For many of us sugar is part of our everyday lives; we heap it in our morning coffees, we reach for it when we hit that afternoon slump and we reward ourselves with it when we’ve had a hard day. We know sugar isn’t good for us and that there are plenty of negative effects of sugar. Too much of it is bad for our skin, our waistlines and our teeth. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg; sugar can have serious, long term, negative effects on both the mind and body.
To make matters worse hidden sugars lurk everywhere, even supposedly ‘healthy’ options can be packed with sugar. Take the time to check and understand what ingredients are in the food you buy, making a conscious effort to keep track of how much sugar you consume on a daily basis.
But what happens to our bodies when we consume too much sugar?
The Harmful and Negative Effects of Sugar
Mood Swings as a result of sugar
When we think of the health risks associated with sugar we tend to think of its physical effects but sugar can also have a huge impact on our mental wellbeing.
We’ve all experienced a sugar rush; that buzzy feeling of increased energy and happiness when we’ve eaten or drank something sugary in a short amount of time. This feeling is triggered by sugar telling our brains to release endorphins, such as serotonin and dopamine (which is the brain’s reward neurotransmitter), which flood the body and make us feel good.
But that feeling doesn’t last forever and approximately 90 minutes later those feelings begin to subside and we head towards a crash. When these endorphins subside we experience fatigue and anxiety. Like with any addiction, we’re tempted to reach for the sugar again, desperate to regain that initial sugar rush feeling. These constant spikes and crashes can make it difficult to regulate your mood, making you snappy and irritable.
Sugar can cause Inflammation
Sugar is also an inflammatory substance; when we consume sugar it stimulates the production of fatty acids in the liver that when digested can trigger inflammatory processes.
Our gut is often referred to as our second brain; not only does it operate independently from our brain but it’s full of neurons and neurotransmitters that can help influence our mood and feelings. When sugar inflames our gut this second brain becomes clouded and stops functioning as it should which can lead to depression, anxiety and irritability.
Sugar affects your Immune System
Inflammation of the gut doesn’t just affect our moods. The gut is home to 70% of the body’s immune system and is filled with cells whose sole function is to create antibodies that keep us fit and healthy.
When we eat sugar these cells become inflamed which in turn reduces their antibody production, compromising our body’s chance of fighting off illness and disease. To keep your immune system strong and healthy, favour foods rich in gut friendly bacteria, like kefir and sauerkraut, and keep refined, processed sugars to an absolute minimum.
Sugar stops you from Absorbing Nutrients
It’s clear sugar has an extremely damaging effect on the gut so it’s no surprise that sugar can also stop your body absorbing the necessary nutrients. Vitamin C, for example, is vital for the growth and repairing of body tissue as well as assisting in the creation of collagen, the absorption of iron, the functionality of the immune system and general maintenance of bones, teeth and cartilage. However excess glucose stops vitamin C from penetrating cells, greatly affecting absorption levels and stopping your cells getting the nutrients they need to keep you healthy.
Vitamin D absorption is also affected by sugar. Vitamin D is responsible for maintaining the health of your bones and joints as well as supporting your immune system; It is also believed that vitamin D plays a role in the body’s sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. Evidence suggests that some sugars, fructose in particular, breaks down vitamin D by affecting the enzymes that process it, resulting in a vitamin D deficiency.
Negative Effects of Sugar on our Skin
Eating sugar can increase Acne
Now we have a better understanding of the negative effects of sugar on our bodies internally, let’s look how it effects us externally, specifically our skin.
We’ve all been warned that too many sweet treats will give you acne. Whilst this may seem like an old wives tale, there’s science behind it to suggest it’s actually true. As we’ve learnt sugary foods and drinks cause our blood sugar levels to spike; when this happens our bodies naturally increase the production of oils and androgen (a steroid hormone). These excess oils and hormones, coupled with the fact that cells are already inflamed, are a recipe for spots and acne. Expensive skin care products won’t help either; diet and controlling your sugar intake is the first step for achieving clear, healthy skin and should be the first thing we address when tackling problem skin.
Premature Ageing is a result of sugar intake
As well as causing acne, high sugar consumption has been linked to premature ageing. As we get older our bodies naturally begin to slacken; elastin and collagen production begins to slow down and wrinkles begin to appear.
There is evidence to suggest sugar reacts with protein or fat in our bodies and creates compounds called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs). These AGEs then attack the collagen and elastin proteins, which will speed up the ageing process. It is also believed that AGEs can affect the enzymes that create your body’s natural antioxidants. This can leave you exposed to the harmful effects of free radicals like pollution, blue lights and UV rays all of which contribute to the skin’s ageing process.
A sugar heavy diet will lead to dry skin and dark circles, both of which are ageing, and difficult to disguise. Remember, that any food you put in your body, will manifest itself on the outside. Favour natural, organic foods rich in minerals and vitamins to keep your skin nourished and hydrated.
Lets stop the negative effects of sugar
How to Stop Eating Sugar
Breaking addictions and bad habits is always going to be difficult; even when we know sugar is bad for us we still reach for it, after all there are some studies that suggest sugar could be as addictive as cocaine. For many of us, sugar is a comfort, something that makes us feel good when we feel down and is always within arms reach. As you begin to wean yourself off sugar, be kind to yourself; start with small steps, take it one day at a time and be gentle on yourself if you do slip up.
The below tips are worth bearing in mind as you being to eliminate sugar from your diet:
- Switch refined processed carbs, like white bread and pasta which convert to sugar, for their wholemeal equivalents. Wholemeal spelt flour is a great alternative to white flour. Spelt and barley are great replacements for rice.
- Be vigilant; check packets for ingredients and see how much sugar is in each serving. Adults should not consume more than 30g of sugar a day which is the equivalent of 7.5 teaspoons of sugar.
- Find low sugar alternatives or snack on dark chocolate, nuts and fruit when that 4pm slump comes around.
- Up your water intake and cut down on fizzy drinks. Even drinks that claim to be healthy tend to be full of sugars and glucose.
- Avoid sugar in tea or coffee and make a conscious effort to have your morning beverage sugar free. When we start the day off right it’s easier to stay on track for the rest of the day.
Sugar & You
Cutting out sugar isn’t going to be easy but the risk to your health is too great not to try. We know how important this is and so we’ve previously wrote about healthy foods that can help combat your sugar cravings. Once you begin to slowly eliminate sugar from your diet your mood will become stable, your focus clearer and your energy levels will increase. Start making conscious efforts to fill your body with good, honest foods, nourishing it from the inside out, and you’ll be amazed at just what it can do.