Sugar may satisfy your sweet tooth, but consuming too much of it comes at a cost to your health. Here are five things you may not know about sugar.
- Sugar has been shown to be the primary source of fuel for certain species of harmful bacteria and yeasts in the gut, meaning that eating a diet high in sugar can cause these pathogens to grow and multiply. High sugar intake has shown to affect the diversity in our gut too, causing an imbalance between the pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory gut bacteria. If we have more pro-inflammatory gut bacteria than anti-inflammatory, our gut environment is affected and can even lead to intestinal permeability also known as ‘leaky’ gut, as high inflammation is one of the main drivers for this condition. To learn more about ‘leaky’ gut, read our ‘Understanding Leaky Gut Syndrome’ blog.
- Sugar is an inflammatory food in itself and high inflammation levels can cause damage to the delicate gut lining and increasing the risk of ‘leaky’ gut. Excess sugar can also create an acidic environment, where pathogenic bacteria love to thrive. High inflammation levels may contribute to neuroinflammation, which may impact the signals from the brain to the gut, causing low mood and depression.
- A diet that includes frequent consumption of added sugars is likely to lead to weight gain. Studies show that obesity creates changes to the gut microbiome. People who get calories from sugary foods may also be consuming less healthful nutrients, including fibre, from whole, unprocessed, no-sugar-added food sources. Fibre is food for the bacteria and other microbes in our intestines. Eating plenty of fibre is one way to keep our gut healthy. One recent study in mice showed the dramatic effects of switching to a low-fibre diet from a high-fibre one. A low-fibre diet produced significant changes to the diversity of bacterial life in the microbiome. The mice developed inflammation, and their blood sugar levels rose. The intestinal barrier that holds bacteria within the gut is weakened. Greater intestinal permeability is associated with inflammation and disease.
- Sugar may also signal our beneficial gut microbes to stop colonising in the gut. Sugar, in particular large doses of fructose and glucose, is not just a nutrient, it’s a signal—and that signal may be prompting some of the most important microbes in the gut to abandon ship.
- If our blood sugar is too high, insulin and cortisol are released to regulate the levels and bring them back in to range. Cortisol is a stress hormone. If your body is constantly producing cortisol to manage blood sugar levels, this results in the body being in a stressed state. This is known as the sympathetic nervous system/ fight or flight mode. In this state, the body diverts energy and resources away from the gut which greatly impacts our digestion and can increase the risk of developing panic attacks.
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