Sugar-aches

By Darlene Kvist, MS, CNS, LN

article_other_soreknees.jpgYes, you read that right. Sugar-aches. I don’t mean the sugar lust that comes from the aroma of fresh brownies or the Blizzard-of-the-month sign at the Dairy Queen®. I mean what happens after you consume high-sugar foods that create inflammation, aches and pain throughout your body; in other words, sugar-aches.

Identifying sugar-aches

How do you know if sugar-aches are a problem? Your sugar-aches may appear as stiff joints, achy muscles, migraines, added asthma or PMS symptoms. Chronic sugar-aches can lead to giving up your favorite pastimes such as golf, gardening, or other activities.

Where do your sugar-aches originate? For you, maybe they come from a mocha and muffin at the coffee shop; or maybe from a generous serving of pasta at lunch. They may be from the candy stash at your co-worker’s desk that is so hard to resist.

Sugar is hiding—in high amounts—in many beverages and foods. The truth is, although you wouldn’t consume spoon after spoon of plain sugar, you may drink soda or eat popular foods that result in too much sugar in your body without realizing it.

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Sugar-loaded snacks to be cautious of

  • Dots: One box of movie-theatre sized Dots contains 5.5 servings. If you consume the whole box, you have eaten the equivalent of 48 teaspoons of sugar! (Maybe that’s the reason you are so stiff when you leave your seat at the end of the movie.)
  • Blizzard®: One small Dairy Queen Blizzard has 530 calories and 83 grams of carbohydrates, which equals 21 teaspoons of sugar.
  • Potato chips: A nine-ounce bag of chips breaks down into 32 teaspoons of sugar (most people can’t stop after four or five chips). If you wash down the chips with a soda, that’s another 16 or more teaspoons of sugar.

A nutritional solution to sugar-aches

Instead of relying on pain relievers to manage aches and pains, I have a better suggestion: Start eating real foods and see how much better you feel. Research and clinical experience have shown that food choices directly affect levels of pain and inflammation in the body.

Research reported in the American Journal of Cancer Nutrition in March of 2002 found that foods high in sugar resulted in inflammation. When researchers measured inflammation with a blood test called C-reactive protein (CRP), they discovered that a high concentration of sugar in foods increased the CRP numbers.

As a nutritionist, I see clients’ lives change dramatically when they eliminate processed, high-sugar foods and switch to real foods. Clients that could barely climb the stairs to our office on their first visit returned to their favorite activities after following an anti-inflammatory eating plan for a few months.

The key to avoiding sugar-aches lies in eating real foods instead of processed foods. Real foods such as meat, eggs, vegetables, and healthy fats decrease inflammation and support the body. Healthy fats include butter, olive oil, avocados, olives and nuts. Vegetables are the best carbohydrate choices by far. Three additional servings of vegetables per day have been shown to reduce your risk of stroke by 22 percent. Real foods protect you from the inflammation you feel, as well as that which is hidden, such as the low-grade chronic inflammation associated with Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Remember that highly processed foods, especially those containing sugar and trans-fats (damaged fats and oils that are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated, such as margarine and refined vegetable oils) increase inflammation and pain.

Try it for yourself

Do your own experiment. Stop eating processed carbohydrates for three weeks. Avoid soda, candy, chips, cereal and bagels, and I am willing to bet that you will experience less pain and inflammation. Nutrition is your best line of defense against sugar-aches!

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