We hear and read that sugar is a bad thing. In my head I know this. In my mouth; not so much. I said before in another post that I know it is related to inflammation. And that I am addicted. And that I need to give it up. But why? And how?
Don’t read this article if you don’t want to fix your sugar addiction. I researched this kicking and screaming.
Why am I writing this article? Because I’ve read, however superficially, that sugar can cause inflammation. So I decided to get to the bottom of this claim. If that is really the case, then what am I going to do about it? Because if sugar makes my pain worse, then I should do something. Because I have chronic pain and want to find natural remedies and relief to my pain.
What is sugar?
To quote Wikipedia, “ Sugar is the generic name for sweet-tasting, soluble carbohydrates, many of which are used in food.” If an ingredient ends in the letters “ose”, it is a sugar. We are most familiar with sugar made from the sugar cane plant. I was shocked to read that this product is the ninth most valuable crop harvested in the world. Most processed foods (i.e. foods not in a natural state) contain sugar.
Sugar is a natural part of many food groups, like fruit, vegetables and milk. Our bodies convert sugars to energy. If we have too much sugar in our system, the body stores it as fat. If you want a deeper explanation of sugar see this article called Understanding Sugars.
Do you have inflammation?
First of all, I needed to understand exactly what inflammation is. I hear it a lot. In my mind it implies an area of my body that is “on fire”. A helpful definition for me from Study.com was, “a series of defensive biological reactions to harmful agents that leads to pain, redness, and swelling, and heat in the affected areas of the body.” Our amazing bodies have the ability to fight harmful enemies that attack them. And one way they fight is with inflammation. So that’s a good thing, right?
Yes. But not if it is chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is caused by disease like diabetes or heart disease. It appears to be part of rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. And if a nerve is injured, secondary problems like inflammation may result.
My condition is caused by spinal stenosis. The pain I have in my buttock is very similar to sciatica pain, from what I understand. When I am at my worst, the pain can go into my upper thigh. It used to go into my calf, but the stretching and exercises I do have helped relieve that.
The research I have done states that my pain might be a result of inflammation, or at least exacerbated by it. It is important to know if your pain involves inflammation. But I’m not sure how to find that out. I found this medical abstract that suggests there are studies being done to link inflammation to neurological pain. This is an exciting time to be alive as research advances in this area.
From my research I understand that inflammatory arthritis is a type of arthritis so if you suffer from that, then inflammation is an issue for you. Rheumatoid arthritis is where the body’s immune system attacks its own joints and causes pain. Inflammation is involved here also. Ask your doctor if your pain might be related to inflammation. If so, then read on to see how you might help yourself.
How does sugar affect inflammation?
In my research I was surprised that I couldn’t find more scientific support for the relationship of sugar to inflammation. It seems it is just stated without research backup. The closest thing I could find was an article that stated that, “Sugar stimulates the production of free fatty acids in the liver. When the body digests these free fatty acids, the resulting compounds can trigger inflammatory processes.” (Medical News Today) See their article, Does Sugar Cause Inflammation in the Body?
Our bodies seem to see sugar as an attacking enemy and start the immune system working. Our immune system sends out the troops to fight the enemy and that process can produce heat, swelling and pain. If this process is triggered to be ongoing, it results in chronic inflammation and therefore pain.
Since I couldn’t find any studies that showed a clear association of sugar with inflammation, I’m going out on a limb to say that I think sugar does affect inflammation. I’m looking at it this way; the sugar feeds the bad cells and our body has to attack those guys. In the attack, swelling, heat and white cells are formed. Hence inflammation. I know that’s not very scientific, but it’s the best I can do to understand this.
Then to answer my question in the title; yes, sugar can cause joint pain.
How is sugar making your feel bad?
So, if we can assume that sugar and inflammation are related, then the first way sugar makes you feel bad is by causing inflammation. And inflammation may cause pain. So I’m going to challenge myself to cut back or cut out sugar.
There are other ways sugar is making you feel bad. You also probably know how sugar can affect people with diabetes by raising their blood glucose. Prolonged high blood sugar can lead to all sorts of problems for diabetics, including blindness and loss of limbs. Too much of it is related to weight gain. It appears to be related to heart disease. And it ages you! I’m vain enough to be motivated to stop eating sugar just for that reason! 🙂
You think you ought to cut down on sugar? Or cut it out?
Only you can make the call. I do recommend that you start out slowly, with small changes. From experience I know that making little changes raises my success rate in sticking to those changes. For example; I just had intestinal surgery. I was told to start walking immediately, but very small amounts. So I just walked around my room for a few days. Then down the hall. Then back and forth in the hall. Then a fourth of a mile out in the parking lot. You get the picture. I’m up to one to two miles a day now.
Here is another article which helped me to cut down on my sugar called Everything You Need to Know About Sugar. It helped me make some changes in my sugar consumption. I like that it recommends baby steps.
Here’s another great article with 14 Simple Ways to Stop Eating Sugar. It’s very informative and helpful.
What Should I Eat?
While there are seemingly millions of options to choose from, finding the right food plan for yourself is a challenge.
I have promised myself that I am cutting back on sugar as of the beginning of this week when I started the article. And I have. But oh the cravings! I personally am finding it helpful to:
- Drink water
- Snack on protein
- Have fruit on hand when a sweet craving hits.
- Let some time pass. The craving usually goes away.
But you might have to approach it differently.
I found a post that has some really interesting looking recipes that promise to cut down on inflammation. Click on this link of 15 Inflammation Fighting Recipes. I haven’t tried any yet, but plan to. The cold brew ice cream recipe calls for sugar though!
Is Atkins Diet a possibility? Yes, it is. Since the basis for this diet is a low carb diet, than you are going to avoid most foods that have sugar in them. This diet became popular in the 1970s after Dr. Atkins promoted his book based on this diet. It has since been researched to show that it is a successful weight loss diet. But it can be a successful plan to follow if you want to cut out sugars. Google Atkins Diet if you want more information.
Is Keto the way to go? As far as I can see, the Keto Diet and the Atkins Diet are the same. I recommend you google this term if you are interested in more information.
I am on a low grain diet due to my stomach issues. I have found my stomach issues have improved and I have lost weight. Losing weight was a secondary concern for me. I mean, I needed to lose, but more than that, I wanted my intestinal pain to stop. It has. This diet isn’t one you will find anywhere. My gastroenterologist told me that diverticulitis came on the scene when humans started to mill grains. So, I figured cutting out grains might make a difference. It has.
I’ve found at least two articles that highlight how important sleep is to overcome sugar addiction. But is you are a pain sufferer, you are probably challenged by getting a good night’s sleep in the first place. I know! Me too! I’ve written an article about this topic. See this link.
I am also considering joining a support group online or a forum with fellow sugar addicts. I know from experience having someone else support me in my struggles, as well as being accountable to them, is very important. It also increases your success rate.
You have some other ideas for success? Or comments about what I have written. Please leave them here. Your comments and ideas will help others.