aren’t actually caused by microorganisms eating your teeth, they are caused
by microorganisms taking up residence on your teeth and changing the pH balance
creating an acidic environment in your mouth. And what do microorganisms eat? Well,
they eat sugar.
Give yourself a pat on the back. That was a lot of information about the body and
brain and our physiological response to the consumption of sugar. But what the heck
do we do about it? Sugar is everywhere, right? It is and it takes being a conscious and
proactive individual to really eliminate sugar from your diet. You can totally do it and
I am going to show you how.
I just want to say this course is likely to run over our two hours. I’m glad you have the
ability to pause and come back because there is some more good information and I
want you to get it all.
So, what do we do? The first step is acceptance, forgiveness, and the desire to make
a change around your lifestyle and your habits with sugar. If you really want to make
a change, to feel better, lighter, more clear headed, less prone to illness, and to halt
or prevent further disease states as well as actively turn off the genes that you may
have been given, that make you susceptible to certain health conditions, then you will
do this. I promise--it’s not impossible. Even that family with the teenage girl did it and
they have been doing it for years.
The second step after acceptance, forgiveness, and the desire to make a change is
bringing sugar to consciousness. Now we’ve done that in a big way with the information
that you have learned from this course. Next we have to take that consciousness into
the real world—into your kitchen, the grocery store, restaurants, and your friends’
houses. This is where we learn to read labels. We are now going to take a look at
ingredients versus nutritional information. If you are near your kitchen, get up and
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go grab a packaged food from your fridge or cupboard—crackers, energy bar, yogurt,
cookies, chips—anything of that sort. You can pause the audio if you need to. I actually
forgot to get my props so I’m walking over to get those now. These aren’t actually in
my cupboard. They’re in my little prop area.
Okay. So let’s look at sugar by any other name while you are getting your props. We
have beet sugar, brown sugar, cane juice crystals, confectioner’s sugar, corn sweetener,
corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice concentrate, granulated sugar, high
fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, powdered sugar, raw sugar, sugar cane, turbinado
sugar, white sugar…and there’s even more. Can you believe it? There are a lot of names
for sugar. But what do those grams of sugar on the label actually mean and can they
be a bit susceptive? Yes, they can.
With the packaging you have in your hands, I want you to do the following exercise.
Pick up one of them, look at the grams of sugar and determine the serving size.
Determine the grams of sugar in the serving size which is usually just the grams of
sugar listed there. Don’t look at the carbs, just the sugars. I found my sugars and I’m
going to divide that number by four. Okay. Have you done your math? Grams of sugar
divided by four. Come up with your number and then I want you to visualize in front of
you those little packets of sugar that you get at the coffee shop. So whatever number
you came up with in your division, imagine that number of sugars in front of you—those
packets. So that’s how much sugar is in one of the one serving of whatever it is that
you have in front of you.
In my hands, I have two packages. The first one is EnviroKidz Organic Crispy Rice
Fruity Burst. It’s a package of little granola bars. The second is a Larabar. So, the grams
of sugar in my EnviroKidz Organic Crispy Rice Fruity Burst bars is 8. Total grams of
sugar divided by four—that’s 2 grams of sugar. In my Larabar, the grams of sugar is 21
divided by four—that’s 5 something. These are two packages. The Larabar seems to
have 5 sugar packets per serving and the other one has two. But there’s a big ‘but’
here. I’m going to read you the ingredients on the EnviroKidz Organic Crispy Rice
Fruity Burst. Ingredients: organic brown rice flour, organic brown rice syrup, organic
honey, organic fruity pieces which is organic evaporated cane juice, organic rice syrup,
organic coconut oil, citric acid, natural flavors, beet color, organic turmeric, organic
soy lecithin, organic soy oil, organic inner cane syrup, organic evaporated cane juice,
organic corn starch, organic acacia gum, natural flavors, organic molasses, organic rice
bran extract. So, I think in there—did I say 5, 6, 7 kinds of sugars?
In the Larabar which seems to have more sugars in it, the ingredients are: dates,
almonds, and unsweetened cherries. So the importance here is that the EnviroKidz
bars are a little deceptive. If we are looking at the grams of sugar, we can be tricked.
Those sugars in that are going to transport into the body system very easily. They have
a higher glycemic load than the sugars that come from the dates and the cherries in
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the Larabar which are going to transport more slowly. So, if we are looking at grams,
we can be tricked. Always read the ingredients.
Think about Michael Pollan here. He started this with Omnivore’s Dilemna and he
went on with his manifesto of food and how to look for food. What he always says is
shop the perimeter of the store. That’s where foods are being stocked more easily and
it’s not as packaged and processed. But also, look at ingredients and don’t buy things
that have more than five ingredients or ingredients that you don’t know what they are
or your grandmother wouldn’t know what they are.
So, hidden sources of sugar in your cupboard might be cereals, crackers, yogurts, salad
dressings, bagels, breads, peanut butter—any frozen or packaged foods—certainly fast
foods, take out foods, packaged meat, ketchup, cocktail sauce, tomato sauce, some
mustards, most sauces in Chinese restaurants, sushi rice, soy milks, mayonnaise, cough
syrups, and cough drops. Our first step was desire to make a change and the second
is bringing sugar to consciousness.
The third step is really important and it’s go slowly. First, I need to say that you must
start with yourself. Don’t try to change anyone else’s behavior before your own. Don’t
walk into your kitchen right now and start throwing away boxes of cereal and snacks
unless, of course, you live alone. For three days, keep a food and mood journal.
Look at what you eat, what time you eat, how you feel physically, and how you feel
emotionally. Start to notice if there are times of day when you feel irritable or when
your patience runs thin or when you feel ravenously hungry, if you get a headache or
start to lose focus. Start to know yourself better. This is how you can best support
your desire to change a behavior.
Change comes only from moving the unconscious to the conscious. The first step is
waking up. You can think of this course as your alarm clock. You are now awake to the
effects of sugar. There’s really no denying it. If there was one piece that resonated for
you in the information that we covered, focus there. Are you disgusted that sugar is
bleached with bone share? Are you fighting some stubborn belly fat? Are you noticing
that you can’t get through the day without a sweet something? Do you have a mouth
full of cavities? Are you genetically predisposed to getting breast cancer or diabetes?
Are you depressed or struggling with insomnia? Find your motivating factor and let
that fuel you.
After watching yourself and knowing your cravings and impulses a bit better, start to
play detective in your kitchen. Start reading labels—every label. Make some extra time
to grocery shop so that you can look, read, and learn. Make it fun. Do a project like we
just did. I find that the only way I can make change that seems daunting is to take it on
as a project. This is why I teach the way I do. Sometimes we just want to be told what to
do and that’s why I teach cleanses throughout the year. But making real transformative
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lifestyle changes requires knowledge, self-reflection, and understanding. I am hoping
you have what you need to make this initial step and if you know better and you still
cannot make the change, then I want you to also know that you can get help. Try a
cleanse to get over the hump. Seek out a counselor—either a nutritional counselor or
an acupuncture, a naturopath or some psychological support. You can do this and you
don’t need to do it alone.
So this leads to your next step which is when you are ready, go public. Talk about the
change you want to make for yourself to someone that you trust and might even join
in the endeavor with you. Be playful. Refer to yourself as the Sugar Queen or the
Ice Cream King as you’re kicking the habit. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s important to
remove all negative feelings around how you have fed your family and yourself. Be
nonjudgmental but curious. You are planting the seeds for everlasting change.
So now for the change. In your handout packet, you have a sheet called The 5 Step
Plan. Let’s review that to set the stage for implementing your road to sugar detox.
Understanding blood sugar is key. So remember to include ample protein in every
meal, only eat complex carbohydrates, and always include fat or fiber. These are the
things that are going to help quell your cravings because they are going to fuel you
for a longer period of time. They are that slow train or that many branched tree that
is going to fuel you to the morning.
• Understand blood sugar and make sure you properly fuel yourself.
• Watch for the correlations between food and mood. Look at what you do about
those mid-day slumps and make sure you have something to get you over the hump
before the hump comes. If you have a slump every day at 4:00, then start to integrate
a healthy snack at 3:30 so that doesn’t come. By the time your blood sugar drops
low, you’re going to go for the sweetest thing to try to bring it up. You have to think
preemptively. So look at those correlations between food and mood.
• Browning yourself. This just means making the switch to the whole grain foods and
introducing alternative sweeteners that support your sweet tooth cravings. So this is
the idea of eating foods that are whole foods instead of processed foods. This is an
important concept that I call ‘crowding out.’ What crowding out means is that we bring
in the alternatives but sometime before we take out the things we want to get rid of.
This is a really, really important step. This is what allows us to make change because
then we’re not missing the thing. We don’t feel deprived.
So, understand your blood sugar, watch for the correlations between food and mood,
brown yourself bringing in more whole foods, and then remove the sugar. Do it. You
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can do it! And be flexible. Find your wiggle room in there. Sometimes if we try to walk
a line that’s too tight, we’re going to fall right off that tight rope. But if we create a
narrow path for ourselves, we can do it. And that narrow path can include alternative
sweeteners like in your recipe packet and does not need to include sugar.
So now let’s get to the fun part--the alternative sweeteners—the ones that we do get
to eat. There are times when people tell me they just want to go cold turkey and not
eat any sweets at all. As Nancy Appleton says in her book, Suicide by Sugar, there are
numerous ways to break an addiction. The most common, going cold turkey is a losing
proposition. The withdrawal symptoms can be overwhelming and drives the sufferer
back to sugar to ease his or her stressed body. And, as Mark Twain said of his cigars,
“Quitting is easy. I’ve done it many times.” This is why the crowding out principle is
really important because I’m sure that rings a bell for you at times where you think,
“Quitting is easy. I’ve don’t it many times.”
The handouts you have that outline viable Slow Train Breakfasts and Mother Nature’s
Cure for a Sweet Tooth as well as all the recipes in the Recipe packet are your friends.
The amazing contributing chefs in that recipe packet are incredible resources for
more healthy sweet tooth alternatives. I encourage you to visit each of their blogs.
Like I said, we are about to talk about alternative sweeteners but first we will take
a quick look at the big baddies. We’ll start with corn syrup. Have you seen those
somewhat recent commercials of what’s wrong with corn syrup? It’s made from corn,
right? You can Google those or go onto YouTube and find the corn syrup commercials
and also some spoofs on them. So corn syrup is sort of made from corn. It’s actually
made from the processing of corn starch from GMO corn to yield glucose. Then,
the glucose is processed to yield fructose. Remember the chemical difference in our
chemistry lesson between fructose and glucose? Well, that conversion is actually
a very complicated process enabling this solid to become a liquid. There are three
enzymes and countless bacterium used to break down the complex starches from
corn and turn them into simple sugars. My favorite quote regarding this process is
from an article entitled The Murky World of High Fructose Corn Syrup. It says, “This
process involves vats of murky fermenting liquid, fungus, and chemical tweaking all
of which take place in one of the sixteen chemical plants located in the corn belt.”
Yet, in spite of this major chemical and factory processing, corn syrup is cheaper
than sugar and that’s because of government subsidies and the use of leftovers from
the hydrogenation of trans fat processes. So don’t forget the problems we have
with metabolizing fructose in high quantities. Remember that every cell in the body
metabolizes glucose but fructose must be metabolized by your liver and there is a lot
of stress from the liver. It’s an organ already taxed from our toxic overload. It’s our
gatekeeper. Remember that you don’t need to be concerned about the quantities
of fructose in fruit because the digestion of that fructose is mitigated by fiber. To
drive that point home, consider that a massive ingestion of fructose results in an
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overwhelming production of energy and fat. Fructose also does not suppress ghrelin
which is your satiety hormone which is produced in the cells of the stomach. It does
not stimulate lectin production. Lectin is a protein hormone derived from our fat cells
that signals the brain about appetite and metabolism. So, when you eat fructose or
high fructose corn syrup, you just keep eating and eating. Over 250 thousand tons of
crystalline fructose are produced annually which speaks to the fact that we are just
eating it and eating it.
The other big baddies are the chemical sweeteners. You’ll find these in your handout
packet but they are worth mentioning in case there is any confusion that when we are
talking about eliminating sugar that we might be talking about bringing in the chemical
sweeteners. I’m going to take a look at those chemical sweeteners now with you if you
want to pull up your handout packet.
Looking at some of those, we have our aspartame and this is NutraSweet. There’s a
direct effect on the brain associated with epilepsy, Parkinson’s, and brain tumors. It’s
linked with digestive disturbances. Make sure to check the labels of sugar free gums,
diet sodas, and all low fat products including yogurt. There are a lot of stomach aches
that happen with aspartame.
The next one is sucralose, or Splenda. This is made from chlorinating sugar. Chlorine
consumption causing immune suppression. It affects the blood, heart, and respiratory
systems of lab animals. It interferes with the proper functioning of the thyroid which
is the gland that helps our metabolism and the heat in our body. There was actually
a little article on Mercola.com today called ‘The other sweetener that’s made from
sugar but it’s closer to DDT.’ It says researchers recently investigated sucralose or
Splenda to see if it could reduce hunger and keep blood sugars steady. They found
that it could not.
The next one is saccharin which is our Sweet ‘n Low. This is scary. It was actually
banned from use in Canada in 1977 after it was found to increase animal risk of bladder
cancer. The FDA used to require warning labels on foods that contained saccharin but
the food industry lobbyists reversed this requirement.
We also have sugar alcohols. I’m not a big fan of eating sugar alcohols like xylitol or
sorbitol. If they’re in nutritional supplements for children that are chewable, I’m okay
with some of them there. Xylitol is the preferred one. Certainly xylitol gum is the
preferred way to chew gum so that you are not getting any of the artificial sweeteners.
Xylitol, as you will see on your handout, actually comes from natural sources. Xylitol
actually prevents dental caries so it helps with that—that microorganism buildup we
were talking about on the teeth.
So, what do we get to eat? Again, this in your handout packet and it’s more well
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documented on the video section where I will show you all the different sweeteners
and how to use them. I’m going to save that for that portion since we’re running over
a bit. Again, you have it on your handout packet--all your sweeteners that you can use.
These are the sweeteners that are used in your recipe packet and also documented
there. Then on the video, I’m going to show you each of them and talk about how I use
them. You also have the chart in your Charts and Graphs section that shows you how
to try doing some conversions if you feel ambitious in your kitchen. There are a couple
designer sweeteners I want to add to the list. One of them is Yacon. Yacon is a sweet
tasting tuberous root grown in the Andes. It contains inulin or fructooligosaccharides
which promote healthy probiotic activity in the gut. So fructooligosaccharides, or
FOS, are prebiotics meaning they stimulate the activity of the probiotics. Yacon is a
low glycemic sweetener that can be used as an alternative to sugar and drinks and in
recipes. It comes as both a syrup and as a powder. It’s expensive which is why I call it
a designer sweetener.
Lacuma is the other designer sweetener and it’s a Peruvian fruit with a flavor that
tastes like a combination between maple and cashews. The fruit is dried and it’s an
excellent source of fiber, iron, beta carotene, and vitamin B3. Again, really easily
added to drinks.
So, you can see that there are many options for healthily fulfilling your sweet tooth.
Again, I’m giving you so many resources to do that. I really encourage you to go with this
concept of crowding out. Eat these sweets. And depending on your health condition
or where you are in this process, you will find which ones are more appropriate for
you. So, if you are battling yeast, you might feel that you need to get rid of the higher
glycemic sweeteners and stick with things like coconut sugar or stevia. If you are just
trying to kick a sugar habit, then use the raw honey. Go for it. Find your way to letting
go of the refined sugar and then make a step down from there. That way you can play
with it and find your path to healthier living.
A couple years ago the National School of Nutrition Standards put out a report to
ask which of the following foods was the most lacking in nutrients. Again, this is the
National School of Nutrition Standards. Here were their options. Hi-C Blast, seltzer,
french fries, and a candy bar. So the food that they said was the most lacking in
nutrients was seltzer and that was because it had no calories. But as you learned
all those other foods are high in sugar. Even though they might have calories and be
feeding something to those children, they are taking a lot more away. You will no longer
be fooled by such propaganda. You’re no longer in the dark about the bitter truth of
your sweet tooth. Two or so hours ago you may not have been aware of the dangers
of physiological disruptions of sugar in your diet. Now it is my hope that you have the
knowledge, the information, and the resources to bring yourself into increased health
and alignment. As you close down this audio, take a moment to consider your next
move. This is all about you. Make a commitment to yourself and enjoy the process of
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crowding out with some yummy treats and snacks.
Thank you for being here with me today and I’ll see you
on the video section of the course!