Sugar Blues

There is no doubt about it, sugar tastes good. We like sugar in our coffee, our chocolate, our cereal, and more. Birthdays and other special events are celebrated with cookies, cakes, donuts and other treats laden with sugar. Children are often rewarded with treats made with sugar. When colleagues bring a treat to share, it is usually cookies, cupcakes or the like. Sugar is even considered a term of endearment.

If you are used to eating sugar regularly, try to stop eating it for a week and see what happens…it is a very difficult thing to do. Why do we love sugar so much? Is it just because it tastes good or could it be that we are somehow addicted to it? Why do we crave it? If we crave it, doesn’t that mean that our bodies need it? Since our bodies seem to need it, then why are we always told that it is not good for us? After all, humans have been consuming sugar for thousands of years.

Sugar falls under the umbrella of carbohydrates. A carbohydrate is an essential macronutrient metabolized in the body to produce glycogen for energy to be used for both internal bodily function and for external physical activity. Carbohydrates are considered complex or simple based on their molecular structure and generally speaking complex carbohydrates metabolize slower than simple carbohydrates. This is not to be confused with carbohydrates that come from whole foods versus those that come from refined foods. For example, whole fruit is a simple carbohydrate but is not refined. For proper function in the body, it is important to consume all carbs in their whole form rather than in their refined form.

The sugar that we add to our food is made by the refinement of sugar cane, beet cane, corn, and other carbohydrates. When a carbohydrate is refined, the minerals, fiber, and other nutrients present are stripped away. This is why sugar is said to contain “empty calories” – when we consume sugar, we are consuming calories but with no nutritional value. What makes this worse is that sugar then needs the missing minerals and other nutrients to metabolize properly so it pulls those from the storage units in the body and this may lead to nutrient deficiency. Most importantly, refined sugar is missing the fiber which will help to slow down its metabolism. This refined sugar that is metabolized quickly in the body can cause a large spike in blood sugar which goes above the normal range followed quickly by a large dip that goes below the normal range. (See accompanying graph.)


These large spikes in blood sugar immediately after the consumption of a refined carbohydrate can cause a short term burst of energy. When the blood sugar then reaches its lowest dip, we feel increasingly less energetic causing us to crave additional sugar to create that more energetic feeling which consequently results in a vicious cycle of highs and lows in both energy and in blood sugar levels. Having the constant cycle of blood sugar that peaks and dips outside of the normal range can have both short term and long term negative effects.

With the consumption of sugar resulting in the depletion of minerals, fiber, and other nutrients along with the highs and lows of blood sugar levels, the short term expression of sugar consumption is subtle and typically only noticeable when we know what normal feels like. Some short term effects are:
• General lethargy
• Brain fog
• Increased sugar cravings
• Increased appetite
• Acne
• Afternoon sleepy feeling even after a good night’s rest
• A general feeling of not being quite right

In the long term, however, constant sugar consumption can create very serious health problems which in some cases may end up being irreparable. Some long term effects are:
• Inflammation
• Increased LDL cholesterol
• Lowered HDL cholesterol
• Raised triglycerides
• Lowered immune system
• Increased blood pressure
• The removal of calcium from bones and teeth
• Wrinkles
• Diabetes
• Obesity as a result of the body starving of nutrients creating an insatiable appetite
• Contribution to cancer
• Contribution to heart disease
• Contribution to other degenerative diseases

The best way to enjoy sugar is in its natural, whole state with the consumption of organically grown fruits which are loaded with minerals, fiber, and other nutrients. Refined sugars should be avoided or eaten in moderation. When we feel the need to eat refined sugar, and we do so in moderation, we should take the time to savor it completely and recognize the effect that it will have on our body.

It’s All Physical

Did you know that the way in which data is presented to us can have an effect in the way we absorb and retain the information that we are working on? Similarly, the way in which we condition our posture can determine our level of injury when doing even a simple task such as reaching over to turn off our alarm clock in the morning. These facts were determined from the study of ergonomics which became a science in the early 19th century to examine the environment around a worker with the goal of increasing productivity. While there is not a lot that we can do about the way that information is presented to us, we certainly can do something about the condition of our posture. For the short term, we may experience discomfort and some small strains, but the importance of proper posture becomes more evident in the long term. As more of us sit at a computer for many hours in the day, it is important that we take the time to have an ergonomic assessment, incorporate breaks throughout the day to stretch, and find time outside of work to exercise and recondition our bodies.

Most of us sit in an office all day long with our hand on a mouse and a keyboard, our neck stretched out reading words on a bright screened computer, and with our legs bent at a 90 degree angle at the hip. It is no surprise that we end up walking around with a pike at our hip area, our neck outstretched and our backs rounded in poor posture. As human beings, we are not built to be sitting in a chair in this position hour after hour, day after day, and year after year. Our bodies are built to be upright and moving.

Examples of Poor Posture

Chronic poor posture, inactivity, and improper use of a keyboard and mouse may have numerous negative effects on our health and physical well-being.

• Neck pain
• Headaches
• Muscular skeletal disorders
• Carpal tunnel disorders
• Tendonitis
• Back problems
• Fatigue
• Sore or tense muscles
• Poor blood circulation
• Eye strain

These negative effects can wreak havoc on our physical and emotional quality of life. In addition, poor posture can have a negative effect on the way we feel and the way we look.

For the most part, if we are slouching or using bad posture at our desks, it is not necessarily our fault. It typically means that the furniture and equipment that we are using are not set up for our individual body types. Small adjustments can help avoid big problems. But in addition to that, there are actions we can take on our own, both while at work and outside of work, to ensure proper posture.

Awareness: Simply being aware of our posture helps us to sit properly in our chairs as we work and helps us to improve our stance and walk.

Core exercises: Focusing on cores exercises will help support a proper alignment in the body. Many people think that the core includes only the abdominal muscles. In fact, our core supports our spine from the top of our neck, to the end of our tail bone. Consult with a personal trainer or a physical therapist for exercises to focus on.

Cardiovascular exercises: A cardio workout strengthens our heart muscle and improves our circulation. But remember to do all cardio exercises with awareness of proper posture.

Yoga: Many yogis have fantastic postures. This is because each pose is designed to strengthen the core, balance the muscles, and improve breathing. When done correctly, a daily yoga practice will greatly improve any muscle imbalances and relieve muscular skeletal disorders.

Walking: Taking a 30-minute brisk walk while being aware or our posture will help to strengthen the muscle memory of proper posture.

Breaks: We should be taking frequent breaks throughout the day to stretch out our legs and our chest and to roll our neck and wrists around.

There are many reasons to maintain proper posture. In the first place, we all look better, more confident and happier when we stand up straight and tall. But while looks are fabulously important, our health is even more so. Having proper posture helps alleviate deteriorative issues as we age. When we have proper posture, our organs, our muscles, our joints and our bones are in proper alignment. This alignment supports us  throughout the day to move more efficiently and avoid injury. In addition, we breathe easier, have better blood circulation, and improve our concentration and thinking.

Examples of Proper Posture

So as we set out each day, let’s remember to exercise, walk, and sit with proper body alignment. It’s a great way to be taking care of our health and we will look and feel terrific in the process.

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