Our bodies and brains need glucose as fuel – so we do need some sugar, just not as much as you’re probably eating at this time. It takes a concerted effort to avoid over-consuming sugar and to keep your blood sugar in check. Your endocrine system perceives mismanaged blood sugar as a stressor. Your adrenals glands respond by sending out a lot of cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenaline. This begins the hormonal havoc.
Here’s a breakdown:
- When you eat sugar or carb-based foods it stimulates your insulin response. Your metabolism is designed to preserve the glucose you receive from carbs or sugar, because your body and brain needs it for fuel.
- Sucrose and other kinds of sugars have to be converted into glucose for your body. The only way the glucose can get into the cells in your body that need it is with insulin. When you eat a lot of sugar or carbs, and there’s a ton of glucose in your system, your body sends out lots of insulin to deal with this.
- Your body is saying – “I want to save this glucose for the brain and body now as we don’t know if we’ll get it again” (consider this evolutionarily – early woman only got glucose via fruits and berries very occasionally). Our bodies are actually better designed to get fuel from fat than from sugar.
- The glucose in your body enters the cells, but there’s excess insulin and glucose. Your body doesn’t need all that much glucose and cannot use it all. It is then packaged up as glycogen. This is why sugar-holics, like alcoholics, can have fatty liver disease.
- This glucose over-exposure saturates your cells and sends your blood sugar levels soaring and then crashing. A glucose and insulin spike disrupts ovulation – preventing your hormones from triggering ovulation and the creation of progesterone as a result of ovulation. Disrupted ovulation causes hormonal imbalance – without ovulation you cannot produce progesterone, which leads to estrogen dominance.
- Your fat cells in your body secrete estrogen. The more sugar you eat, the more fat cells you create, the more estrogen they secrete. This estrogen adds to the estrogen your endocrine system produces. Add in xenoestrogens in our environment. You’re set up for estrogen dominance, progesterone deficiency, and hormonal imbalance. This hormonal imbalance is a root cause of common issues like PMS, cramps, irregular cycles, acne, along with PCOS and infertility issues.
- If you have insulin-resistant PCOS then having excess glucose in your bloodstream will cause inflammation, which leads to many chronic health issues.
How to quit sugar
Now you understand the science of why sugar messes with your hormones, let’s look at how to can cut back on sugar and detox it from your diet. Giving up sugar can seem really hard, but know that it doesn’t mean you can’t have anything sweet ever, far from it. You can still have treats and desserts, even, you just need to be conscious about the kind of sweetener and the amount you are consuming so you always have an eye on maintaining that blood sugar stasis.
- Eat a good breakfast within 90 minutes of waking up for the day. It’s a great way to safeguard your blood sugar stasis. Make lunch your biggest meal of the day and include complex carbs (like black beans) and good fats (like avocado).
- When you do have a sugar craving – reach for the kind of sweeteners that don’t cause as much disruption. I find honey and coconut nectar are good substitutes, but date sugar and molasses can also work well.
- Make homemade sweet treats so you can satisfy those cravings and not feel the need to reach for a candy or cupcake, using honey or coconut nectar in small amounts. Aim to use only ¼ of cup or 4 tablespoons of sweetener for any recipe.
- Eat lots of fiber-rich foods to detoxify the liver – this will help you create more of the FGF21 hormone that prevents sugar cravings and will detoxify your body of excess estrogen.
- Watch out for hidden sugars in everything from pasta sauces to bread when you are grocery shopping. Remember that fruit-based juices and smoothies that don’t contain much fiber can have as negative an impact on your health as a can of soda.
6 Sugar substitutes
Raw honey- has so many wonderful health benefits. It’s a natural antibacterial, boosts the immune system, promotes digestive health, and is high in antioxidants.
Stevia- Stevia does not affect blood sugar levels at all, making it a great all-natural sugar alternative for diabetics. It is also calorie-free. Try to liquid variety, which is a whole-leaf extract and does not contain any other ingredients. Powdered stevia, on the other hand, contains unnecessary fillers.
Date sugar- It is essentially just dried dates pulverized into a powder.
It can be used for baking. Use just 2/3 the amount in place of brown or white sugar called for in your recipe. It may otherwise be too sweet!
Coconut sugar- This sugar substitute contains traces of iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium, we well as antioxidants. It also contains a fiber called inulin, which may slow glucose absorption.
Coconut sugar tastes like brown sugar more so than white sugar.
Maple syrup- check the ingredient list an you’ll see it’s mostly high fructose corn syrup with some artificial colourings, flavours, and sweeteners. On the other hand, contains only evaporated maple tree sap. It is high in manganese and zinc: 100 grams of syrup provides 22% and 3.7% of their RDVs respectively. Manganese is necessary for several enzymes that are needed for energy production and antioxidant activity. Zinc is essential for optimal immune system function. Deficiencies of either may lower white blood cell counts and reduce immune system responses.
Molasses- This sweetener is a thick syrup produced when the sugar cane plant is processed to make refined sugar. But unlike refined sugar, molasses carries some significant health benefits. One serving (2 tablespoons) of molasses has about 30% of the daily iron requirement for premenopausal women, as well as 14% of our RDV of copper, an important trace mineral whose peptides help rebuild the skin structure that supports healthy hair. It is also high in vitamin B6, magnesium, calcium, and antioxidants.