Sugar: Unveiling the Addictive Culprit and Restoring Your Health and Energy

Dr. Tanya Hudson
Stack of donuts
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I am aware that many of my blogs and newsletters have at least one comment about the negative effects of sugar. Just as I am obsessed with gut health, or maybe because I am obsessed with gut health, I am obsessed with eradicating the use of sugar. Do you wish you could get through a day without reaching for sugar?

I do and I know it’s hard.  We all know that excess sugar can be incredibly addictive (some say even more so than heroin) and detrimental to our health. Its effects on our bodies are far-reaching and can contribute to the development of various health conditions. Consuming too much sugar has been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and even certain types of cancer. Moreover, sugar has been shown to impact the structure of proteins in our bodies and accelerate the aging process, potentially leading to the appearance of wrinkles and other signs of aging.

Sugar is everywhere

Sugar is literally in ALMOST EVERYTHING!  Companies know how addictive it is, so they add it to their products to get us hooked!  It doesn’t just seem wrong; it is truly JUST NOT RIGHT.

Did you know that 74% of packaged foods contain sugar?  Even those “healthy” foods like granola bars, yogurts, and vitamin waters are not so healthy in the end. Sugar is also in savory foods like soups, pasta, breads, and crackers.  ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

Check out the amount of sugar (in donuts!) in one vitamin water!!

Read those labels!  Sugar can be listed as dextrin, fructose, maltose, and refiner’s syrup, among other sneaky names.  Good grief!  

It’s not surprising that the average American consumes 57 pounds of added sugar a year or 17 teaspoons a day!

Here’s the amount of sugar in Yoplait yogurt…27 grams.

Sugar is taking a toll on American health

Recent research shows how sugar may actually damage the gut microbiome.  Not good.  The gut microbiome is at the center of our health.  It’s also where about 80% of our immune system lives.  As Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.”  If sugar affects the “center” of our health and we are eating 57 lbs of sugar a year, no wonder compared to Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom:

  • The US has the lowest life expectancy.
  • The US has the highest chronic disease burden and 2x the obesity rate.
  • The US has the highest number of hospitalizations from preventable causes and the highest rate of avoidable deaths. 

What can we do about it?

Fiber-rich, whole foods, on the other hand, such as vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and fruits (think Mediterranean diet), act as fuel for the beneficial bacteria that live in the gut, strengthening the gut microbiome.  These beneficial bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which play a critical role in gut health.  They also stabilize blood sugars and help to reduce systemic inflammation.  It’s a WIN-WIN

So how much sugar is OK?
Well, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 tsp (25 grams) for women, 9 tsp (38 grams) for men, and 3-6 tsp (12-25 grams) for kids.  My opinion? This is still TOO MUCH.  I think we can do better. 

If you stick to foods found in their WHOLE form and avoid packaged, processed foods, YOU CAN decrease your sugar intake.  I know it takes time to meal plan and cook, but isn’t your future health worth it? 

No sugar for 47 days!!!
I have been leading (and participating!) in a group program with some patients, and have gone 47 days without any sugar, gluten, or dairy, in order to RESET my health and diversify and strengthen my gut microbiome.  My skin feels amazing, I don’t have that swollen, bloated feeling, my energy is even throughout the day, and I no longer need a “sweet treat” to get me through a long afternoon.  My sugar cravings are gone. You should really give it a try!

Eliminating sugar, gluten, and dairy from your diet while embracing a balanced and diverse eating plan is crucial for optimizing your health. This dietary approach offers several benefits, including reduced inflammation, improved digestion, and enhanced support for a healthy gut microbiome. Consulting with a healthcare professional, like me, or a registered dietitian can provide personalized guidance and ensure you’re meeting your nutritional requirements.