Sugar Aches & Inflammation

By Darlene Kvist, MS, CNS, LN
February 14, 2017

Yes, 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.

sugar-ache_inside.jpgIdentifying 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.


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!








*Results described are not typical and will vary for each individual.

About the author

Darlene founded Nutritional Weight & Wellness. In her 25 years as a counselor and nutritionist, Darlene has helped so many people change their lives using the power of real food. She is a licensed nutritionist who earned the title Certified Nutrition Specialist from the American College of Nutrition, a prestigious association of medical and research scientists to further nutrition research. She has served on the Board of Dietetics and Nutrition Practice for the State of Minnesota.

View all posts by Darlene Kvist, MS, CNS, LN


I have been off sugar for the past two years. Now that I am post menopausal, I have very sore achy feet in the mornings. I'm guessing it has to do with hormones. I also don't eat dairy due to inflammation. Any suggestions?
February 15, 2017 at 5:58 pm


For aches & pains we'd suggest looking at sources of magnesium, our relaxation mineral. Good food sources would include nuts/seeds, grass fed meats, and even leafy greens; think spinach, collard greens or kale. Many individuals supplement with a high quality magnesium for extra support.

You also might enjoy listening to this previous radio show:

I took one of Darlene's classes and my sugar ache/inflammation was my sinus and sinus headaches. After 3 weeks of eliminating processed foods and sugar my sinus problems decreased and now after 6 weeks they are gone. My culprit was potato chips.
March 1, 2017 at 8:07 am


That's fantastic news, thanks for sharing! 

Mary Pat Hauck
What about gluten free rice or beanitos chips or gluten free crackers for sugar aches? Also I eat 86% dark chocolate 5 grams sugar 15 carbs?
March 1, 2017 at 10:32 am


Any carbohydrate, even the gluten free versions will turn into sugar.  Depending upon your inflammation level a small serving of those foods might be ok.  For other people they will cause more pain.  The serving of dark chocolate still turns into almost 4tsp of sugar in your body.  

What is the recommended number of grams of sugar/carbs per day?
March 1, 2017 at 1:39 pm


We recommend about 30g of carbohydrate per meal and about 5-15g per snack. But everyone is a little different depending upon age, gender, and activity level.

Julie L. Pfeiffer
Darlene- Hello! I called Nutritional Weight and Wellness last Friday 2/24/17. Spoke w a pleasant staff member in your St. Paul Office. I have listened to Sat. radio show on and off for several years. I LOVE all of the vital news and information regarding/ Real Foods and your HEALTH. I can apply this researched information everyday to my own personal life as well to family and friends. I will soon be turning 54 in May. A journey back to 2010 ..... approaching 47 a event changed my life. I was blessed with becoming a MOTHER again!! A pregnancy filled with emotion, ( older and wiser ) parents and the responsibilities of Motherhood. Into the 6 mo. I drank the required sugary liquid drink to test for diabetes. Yes! I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. My beautiful Son is now 6! In Kindergarten and my shining STAR
March 3, 2017 at 1:10 pm

the only reason why i finally found this site is cuz i been suffering from horrible backaches and knee/leg stiffness for years. im pretty fit(so i thought) but even though i work out, i love sweets. so i have secret staches all over my house with chocolates and chips, sadly yesterday i went to Mexico to pig out with barbacoa, and all the mexican sweets which i dearly love. only to suffer with pain all night and all day today. i knew sugar kills liver, but not my joints;(. great! so now i must give up my killer sweets lest i want to end up ina wheelchair. whata sucker
March 9, 2017 at 3:20 pm

Tony. Reilly
Excellent information.
April 2, 2017 at 7:24 am

Darlene L.
One bite of anything sweet and I am hooked again on sugar. I crave and think about sugar and foods with sugar but sugar is destroying my health. I am 100 lbs over weight and have been for over 30 years - all due to eating sugar/wheat foods, I have lost half my teeth to sugar. Sugar is as bad as any drug for robbing you of your health and well being. I am trying again to not eat sugar, I've made it through one day. My husband has no such problem and freely eats all kinds of sweet treats in front of me. I can't expect him to not eat what we always have just because now I am not able to due to joint pain. I feel so alone in abstaining from the foods I love so much. I also can not eat dairy besides sugar and wheat. Sometimes life seems bleak. I was glad to find this site and listen to other people in similar 'boats'.
April 12, 2017 at 10:09 pm

Anita D
Finally I know what ails me. I thought it was just my imagination. Whenever I eat a lot of sweets, my knees and other areas would ache. I did not realize that sugar could cause pain as well as weight gain. I am giving up sugar. I am tired of hurting
April 27, 2017 at 10:02 pm


We're so glad this article helped you and wish you the best of health!

Cindy W
I have lived with inflammatory pain now for several years. Sometimes to the point where I feel like I cannot even walk. I went on the whole 30 diet to see if that would help. I felt so amazing for the first 3 weeks. It was incredible. I followed the diet to the letter. Starting my fourth week I started with my pain again. I have now idea why. The only mistake I made was eating 3 pieces of sausage. It did have sugar in it. Could a small amount like that cause me such pain?
May 11, 2017 at 7:35 am


It sounds like food really makes a big difference for your health! Yes - sugar is a very inflammatory food for many people. I would also think of the potential food additives in the sausage that could have also increased that inflammatory pain. MSG, gluten, and nitrates/nitrites are often added to processed meats. It is hard to say exactly what caused your pain without looking at your diet and health history, but I am very confident that you would be able to live pain free with an individualized meal plan. I would recommend you set up an appointment with a Nutritional Weight & Wellness nutritionist to see what foods are best to keep your inflammation low.

WOW WOW WOW !!!!!!! What a wonderful discovery.
Thank you Darlene ...for 3 years im suffering woth severe aches and pains and my doctors think i complain too much.
My condition has bafled them . Im sick and tired if their diagnosis that dont work.

This cutting out carbs and sugars makes a lot more sense than taking statin drugs.
They are confused by my blood eorks that shows all positive numbers.

I have abstained from sugars and carbs for one week ..and wha lah no aches and pain. I ate my favorite sweets again and
May 12, 2017 at 4:01 am

Margie Skolaut
I am sure you are on target for me - please help! I have not been tested but my inflammation is really getting bad overall.
May 22, 2017 at 10:39 am


Hello, glad you found us. We'd encourage you to stop in for a nutrition consultation either by phone or in-person, you can find more info here, 

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