Sugar is Killing Us
When I look back over my 30+ years in this profession, I realize that one issue is at the core of the majority of the conditions that I see. Whether it’s migraines, depression, PCOS, neuralgia, chronic pain or even cancer, if you take the time to trace the condition back through its development you will see that it began with sugar dysregulation.
Sugar dysregulation, known as Metabolic Syndrome or MetS, isn’t just about Metabolic Syndrome X, Type 2 diabetes and hypoglycemia. It actually includes a large group of insidious complications like gout, COPD, glaucoma, Bipolar Disorder, psoriasis, osteoporosis, GERD, PCOS, sleep apnea and erectile dysfunction. All of these things have been clinically shown (in very recent clinical studies) to trace their origins back to years of sugar dysregulation.
So why has this become the epidemic of our time? Basically there are three things that have become more and more of an issue over time and when you put them together you have the development of Metabolic Syndrome (MetS). These are:
Obesity and how fat is distributed and created in the body. This relates to our diet and the frequency of meals. Too much sugar, especially fructose creates an inability of the body to regulate our nutrients and overwhelms the body’s metabolic system.
Gut microbiome and our ability to digest and handle foods is often compromised with too little fiber and too many starches. Chronic candida, bloating, GERD and poor food choices wreak havoc with the important protective microbiota that populate our intestines.
Insulin resistance is a growing concern with an ever-growing population of sedentary, overweight, tired people. Jobs that keep us in front of computers, sitting in front of the television, driving everywhere, hiring people to do all the jobs we used to do around the house … we are losing our muscular tone and our minds with depression, brain fog, memory loss and phobias.
These three things create fat accumulation in the liver, imbalances in the way our muscles create energy, causes higher levels of blood clotting and microvascular dysfunction and lower levels of energy creation in our muscles. We end up losing initiative, desire, even the belief that we can change. We are slowly killing ourselves and we don’t even realize it.
But where does this all begin? If we knew that we could change the course of our health and prevent hundreds of common illnesses that plague our generation. So let’s look at some of the most critical contributing factors.
Studies have shown us that our western diet just doesn’t work. The commissioner of the FDA, Scott Gottlieb, was quoted this year as saying: “Improving the nutrition and diet of Americans would be another transformative effort toward reducing the burden of many chronic diseases, ranging from diabetes to cancer to heart disease. The public health gains of such efforts would almost certainly dwarf any single medical innovation or intervention we could discover.”
What are essential for health are fiber from whole grains, fruits and vegetables, varied protein sources, healthy fats including nuts and seeds and lots of water. But it is more than that, it is the amount, the style of preparation, the variety and the frequency.
For instance it is important to limit fruit to a very small amount because fructose is actually a compound that causes intense systemic reactions in the body through sugar handling. High levels of fructose cause mitochondrial dysfunction and the creation of fat, which eventually leads to increased inflammation and MetS (Can J Physiol Pharmacol 2017 Oct: 95-10.)
Fiber is a very under-appreciated aspect of our diet. Whole grains, vegetables and low-fructose fruits, nuts and seeds all help to keep our bowel elimination regular, boost immunity in the gut and feed our microbiota (gut flora). We need these at every single meal in our day and periodically we even need to supplement fiber in the form of Slippery Elm Powder, barley powder, psyllium, flax. The loss of immunity is often the reason for the development of gluten intolerance, so avoiding whole grains may make you feel better, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem.
High levels of starches, sugars, hydrogenated oils, additives, preservatives and convenience foods may make our stomachs feel full, but they don’t the nutrients that we need. It’s like filling the gas tank in a sports car with the lowest octane fuel available. It will run but it will not run like a sports car. And if there is one thing my patients want, it’s to run like a sports car!
How food is prepared is a key factor. Some forms of preparing foods such as frying, grilling or roasting can create dietary toxins known as AGEs (advanced glycation end products) which can increase inflammation and the accumulation of toxins in tissues. Trials in people with early MetS had a reduction in symptoms after following a diet low in these types of toxins.
The variety of food is also important. You can’t just have beef as your protein source every day. If you do, then you are setting your digestive future up for failure. Research has proven that if we do not vary the stimulus to our brain as we age, then we are on the road to dementia. The same is true of the food that we eat. Asking your digestive system to handle a wide range of foods all the time prompts the creation of loads of new enzymes, catalysts and digestive acids. But the more we restrict our eating to certain foods, the narrower our digestive ability becomes. Soon we realize that we can only eat a very small variety of foods because we don’t feel well after eating and we associate that with the need to avoid those foods instead of realizing that we have trained our bodies not to handle that food.
Frequency of meals is also a key factor. We live in a society where food is available all the time, everywhere and with little preparation needed. We don’t have to plant it, grow it, harvest it, clean it, prepare it and in many cases, we don’t even have to chew it! This has led to the idea of eating all the time, snacking, grazing, vacuuming up our plates, larger and larger plates, dessert, popcorn in the evening, ice cream before bed. It is a proven fact that we need to allow a minimum of 8 hours of fasting every day (generally between dinner and breakfast overnight), but true health points to a minimum of 12 - 15 hours overnight as being the healthiest option. The idea of intermittent fasting is a great way to bring us back to our origins when food was only eaten when hungry and in small amounts of essential nutrients.
We have lost the daily activity that characterizes life around the world and throughout history. We are not a species that was intended to sit for long periods of time. This lack of movement stalls our metabolism and creates more and more fat creation as what we eat must be dealt with, either through elimination, storage or use. If our use is limited due to lack of exercise, then it will be stored. If we are chronically constipated then our elimination is restricted and that creates even more storage. Movement induces fluid circulation, flexibility of muscles and joints and strengthening of our body tissues. Better mood, better memory and longer life are all in the cards if we simply move for a minimum of 30-40 minutes every day.
This leads us to body circulation. Our liver relies on the portal vein to bring everything from the digestive track, pancreas, gallbladder and spleen to it for filtration and processing. That is a lot to ask and if we have a portal vein restriction, excessive fat accumulation, inflammation, then it is almost impossible for the liver to manage it all. And if there is inflammation or excessive fat accumulation, then there is a concern that our smallest vessels will be even more affected.
Microcirculation is the key to blood (and the heat, nutrients and oxygen it transports) reaching the tips of the fingers, every inch of your skin, your eyes and every nerve in the brain. Raynaud’s Syndrome, memory loss, vision loss and skin aging are all signs of poor microcirculation. But is a growing opinion that microvascular dysfunction is the fundamental cause of insulin resistance. This is because insulin molecules are quite large and if there is restriction in our vasculature, then they cannot move easily through the body tissues. So allowing our smallest blood vessels to be chronically restricted is simply inviting MetS and a host of secondary illnesses to come and stay.
Excessive Fat Accumulation
Particularly in the liver and pancreas, excessive fat accumulation not only creates disruption in their ability to function, but visceral fat can also reach a point of acting as an endocrine gland. This skews the levels of hormones and as the fat levels rise in these organs, fat becomes released into the surrounding tissues which can disrupt normal endocrine function and hormonal balance. This is a strong factor affecting insulin release and gradually-developing resistance. The pancreas is one of the largest endocrine glands in the abdomen and indeed in the body. As the driving force in all types of sugar dysregulation and a particularly noxious form of cancer, minimizing pressure to the pancreas is of paramount concern and reducing fat is a core factor.
Fat accumulation, particularly of the liver, can become an illness all by itself. This is a condition known as NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease) and I will be addressing this in a separate article.
Toxins and Allergens
During sleep our brain shrinks by a large percentage in order to pump out metabolites, toxins and waste material. If our sleep is disrupted, then this essential cleansing action becomes compromised. Exposure to environmental toxins, dietary AGEs, chemicals, additives, exogenous hormones and potential allergens can all create such disruption in our own hormones and body function that disease is a natural consequence. Many of these chemicals and toxins end up being stored in our fat tissue instead of being removed due to overburdening of the liver, poor kidney elimination or chronic inflammation.
So What To Do?
See the next installment: Solving Metabolic Syndrome Naturally!!