Why The Challenge? ...and other FAQs about sugar elimination diets.
As we continue on The FedUp Challenge, 10 days of no added sugar, some of you may be wondering... why the challenge to eat NO added sugar or fruit juice for 10 days? Why not just try to cut down on these foods? Surely, much of the benefits can be achieved by changing to a diet of 80 or 90 percent less added sugar. Surely, a bite of ice cream or a bit of store-bought salad dressing will not undo the positive effect of taking most of it out? I suggest that going 100% is the best way.
Firstly, it is important to show yourself that you can have absolute control over your behavior, cravings, desires, and inputs for some period of time. Important to exercise the mind’s mastery of the body’s actions. To prove this to yourself periodically. To know that you can live without something dispensable. I often give my patients the same advice regarding alcohol , sex, or recreational drugs. Can you re-gain control over something that can grasp and hold the mind in a pattern which is not healthy. It becomes a check-in with oneself about who’s the boss.
What if I make a mistake and unknowingly take sugar, only to find out later?
This will happen. Note the mistake (“oh, erythritol IS added sugar) so that you can research it and avoid making it again. Now get back on the horse.
Does a low (or no) added sugar diet make healthy sense?
Yes. True that sugar has been extracted (from cane) for thousands of years. This sugar used to be precious, scarce, and available only to the rich. With mechanization of sugar extraction has come chronic disease, an example of humanity’s crime against their own intelligence. Furthermore, sugar leads to insulin release from the pancreas, something which, in excess, leads to an over-anabolic (growth) state in the body, hence an imbalance. This same substance which is poison in many of its modern forms, can also be medicine. In Ayurveda, sugar can be used as a delivery system (known as an anupan) for herbs.
Why do I feel worse after a few days of no-added-sugar?
The emotional piece of this is a loss of control. A sense of denial or deprivation. We are used to using sugar consciously as a reward, an indulgent break from the banal day or an energy boost (and how soon we forget about the ensuant crash a few hours later). The physical piece can involve a “detox reaction.” The change in metabolism may cause more fat burning that usual and toxins are stored in fat cells and can be mobilized, affecting other body tissues. Theoretically, certain microorganisms can die off if they depended upon the daily sugar influx for their food. This, too, can cause a host of symptoms including headaches, joint pains, brain fog, energy and mood swings, and cravings.
When (if…) I go back to eating sugar, what is the best kind to eat?
These days, there are so many choices of sugar (mono or disaccharides), some more “refined” than others. We shared in a previous blog some of the differences between fructose and glucose. There may also be some value in looking at the percent net carbohydrate content in various sweeteners, and sweetness factor (sweeter sweeteners like stevia may trick the brain into wanting more), regardless of calories. Stay tuned for a discussion of sweeteners on my radio show, East West Medicine, July 8. When taken in small doses, I do prefer raw honey because it is unrefined and carries medicinal properties via its pollen. Per Ayurveda, honey is never to be heated or baked as this transforms its properties to become toxic.
What questions do you have about sugar and sweeteners?