Monday, March 11, 2013

The Other Sweet Life: Why I Gave Up Sugar

Everyone's been asking me about my decision to go sugar-free, but because it takes a while to explain, I thought I'd share online. Please comment below if you have any questions and I'd be happy to help!: 
Why I Tried a Sugar Free Diet:
For those of you know me personally, I deal with some pretty obnoxious allergies. 
I hear you saying, "Allergies? Really? So you sneeze a little bit more than than the average person?" But when I say I have obnoxious allergies I mean I've had to take sick days from work in the Spring, I deal with food allergies on a daily basis, and my animal dander allergies reached the point where just being around a dog caused insane amounts of sneezing, puffy eyes, and extreme difficulty breathing. Over the Christmas break when I visited my family and our little dachshund I had to take three, yes, THREE, Benadryl (among other drugs) to begin to feel any relief. My allergies were getting worse and worse and I was constantly drowsy from the medication I was taking so, ultimately, I decided that some thing had to give.

A few years ago my dad was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes, which required quite a bit of medication to manage. However, by managing (and all but entirely eliminating) his sugar intake he was able to lose a ton of weight and manage and maintain his health issues without the use of medication. No insulin, no nothing. This always impressed and intrigued me, but I never imagined that taking sugar out of my diet could mean allergy relief until I stumbled upon this article on diet and allergies

It's About the Immune System:
Furthermore, someone once explained the immune system to me like a trash can. Your "trash can" can only hold so much and by spending time and energy digesting foods that cause inflammation (i.e. sugar, ultra processed foods, and gluten) the immune system is so focused on dealing with that that it has difficulty functioning properly. Thus, the immune system experiences overflow issues, like allergies, etc. While I have absolutely no idea if this is scientifically accurate or not, it seemed to make sense to me, so I did some more investigation.

I started doing a bunch of research and found these books to be the most helpful resources:

I didn't learn anything earth shattering, in fact most of it was simply common sense, but I did learn something very interesting: 

Turns out the problems is not all sugar:

The Problem is Fructose
In my research I found that the human digestive system hasn't changed all that much since the days of hunters and gatherers. If you think about what early humans actually ate, very little of it included fructose because every now and then someone might come across a blueberry bush and eat their fill, but it wasn't a part of the daily diet of the migratory human. As a result, when we eat things like protein and even complex carbs our stomach's send a hormone to our brains that tell us we are full--not so with fructose. This sugar can be ingested in large doses without telling our brains it is present; thus, we can eat large amounts of it without feeling full so not only does this excess turn straight to fat, but it makes our systems work overtime to try to process it. 

Turns out the human body is only created to digest about 10 grams of sugar a day.

To give you an idea of how out-of-wack our societal intake of sugar is, check out the amount of sugar in foods most of us consume on a daily basis:
One can of Coke: 39 grams
Two tablespoon of ketchup: 3.4 grams
Small McDonald's Cone: 20 grams
One ounce of BBQ Sauce: 8.4 grams
One banana: 17 grams

Breaking Free from my Addiction:
Now, if you're anything like me before I started reducing my intake, sugary treats are a part of your daily diet. I associated sweet treats with rewards and I, like most Americans, saw nothing wrong with treating myself to a Starbucks, pack of gummy bears, or a cookie here and there. But when I did the math and realized the amount of sugar ingesting was adding up to an absurd number, I thought I'd cut back... but that wasn't so easy.

When I only kind of gave up sugar I found myself craving it constantly. But when I made the commitment to totally give it up for eight weeks, I experienced a huge change in my body. I didn't feel as bloated, I started eating more natural foods (instead of "reduced fat" versions that are often filled with sugar to replace flavor), and noticed a major improvement in my allergies.

After the initial eight weeks, I started to diversify my veggie intake to make sure I'm getting the nutrients I need, but I'm limiting my fruit to one piece or two servings a day. The good news is I'm well past the 90-day mark and I'm eating better, feeling better, and I have VERY few cravings!


Sonnia J. Kemmer said...

Wow. Your blog is in perfect timing. I was bedridden this past weekend because of allergies. I didn't have them before. It arrived in my life after I migrated here in California. Then, it became worse. Last Saturday, I was knocked out with clogged nose, itchy throat and puffy eyes. I will do an experiment in cutting down sugar. It might help. Thank you so much for writing this.

Sonnia J. Kemmer

Nicole Jeannette said...

So sorry to hear about your allergies, Sonnia! I had bad allergies growing up in Colorado, but they got much worse when I moved to Tennessee. Crazy how we can acquire allergies later in life, huh?

I think cutting out sugar will really help! It's hard at first, but it's definitely worth it to be able to breathe normally and not want to scratch out your eyes! I really recommend Sarah Wilson's book as a starting place!

Good luck! Come back and let me know how it goes!

Charis said...

I have been umming & aahhhing about cutting back on sugar (she says reading your post whilst making a cup of tea.. with sugar!) especially as I've heard that it helps with bloating which I suffer from terribly. Thanks for sharing your take on it :)

Nicole Jeannette said...

Hey Charis,

Give it a shot! It's really not that difficult after the first eight weeks, but it's a fun challenge to take on! Hope it helps you!