The average American consumes about 20 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Maybe you’re thinking “I don’t have a sweet tooth” or “I know I don’t eat THAT much sugar every day,” but sugar is sneaky and pervasive. By learning its many names, reading labels for hidden sugar, and drastically reducing or altogether eliminating your sugar intake, you’ll find out just how beneficial quitting sugar can be for nearly every aspect of your health.
1. Your BRAIN gets a big boost when you give it a break from added sugar, and it’s through its health that quitting the sweet stuff for good is really made possible. You’ll improve your mood, lower your risk of depression and anxiety, and yes, even reduce cravings. Although it depends on how much sugar you regularly consume, it takes about two weeks to retrain your brain and withdrawal can be tough. Because sugar stimulates the production of dopamine and opioid receptors, you get hooked on the sweet stuff the way you would alcohol or drugs. But if you stick with it, you’ll feel your brain return to baseline, the inflammatory response brought on by sugar overconsumption will dissipate, and you’ll be better able to feel and appreciate how your health is improving.
2. Not only does your brain benefit from a sugar detox, but your HEART does as well. Namely, you’ll lower your blood pressure and your risk of heart disease. This is because you’ll lighten the load on your liver, where excess sugar turns into fat which in turn increases the number of triglycerides and “bad” cholesterol in your bloodstream. And, like the brain, too much sugar increases inflammation making you more susceptible to cardiovascular problems.
3. As mentioned above, added sugar can have a hugely negative impact on the health of your LIVER. Fructose, found in most kinds of refined sugar and especially high-fructose corn syrup, is processed in the liver. Too much, however, can cause fat to accumulate around the liver and other organs leading to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It’s estimated that about 25 percent of the population (including children!) have some level of NAFLD. In severe cases, this can lead to scarring or cirrhosis of the liver—something more typically thought of as a consequence of heavy drinking.
4. Your KIDNEYS aren’t safe from the damaging effects of sugar, either. A new study has linked the overconsumption of added sugar to a higher risk of developing kidney stones. According to the study, people who consumed the most added sugar had a whopping 29 to 88 percent higher chance of developing kidney stones than those who ate less. Of course, if you have diabetes and consume too much sugar, the overconsumption can lead to permanent kidney damage. But if you aren’t diabetic, quitting sugar can drastically reduce your risk of developing the condition.
5. Want to spend less time at the dentist? Then quitting sugar is your ticket. Sugar provides an excellent food source for bacteria to grow and flourish, leading to plaque build-up and eventually weakened enamel and cavities. By quitting sugar, your TEETH will thank you.
6. And if you want beautiful SKIN to go with that smile, a sugar detox will help you get it. When you eat a diet high in refined sugar, you’ll notice an uptick in breakouts and their severity. It’s not just blemishes you have to worry about either; scientists have even found a link between sugar and wrinkles! Excess sugar in the bloodstream attaches to collagen and elastin to form AGEs (advanced glycation end-products) which cause them to become dry and brittle, leading to wrinkled and saggy skin. The bottom line? A low- or no-sugar diet is the key to eternal youth.
7. Studies show that sugar—particularly fructose—can seriously disrupt your GUT microbiome. Fructose has been shown to feed “bad” bacterial overgrowth and limit microbial diversity as whole. Too much refined sugar can also lead to gut permeability and raise inflammation throughout the body, increasing your risk of developing chronic disease. So, if you’re experiencing gastrointestinal problems, try cutting out refined sugar and see how it heals your gut.
8. Too much sugar can wreak havoc on your IMMUNE SYSTEM, too. Not only will it cause you to be more susceptible to colds and other short-term illnesses, it increases your risk of chronic disease brought on by inflammation. Even more scary is that every time you consume refined sugar, it can down-regulate your white blood cells’ ability to fight off viruses for hours after you’ve eaten it.
9. An added sugar overload can have a detrimental impact on your body’s sensitivity to the hormone INSULIN, which plays a major role in many of your body’s functions. Eating too much sugar makes your body insulin resistant which leads not only to type 2 diabetes, but obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and metabolic syndrome.
10. Want to have more ENERGY throughout the day? Consider how cutting out refined sugar will actually make you feel more energized. Although sugar causes a spike in energy, it’s always followed by a big crash as your blood sugar rises and falls like a rollercoaster, leaving you feeling drained and lethargic. When you cut out added sugar and focus on eating balanced meals and snacks, you’ll notice your blood sugar levels will balance out and you’ll enjoy steady, reliable energy throughout the day.
11. By stabilizing your blood sugar you’ll also notice an improvement in your MOOD and mental health. When your blood sugar spikes and crashes you’ll experience mood swings and there is growing evidence that a diet high in added sugar puts you at significantly higher risk of developing depression and/or anxiety. It further exacerbates high blood pressure and inflammation which have also been linked with mood disorders.
12. By ditching sugar, you’ll ditch those EXTRA POUNDS, too. Not only will you likely be consuming less calories, cutting out sugar will help your brain and gut better communicate hunger and fullness. Since sugar over-consumption activates the pleasure center of the brain, it causes us to eat far past the point of fullness which also leads to weight gain. Furthermore, it disrupts the hormones testosterone and estrogen, lowering the former and elevating the latter. This imbalance leads to a decrease in muscle mass and an increase in belly fat. Leptin resistance, another hormonal disruption, also impacts your waistline, as leptin is what signals to the brain that we are full.
As you can see, quitting sugar has a major impact on your health inside and out, from your head to your toes. And while a little willpower is needed to get your brain through those first few days or weeks, there are ways you can make it easier.
Firstly, ditch the junk from your cabinets and pantry.
Next, retrain your taste buds rather than relying on artificial sweeteners. Research suggests that the artificial stuff, like aspartame and sucralose, can actually make sugar cravings worse (in addition to them causing health issues of their own). It’s also important to learn all the names for sugar to weed out any sneaky sources from diet.
Finally, support can be a major part of being successful. If you know you need to kick sugar and don’t want to go it alone, please contact me. I’m here to help!