November 5, 2007
Publication: Irish Independent Health & Living
Date: Monday, November 5, 2007 Page: 8 :
Author: Rosie Shelley
Headline: Why my life is so much sweeter without sugar
Few of us would consider sugar to be a poison, but Rosie Shelley's health fell apart in a frightening way because of sugary and processed foods. She explains how eating right healed her life Rosie Shelley was in my late 20s, having been a steady nine stone for years, I began to notice the pounds creeping on. I'd grown up eating freely but fairly healthily, but then I left home and began living like most students do too much takeaway food, sweet treats and partying. My skin began to suffer, and my once lush long hair grew thinner. I was sleeping a lot, and a gradual decline in my energy levels was perhaps the worst effect of it. After my son was born in 2000, when I was 30 I found myself hardly able to get off the sofa. I was markedly overweight, anxious, dizzy and by now hardly sleeping. A feeling of utter hopelessness was robbing me of those precious early days of mother-child bonding. A diagnosis of postnatal depression led finally to those of hypoglycaemia and hypothyroidism and all of this because I had once lived like so many young people do!
I declined the offer of anti-depressants, and started looking into my lifestyle and the changes I needed to make. Although I thought of my family's diet as a healthy one. I was simply ill informed eating too many starchy foods and animal fats. Almost as soon as we switched our focus towards wholefoods, plant proteins and omega oils in the form of seeds and oily fish, I began to feel a little better. But it was a couple of years later, when I began to study clinical nutrition, that I worked out that sugar, in all its disguises, was at the root of it all. Sweet tilings, simple carbohydrates and stimulants like alcohol in itself a sugar and caffeine upset normal appetite and mood, sending blood sugar levels peaking and then collapsing, making us tired and emotional looking for another "fix" Constantly seesawing blood glucose levels can leave us unable to achieve normal balance at all. If lhis condition becomes a permanent one, hypo-glycaemia (low blood sugar) with its fatigue and hunger is the result. Stress hormones become involved, overworking glands such as the adrenals, which can have a knock on effect on (the thyroid gland, eventually leading to problems like hypothyroidism or low ihyroid function. Because the thyroid controls metabolism and energy production, the effect, again, is of exhaustion and weight gain. As if that weren't enough. refined sugar is an alien additive in foods, rather than a part of them, and the body is simply unable to handle it. When we reach for a biscuit. bun. bowl of cereal or tin of baked beans, few of us consider that we are aboul to poison ourselves.But because refined sugar has been stripped of its nutrients and enzymes, it not only provides no nourishment but also forces the digestive system to steal precious vitamins and minerals from other stores just to metabolise it. It makes our internal environment too acidic, which the body offsets by leeching alkalising minerals from organs and bones.
If we give in to cravings often enough, our bodies become deficient in vital nutrients, and the function of every single cell, organ and system is compromised. Over the last century, world sugar production has increased by 22pc. Sugar is all around us, not only in eakes and chocolate but nlso in sauces, soups, pickles and burgers, and even "healthy" snacks such as dried fruits and yoghurts. Some fmit yoghurts contain up to six teaspoons of sugar in a single serving 80pc more weight-for-weight than cola! And recent research shows that even some of the old reliables have been growi ng sweeter to match our changing taste buds. The sugar content of Kellogg's Special K, for example, has risen from 9.6pc to 17pc and older, tarter strains of fruit are less in demand. Because of the temporarily pleasant effect on our energy and emotions, refined foods can be extremely addictive. But don't our bodies need sugar, or glucose, as essential fuel? The answer is of course, yes, but not in those forms.
Margot Brennan of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute, says that refined sugar contains four kilocalories per gram and gives us nothing but instant energy. Sugar is a carbohydrate, and all carbohydrates are eventually converted into energy. The more complex the carb, the more slowly that conversion takes place and the more balanced our energy and mood levels. We actually get all the sugar we need from complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables and wholegrains, as well as from proteins and essential fats. Simple carbs, including processed foods, flood the Wood system with glucose far too quickly, and our bodies are forced to react by overproducing insulin to mop it up.
Jane Alexander is a holistic health expert and author. In her latest book, The Overload Solution, she discusses the ways in which sugar and other refined and processed foods, overstress the system and lower defences. She says the net effect of bombarding the body with glucose is a rebound which will in turn bring about tiredness, depression, anxiety or aggression. You run the risk of becoming insulinresistant, bringing symptoms such as diziness, weakness and concentration problems. Carry on and you predispose yourself to diabetes, potential kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage and cardiovascular disease." Jane says that artificial sweeteners arc not the solution: "Not only do they perpetuate cravings. they're also potentially harmful chemicals." The best way to wean yourself off sweetness is by using a bit of honey, molasses or fruit sugar. They have almost the same as refined sugar but contain a little of the fibre or nuinents needed for digestion. Or try natural plant sugar with fewer calories and slower energy release. The list of health problems caused by "innocent" old sugar is endless, because the imbalances it creates impact unjust about everylliing else.
Bernadette Bohan, breast cancer survivor and author of The Choice: says that refined sugars feed cancer, They have. she says, "been connected Lo a host of diseases, including diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, Crohn's disease anil obesity'". As for me, the limit all refined foods and stimulants and base my diet on vegetables and wholegrains, highquality proteins and essential fats. I exercise nearly every day. and as long as I stick to the plan (we're none of us perfect) I'm cheerful, productive and full of energy, and I sleep well at night. Cutting out the sweet stuff is really hard, but it can change your life • if you only ever do one thing for your health, this should be it.