It’s been almost 2 years since we eliminated sugar from our home and about as long that I have been blogging about it, sharing recipes, and talking about alternatives. What I realized the other day is I have not shared the background, the proven effects, scientific research and studies that sugar has on our bodies and why it is so bad for us. I feel that it is important to not only share what we did it but the why behind it (otherwise I just feel like someone up on their soapbox telling you it’s bad and not telling you why).
It’s one thing to think that it is a good idea to take it out but if you are like me, it also helps to have the research to back up your decision from the experts and medical professionals. Because unfortunately we live in a world where a lot of people won’t believe or validate what you are saying/ doing without it. Plus I also believe it is important to be educated about what you are doing in order to make informed choices.
I read an article the other day by Carol Galanty, Natural Foods Chef, titled “Are you a Sugar Addict” where she talks about sugar being an addiction as well as the effects it has on both our physical and emotional bodies. It has been proven that things such as weight gain, mood swings and premature aging are all effects of consuming sugar and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
In my further exploration of refined sugar and it’s effects, I discovered studies conducted in London and Yale University proving these effects and more. The London study was with children who exhibited ADHD symptoms, where they disguised foods that had sugar in them as ‘natural’. The goal of the study was to learn whether how a food looked made a difference in how our bodies processed it. They observed that regardless of how it was presented that all the children exhibited hyperactivity immediately after consuming the sugary foods.
We have all seen examples of this in our lives. In classrooms, where kids are calm and functioning rationally, then they have a class party, which usually includes treats and the kids go haywire soon after; no longer able to focus or listen well. I have observed this with my LIT group when we have a celebration with sugary snacks, the energy level goes up tenfold as well as the chatter and inability to focus. At Halloween we decided to have a no sugar party and the event went quite differently, we did not send wired kids home to parents and the evening was much calmer and more ‘even’ for everyone (and I would even venture to say much more pleasant).
In the University of Yale study they measured children’s adrenaline levels before and after consuming sugar. The amount of adrenaline after consuming sugar was 10 times higher then before! Adrenaline being the chemical in our body that moves us into fight or flight mode – a state where we act on instinct and survival – if it is 10 times higher then no wonder children are difficult to deal with after consuming sugar as they are on heightened defense! It puts them into a state where they cannot rationally respond or make good choices. They also found that after consuming sugar children were irritable, anxious and had difficulty concentrating.
Other university studies have also found links between sugar consumption, aggressiveness and antisocial behaviour.
Now you might say well I eat sugar all the time and I don’t notice these things or my kids seem ok. Do you notice those times of day when you feel sluggish or tired for no apparent reason? Do you ever feel irritable for no reason? Those are the down swings, coming off the sugar high. Now food does affect each of us differently, so one person might be more sensitive or reactive than another. As a result, symptoms may appear to be more extreme in one person than another, and for some they may say they do not really notice.
You also need to keep in mind that we (as a society) are eating sugar all the time, it is in our bread, our concentrated orange juice, various canned goods like tomato sauce, salad dressings, ketchup, not to mention the cakes, muffins, donuts and cookies. Our bodies adjust, get used to it, but it still doesn’t mean that it is not affecting us or harming our bodies.
As an experiment go without sugar for a day, just one day and notice how you feel. Notice your energy levels, your moods, etc. If you don’t notice much the first day, try 2, then 3. By day 3 you will begin to notice changes in your body (whether it be mood swings, irritability or headaches to name a few). With our son Matthew, his moods became calmer, more consistent and stable, and his sleep drastically improved. Some of these changes we noticed right away and some took longer; with his sleep it was almost 3 weeks before we really noticed the difference.
This was due to the fact that Matthew was going through withdrawal and his body needed to readjust. What I think many of fail to realize is that sugar is highly addictive (which our family doctor avidly confirmed this morning), it is like a drug, one as addictive and as harmful as cocaine. Therefore when we reduce or eliminate sugar intake our bodies go through and experience symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms include anxiety, restlessness, depression, irritability, headaches, poor concentration, headaches and insomnia (which in children often gets diagnosed as ADD or ADHD). So there is going to be a period where one may experience and go through these symptoms until the substance is completely out of the body’s system.
These facts alone are enough for me to stay the course with our decision to eliminate sugar. We have found lots of healthy and natural alternatives to still enjoy our sweet treats. And I believe in eliminating it completely not just reducing it. It’s like to the drug addict who says well I’ll only have a little bit. Really are you free of it’s effects and/ or the harm it has on your body?
Imagine if the whole world moved towards eliminating sugar how do you think that would look? Our classrooms would be calmer with children more engaged and focused, our moods more stable, our level of peace more present and consistent. So why are we not doing it, because it is what we are used to, there is a huge industry out there, and we are all addicted to it and addictions are not always the easiest to break.
I believe we can get there and are moving towards it. Years ago people who chose gluten free or dairy free did not have a lot of options nor was it well accepted in the ‘outside’ world, such as restuarants and schools. But now there are many restuarants who offer gluten free menus and dairy free options. So it’ll come, in baby steps. It takes people to educate, be informed and live that lifestyle and it’ll become more accepted in this world.