There’s never been a question that sugar is at the root of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. But in recent years, we’ve been given undeniable evidence that sugar is a killer in so many other ways.
For starters, it’s sugar, not fat and cholesterol, that can set you up for heart attack. And don’t forget that sugar also destroys your immune system, speeds up aging of skin and joints, and feeds yeast infections.
My colleague, Dr. Michael Cutler, calls sugar “a fertilizer for cancer cells.” That’s because cancer cells use glycolysis (creating energy from sugar) as their major source of energy. Studies have linked refined sugar consumption with cancer of the ovaries, breasts, prostate, lungs, stomach and at least eight other organs.
I hope that you haven’t experienced any of these devastating effects of a high-sugar diet. But even before it gets that bad, sugar is doing its dirty work in your body.
You may be among those who have a sugar intolerance or, more rarely, a full-blown sugar allergy.
Here’s how you can tell, and what to do about it…
Sugar intolerance vs. sugar allergy
As with any food allergy, an allergic reaction to sugar happens when your immune system overreacts to a food as if it were a harmful substance. And again, as with other food allergies, symptoms can range from mild (hives, stomach pain and diarrhea) to life-threatening (trouble breathing or anaphylaxis).
A sugar intolerance, on the other hand, is more like the familiar intolerance to lactose that many people experience. It simply means you have trouble digesting it, and causes bloating, cramps, diarrhea and gas.
Someone with a sugar intolerance usually feels fatigued after eating sugar. We all get that “sugar crash” after eating a big dessert or a bunch of candy, but the person with a true intolerance may be so tired that they can’t do much for a while.
Types of sugar that can affect you
When you think of “sugar,” you’re probably picturing white table sugar, when in fact, that’s only one of several types that can be a trigger for someone with a sensitivity or allergy.
Fructose is present naturally in fruits, some vegetables, honey and a lot of fruit juices.
Fructose is also part of table sugar, and of course, is in high fructose corn syrup, the ingredient that’s hiding in foods like pancake syrup, salad dressings, breads, even in “healthy” foods like canned fruit and sweetened yogurt.
Lactose is the sugar found in milk and other dairy products. If you are lactose intolerant, your body doesn’t digest this sugar properly, which gives you gastrointestinal problems like gas and bloating.
Lactose intolerance is not the same thing as a milk allergy, where your immune system fights back against the proteins in milk.
Sucrose is simply cane sugar, or white table sugar.
Sugar intolerance may be hiding other issues
If you’ve developed an intolerance to sugar, it’s likely that it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s quite possible that the sugar you’re eating is simply feeding an imbalance in your gut bacteria that’s causing your symptoms.
Candida, a yeast organism that is normally present in low numbers in the colon and vagina, takes advantage of those imbalances and grows out of control, producing toxic chemicals that affect many bodily systems, including the brain.
If you think sugar is the problem …
If you suspect that sugar is causing you digestive or other problems, and they are not severe or life threatening, such as trouble breathing, you could start by trying to narrow down what type of sugar is at fault. It might be lactose, in which case dairy foods are the culprit.
The easiest thing to do, though, and the best for your overall health, is to cut way back on sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup.
It may surprise and please you to know that candy or even baked goods are not the number one source of these sugars in the typical American diet. Nope, the biggest enemy is soda and fruit juices.
According to a study done by scientists from the CDC and both the Rollins and Harvard Schools of Public Health, sugar-sweetened beverages make up 37.1 percent of the sugar in the typical American diet. Cake and cookies come in at a comparatively low 13.7 percent, and candy at “just” 5.8 percent.