Not everyone has a problem with sugar. Plenty of people add it to their coffee, or have a slice of cake, and feel a-OK. But then there are the rest of us; the ones who don't tolerate sugar well and feel sick, addicted, and possessed by cravings after eating and/or drinking it.
While that may sound dramatic, it is a pretty common reaction. "When you consume sugar, blood sugar levels in the body increase, which leads to the release of insulin from the pancreas," Kimberly Hershenson, LCSW, a NYC-therapist specializing in eating disorders, tells Bustle. "People get a burst of energy and feel good momentarily, however blood sugar levels rapidly decrease." This is what's known as a "crash," and it can leave you feeling bad.
Apart from affecting with your blood sugar levels, a diet high in sugar can also cause inflammation, and even mess with your hormones. Keep in mind, though, that not all sugars are created equal. "Most human beings are 'sensitive' to simple sugars because they hit the bloodstream so quickly," says personal trainer and nutritionist Amanda L. Dale, M.Ed., M.A. This is why you might feel sick or crave more sugar after eating chocolate or drinking a sugary coffee, but not necessarily after eating a piece of fruit.
If you suspect your current diet might be negatively impacting your health, then you might want to consider limiting your sugar intake, or even scrapping it from your diet altogether. Read on for some symptoms to watch out for, and remember that you can live without sugar, should you decide to do so.
1. Your Skin Has Been Breaking Out
While there are many contributing factors when it comes to acne, a sugary diet is often one of the main culprits. "Sugar absorbs into the bloodstream quickly causing a spike in insulin," says Hershenson. "[This] creates oily secretions on the skin leading to acne and spots." Personally, when I make a point of eating less sugar, I always see a big difference in my skin. So hey, maybe it's worth a try?
2. You Can't Get To Sleep At Night
Again, there are many factors to consider here, like your caffeine intake, stress levels, etc. But a diet high in sugar might also be what's keeping you up at night. As Hershenson tells me, sugar can prevent the body from getting into deep sleep mode. As with coffee, try limiting your sugary snacks throughout the day to see if that helps. And if not, it just may be that sugar isn't for you.
3. You've Been Feeling Emotional Lately
If your mood has been going up, then crashing down, then soaring up again, it may be your sugar diet that's to blame. This is all thanks to spiking blood sugar, which Hershenson tells me can lead to mood fluctuations. To keep your moods more even keeled, limit your sugar intake. Or, you can try balancing out your meals by eating something more substantial, like a protein.
4. You Always Feel Exhausted After Eating
Take a moment to think about how you feel after eating a sugary (or carb-heavy) meal. If you need a cup of coffee or start to fall asleep at your desk, it could be due to wavering blood sugar levels. "People who process sugar normally and quickly tend to feel energized, satiated, and calm after ingesting sugar," says Dale. "People who are more sensitive to it feel tired, irritable, and tend to actually crave more sugar (the withdrawal/addiction response)."
5. You Feel Shaky Or Lightheaded
If you suffer from low blood sugar, you might have a condition called hypoglycemia, which is definitely something you need to talk about with your doctor. "This can leave us feeling tired, hungry, weak, shaky, lightheaded, and anxious," says Kelly Leveque, celebrity holistic nutritionist and author of Body Love. "As a result, we crave sugar and carbohydrates, thinking they will pick us back up. In reality, they start the cycle all over again."
6. You've Been Struggling With Sinus Issues
Have you been feeling extra stuffy as of late? "In the large majority of people, these symptoms are coming from Candida overgrowth," Dr. Jacob, Teitelbaum, author of Beat Sugar Addiction Now!, tells Bustle. A sugary diet can cause Candida to get a bit out of control in your body, leading to sinusitis, congestion, and other chronic nasal issues.
7. You Always Feel Bloated
If you have bowel issues, such as IBS, gas, diarrhea, or constipation, it could also be due to a sugar-induced Candida overgrowth. "Yeast grow by fermenting sugar, and when [you eat a lot of sugar] you are firing up a fermentation tank in your gut," Teitelbaum says. "And fermentation makes lots of gas. And so will you, if you drink a lot of sugary drinks." Maybe not worth it?
8. You Feel Distracted And Scattered Throughout The Day
You've probably heard of a little thing called brain fog, which is that fuzzy out-of-it feeling that causes you to space out at work or forget where the heck you put your keys. As holistic health and wellness coach Sharla Mandere CHHC tells me, sugar can cause these issues, and even lead to a lack of focus.
9. You Have Cravings And Are Often "Hangry"
If you constantly crave sugar, or can't seem to feel "full" despite having plenty of food, it may be that your diet has you on a sugar rollercoaster. As Mandere tells me, cravings — usually for sugar — can be caused by sinking blood sugar levels. "This can be translated into the afternoon pick-me-up of sugary coffee, drinks, or sugary snacks," she says. Sound familiar?
10. Your Knees Have Been Hurting
Aches and pains — and other general health issues — are often caused by inflammation in the body, which is another negative side effect of a diet high in sugar. "Regular blood sugar spikes can eventually lead to general inflammation, which can then contribute to premature aging, digestive abnormalities, [and] joint pain," says nutritionist Lauren Minchen MPH, RDN, CDN. Basically, if you feel like you're fallin' apart, it may be time to make some changes.
11. You Constantly Run Out Of Motivation
Aside from flagging energy levels, take note if you've been lacking in motivation lately. "If you feel drowsy and tired after eating a sugar heavy snack, then you should realize that your body is not burning or storing glucose at the rate you are consuming it," says nutritionist Parker Condit. "In addition to this being a lousy way to live, it's also an indicator that something is wrong ... If all you feel like doing is sleeping and lounging around, then it's time to start being more aware of what you are consuming."
It may be that your sugary diet isn't working for you, and that it's officially time to consider eating and drinking less of it.
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