I won’t bore you with my whole wellness journey story (click here), but there came a point in my life when I made the decision to give up refined sugars. This did not come easily for me, a self-described sugaraholic! I had been hearing a lot of buzz about the negative health effects of sugar, but I didn’t think any of that applied to me until my osteoarthritis diagnosis.
I ate what I thought was a generally healthy diet, including each food group and always had some kind of vegetable at dinner. However, looking back, there were a lot of sugary and refined foods included as well. My day often started with yogurt and granola, I was known to snack on handfuls of dried mango, and loved to finish off the day with a handful of chocolate chips straight from the package.
I finally decided that it was time to make a change.
After my diagnosis and surgery recommendation, I made the decision that I didn’t want to be on the sharp end of the scalpel. So, I turned to my diet and made some changes. Removing gluten and dairy had a positive effect on my joint pain, but I had this gut feeling (pun intended!) that removing sugar was going to do more. I haven’t eliminated naturally occurring sugars in fruit, but anything with added sugars is out (ok, ok, I have the odd glass of wine and dark chocolate still). This is what happened …
My joint pain and inflammation went away
A diet high in refined sugars causes an imbalance in gut microflora, which can lead to increased intestinal permeability and undigested proteins finding their way into the bloodstream. This triggers the release of inflammatory compounds that affect us all differently depending on our own genetic predispositions. For me, it turned into joint pain, but for others, it can be anything from headaches to fatigue to skin problems to autoimmune conditions and more.
I experienced less brain fog
I didn’t notice this effect right away but instead realized the benefits my “no sugar diet” was having on my brain function in times when I would have a sugary treat. Sometimes the best way to realize the effect of a particular food is to avoid it for a period of time, and then add it back to see what happens. For me, when I indulge in something sweet, I start to have difficulty concentrating and lose the ability to focus. Not something I want to feel!
No more night sweats!
I used to wake up in the morning as “the furnace” as my husband jokingly nicknamed me. I had just thought going to sleep freezing and waking up hot was normal until it went away with the removal of refined sugars. Now I have learned that a diet high in refined sugars and processed fats is associated with night sweats and hot flushes.
My taste for sweet has been heightened
One of the most interesting effects of avoiding refined sugars and significantly limiting fruit sugars from juice and dried fruit is that when I do enjoy a natural source of sugar (say, from a piece of fruit), it tastes extra sweet. That fruit for dessert actually feels like a special treat to me now! Also, I actually enjoy that 85-90% chocolate bar … I used to think it tasted like dirt!