Greetings and salutations, my friends! I’d like to continue discussing steps to dramatically improve our health and well being. Recall in my last post I compared this to peeling back the layers of an onion, one by one. The first layer involves protecting your gut health by doing the following:
– Eliminating antibiotic and hormone-containing foods such as conventional meats and dairy; choose meats and dairy that are free of these nasties or go fully organic
– Eliminating GMO’s primarily from processed foods containing conventional corn, corn syrup (AKA corn sugar and high fructose corn syrup) and soy; choose whole GMO-free foods, ideally fresh proteins and vegetables -> see my last blog post for lists of companies who specialize in Non-GMO foods
It may take some time and willpower to implement these changes, but be patient with yourself and you will get there, and it WILL be worth it. A lot of label reading, new menu planning, reprioritizing and ideally more fresh food preparation will be involved. Go for it and May the Force be With You!
The second layer involves saving your pancreas:
– Eliminating artificial sweeteners and reducing the amount of good old refined sugar, especially from energy and soft drinks; my advice is to step away from the sugar/caffeine/artificial everything bomb (that every part of your body besides your taste buds hates) and grab some old-fashioned water or herbal tea (which every part of your body will love)
The average American consumes an average of 158 lbs of refined sugar a year, which plays havoc with our health. I’ll be the first to admit that it is tough to eliminate sweets completely – I am a total sucker for pastries. The important thing is to consider sweets an occasional treat instead of a daily ritual, because no one here is perfect. I will elaborate as to why 158 lbs a year is too much by reviewing a book by Dr. Edward Aronoff called Toxic Food, Healthy Food: Your Survival Guide to Healthy Eating and Better Nutrition, Three Came Home Publishing, 2011.
Dr. Aronoff covers a lot of ground within the 64 chapters of this book. He discusses foods to eliminate/moderate (sweeteners, meat, dairy, coffee), scientific studies which support the correlation between diet and disease (diabetes, obesity, coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, arthritis, celiac disease, food allergies), chemicals in our food, pesticides in our water, recommended foods for all age groups (newborns, toddlers, 3 – 5 year olds, pre-teens, teens, adults), and healing your body with whole food nutrition. Whew – there’s a lot of great information in here, but we are going to focus on the sweeteners only in this post. If you would like to learn more about the other topics, I would recommend reading this book in its entirety.
First of all, sugar addiction is real and something relied upon by the junk food
dealers manufacturers. Refined sugar affects the same brain chemicals, e.g. serotonin, that morphine, heroin and amphetamines do (page 79). Therefore if you consume a great deal of sugar every day, going cold turkey will be tough. Please refer to other resources to break a serious sugar habit. My goal here is to convince you to take that important step.
Some biology to start – sugar is necessary because your body needs it to supply its cells with energy. In the best case, simple sugars come from the metabolism of starches and carbohydrates which are broken down slowly. When you consume food, your body metabolizes the sugar that’s ingested and gets it ready to put into the nerve and fat cells. If you have more sugar than your cells need, your body stores the sugar as glycogen in the liver and the muscles to be used later. (Note: this is important and we will come back to it when we discuss high fructose corn syrup and why it is evil.) When the blood sugar begins to fall, a hormone released by the pancreas called glucagon tells the liver to release the glycogen as glucose. Alternatively, when the blood sugar rises, the pancreas releases hormone called insulin to metabolize the blood sugar (page 30 – 31). That’s our body staying in balance and is all well and good.
Since the average American eats 158 lbs of sugar a year, not all is well and good. Refined sugars enter the blood stream rapidly, not slowly like metabolized starches and carbs, so the pancreas may become over reactive at the constant barrage and will secrete too much insulin and will drive the blood sugar down too much, resulting in low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include fatigue, nervousness, headaches, mood swings, depression, cold sweats, and so on (page 32). Eventually the constant consumption of refined sugars in sodas, breakfast cereals, candies, pastries (!), ice cream, coffee and alcohol can exhaust the pancreas to the point where it can’t control the metabolism of blood glucose. This can bring on Type 2 diabetes. Apparently many people are killing their pancreas in this way because we have a diabetes epidemic on our hands – 1 in 3 Americans have been diagnosed, and there be many more undiagnosed cases. Kicking the sugar habit is more important now when ever, especially with kids!
Quick side bar here about newborns, because the sugar addiction can begin with infant formulas. The sad fact is they are full of sugar – tens of grams of it – and their little pancreas’ just can’t handle it (page 36). Formulas which have GMO soy, GMO corn syrup and sugar are just bad news all around and set our children up for a lifetime of health issues. Is it any wonder more children than ever are obese, diabetic, and have attention-deficit disorders? It is quite possibly the crap food that they are fed starting at birth!
As if refined natural sugar isn’t bad enough, now we have artificial varieties which are even worse. In Chapter 7, Dr. Aronoff describes them all. We have:
– Sucralose, trade name SPLENDA: Hey this was discovered while trying to develop a new insecticide. That in itself should send you running and screaming away. Nothing remotely similar to chemist-made sucralose is found in nature, despite the natural sounding name. There have been some complaints by users of Sucralose of skin disorders, anxiety, swelling, wheezing and coughing, but no long-term human studies have been done to prove whether it is dangerous or not (here’s one for plausible deniability!). My advice is to stay far away from this franken-crap!
– Saccharin, trade name SWEET N’ LOW: Saccharin was banned in 1911 but was lifted because of sugar rationing during WWI. This stuff has been studied and the results are scary. Even the FDA indicated that saccharin caused bladder cancers, though it was not clear what component of it was hazardous, so nothing was done (par for the FDA course). In 1977, a study was done in Canada and concluded that: “Saccharin is carcinogenic for the urinary bladder in rats and mice and most likely carcinogenic in human beings. The neoplasm’s of the urinary bladder are malignant and invade and metastasize.” Sounds great. I’ll pass.
– Aspartame, trade names NUTRASWEET and EQUAL: Robyn O’Brien spent quite a bit of time on this one in her book The Unhealthy Truth, which I reviewed previously. She elaborated on the numerous studies that have been done which indicate how dangerous this sweetener is to health, and the only reason that it sits on store shelves is because of corporate corruption and a dereliction of duty by the FDA, plain and simple. A whole book has even been written by Dr. H.J. Roberts, called Aspartame Disease: An Ignored Epidemic. This is seriously bad stuff, likely a carcinogen, that has no place in our grocery stores. Stay far, far, away from this crap which has no business being called food.
So there you have some food for thought about sweeteners! The net is to stay far away from the artificial stuff and moderate your intake of the real stuff. The goal is to consume much, much less than 158 lbs a year!
The one topic I did not get a chance to address today is high fructose corn syrup. We’ll save that one for next week because it is also very important and deserves a complete treatment.
Happy aspartame-free eating!