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 in turn create inflammation, aches and pain throughout your body; in other words, sugar-aches.
Do You Have Sugar-Aches?
This achy feeling 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 because you're in too much pain.
Let's back up. Where do your sugar-aches originate? They can come from a mocha and muffin at the coffee shop or maybe from a generous serving of pasta, or sub sandwich, at lunch. On the other hand, they may be from the hard to resist candy stash at your co-worker’s desk.
You're probably getting the picture ... sugar is hiding, in high amounts in many beverages and foods.
While you wouldn’t consume spoon after spoon of plain sugar, you may drink soda or eat popular foods that result in sugar-overload in your body without realizing it.
Here's a simple equation to see how much sugar you are actually consuming, beyond what's listed on the label. 4 grams of carbohydrates = 1 teaspoon of sugar in your body. When you check product labels, look for serving size so you can complete the equation for the amount of food or beverage you want to consume.
Sugar-Loaded Snacks to be Cautious of:
- 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.
- Dots: One box of movie-theater 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. And that's a small size!
This list is just a start to be cautious of. Read about even more with this Healthy Snacks Debunked post.
A Natural Solution to Sugar-Aches
Instead of relying on an endless supply of pain relievers to manage aches and pains, I have a better suggestion – start eating real foods and see how much better you feel. In 2002 the American Journal of Cancer Nutrition found that foods high in sugar resulted in inflammation. So the research, and 20+ years of clinical experience, have shown that food choices directly affect levels of pain and inflammation in the body.
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.
Eat This, Not That
The key to avoiding sugar-aches lies in eating real foods instead of processed foods. What do we mean by real foods?
- Proteins – Meats (hamburgers, bacon, chicken anyone?) and eggs.
- Carbohydrates – Vegetable carbs are best, three additional servings of vegetables per day have been shown to reduce your risk of stroke by 22%.
- Healthy Fats – Butter, olive oil, bacon grease, avocados, olives and nuts to name a few.
In combination, this trifecta eaten at every meal and snack helps decrease inflammation and support the body. Real foods can ease the inflammation you feel, as well as hidden low-grade chronic inflammation associated with Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart disease and strokes.
Get some ideas on how these real foods translate to delicious meals through our What A Nutritionist Eats blog series.
Remember that highly processed foods (pizza, cereal, granola bars, popcorn and the list can go on forever), mostly all contain sugar and trans-fats (damaged fats and oils that are hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated, such as margarine and refined vegetable oils) which are known to increase inflammation and pain.
Do your own experiment. Stop eating processed carbohydrates for three full weeks. Avoid soda, candy, chips, cereal and bagels, and I am willing to bet that you will experience less pain and inflammation. Then come back and let us know how you feel!
That said, each body is extremely unique with your own health history and goals. For a more targeted approach and help reading your body’s cues, consider a nutrition consultation, available by phone or in-person with one of our nutritionists.
Nutrition is your best line of defense against sugar-aches!
For more inspiration and information, check out these free resources.
- Fat vs. Sugar: Which is to Blame for Western Disease?
- 6 Strategies to Kick Your Sugar Habit
- Oh My Achy Body
Also, make sure to check out our new online class, Eating to Reduce Pain and Inflammation.
*Results described are not typical and will vary for each individual.