Sugar: The Sneaky Snake Messing with your Inflammation Levels
Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author. If you or a loved one wants to learn more about the impact of sugar, please reach out to a medical professional or licensed nutritionist.
I hate to be the bearer of this news. Believe me, I really do. But let’s be honest here folks, I’m sure I’m not the first person to tell you this, but I’m going to say it anyway. Sugar is the devil. Trust me, it’s a difficult truth for me to say. And even more difficult for me to accept as a truth in my daily life.
I don’t like it any more than you do. After all, who doesn’t love all the deliciousness that is icing, cakes, oreos? I could go on and on. And my body is even having a response right now just thinking about it.
Delivering the sugary facts
Sugar is a catalyst for increasing inflammation in my body. So for you, my dear friends, I waded through the piles and piles of scientific research and spent hours and hours digesting the lengthy scientific jargon only to come to the same conclusion as everyone else, sugar is bad.
Don’t hate me, folks, I’m just delivering the information.
Breaking down sugar
It is our body’s job to process our food into usable and unusable energy. Our body breaks down all of our food and reacts differently depending on what that food is made up of. So it can decide basically how to break down and use the food.
When it comes to sugar, our bodies respond in a couple of different ways. First, Our blood glucose rises which activates our fight or flight response. This releases “pro-inflammatory cytokines.”1 Secondly, our bodies release insulin which also helps break down sugar. This is also an inflammatory hormone.
So in essence, the more sugar you eat, the more you increase your body's inflammatory responses and thereby inflammation levels.
Swearing off sugar
Sugar is a cycle of dependence. Basically, the more you consume, then that is the more you are driven to consume. For example, have you ever sworn off candy for a certain amount of time? Or perhaps given up soda for a New Year’s Resolution?
It is not easy! Day 1 you might be alright but day 2 through eternity are endless, my friends. This is because our bodies have been programmed to biologically crave that insulin-releasing response. Round and round we go living within the crave and release cycle.
Often these cravings start as a response to pain or stress. Which, let’s face it, is daily life with psoriatic arthritis.
Why is it so sneaky?
Sugar is technically masked by many different names, some of which you’ve probably never heard of, much less understood as “sugar” when you read the ingredients lists. There are literally anywhere between 51-68 different known aliases for sugar.
It is like learning a foreign language just to interpret our food labels. Nearly every processed food and prepackaged food contains extra sugar. Not to mention the fact that marketers of sugary foods have become very adept at “replacing” common sugary ingredients with non-nutritive substitutes.
Many “zero sugar” drinks, for example, have replaced traditional sugar with artificial sweeteners. But here’s the important thing, it doesn’t help our bodies' natural response to craving that “sweet” taste. We trade one complex inflammatory-producing part of our diet and replace it with another more complex inflammatory-producing part of our diet, just to save “calories.”
It messes with our minds
When you look at how our bodies process food, it becomes about so much more than simple calories when you live with inflammatory diseases like psoriatic arthritis. Not to mention that we then fall into the trap of thinking, “Well, I had a zero-calorie diet soda, so now I can have that extra slice of cake.”
Sadly, that just isn’t how it works. Our bodies don’t work like a direct balance of calories in and calories out. With our complex inflammatory systems, throwing any inflammatory response, regardless of the calories involved, is like adding gasoline to an already raging fire.
What works for me, might not work for you
If you've made it this far in my article, I want to be clear, I am not the diet police. Despite the fact that my kids regularly label me the “fun killer,” I’m not here to rain on anyone’s delightful, bonbon-filled, sugar parade. I’m simply here to make you aware of certain facts about the relationship between sugar and inflammation levels in our bodies.
After all, I’m the first one to admit the number one thing I crave on flare days is sugary junk food. And yes, there are many, many other complicating factors involved in increasing inflammation such as stress, other foods like gluten and dairy, and on and on.
I have personally found that if I can take control over some of these factors (such as what I eat) then I can increase my chances of having more “good” days than “bad” days. Each small step I can take in the direction of the good, I say take it.
Do you regularly track your psoriatic arthritis symptoms?