The Scariest Part Of Halloween – Sugar
It’s Halloween time! That means sugar, right? Well, not necessarily… If you’re looking for some anti-candy motivation and ideas, I’ve got you covered.
Now I’m not saying that you can never eat something sweet again. It’s just that, if you’re like most people, you don’t need any more sugar in your diet. And if you’re not careful, sugar can turn Halloween into the worst day of the year, especially for kids.
Stats That Will Spook You
The average American eats 150 pounds of sugar every year. That’s a big reason why almost one in four Americans are either diabetic or pre-diabetic.
So, those small pieces of candy that you secretly confiscate from your kids’ Halloween sacks – and then eat when no one’s looking – can add up pretty quickly.
What Happens When The Sugar Hits?
The damage Halloween candy does goes way beyond an excess of calories. Here are some of the less obvious ways that sugar stresses your body. Use them as motivation to cut down the sugar or avoid it.
- When sugar arrives in your mouth, it mixes with bacteria to make acids that attack your tooth enamel. Each attack lasts around 20 minutes and opens the door to cavities.
- Next, the sugar gets broken down in your small intestine and absorbed into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar goes up, your pancreas releases the hormone insulin that tells your cells to open up and take in sugar to be used as an energy source. But most of the sugar gets stored as a compound called glycogen, which is stored in either your liver or muscle tissue.
- After glycogen floods your liver and muscles, any sugar left over is stored as fat.
- Your body interprets this wave of sugar as stressful. In response, it releases the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine. These trigger your heart rate and blood pressure to go up and cause you to start sweating.
- By this point your brain has released dopamine, which is a chemical that gives you that initial feeling of pleasure – the sugar high.
- Then the crash comes. You feel tired and irritable. Maybe you get a headache. Your stress hormones are now reversing gears as they get the sugar out of your liver and muscles to bring your blood sugar back up after the crash.
- Usually by now, you’re bloated and your stomach aches a bit.
Even worse, if your diet continuously puts insulin into your bloodstream, you’re setting the stage for diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer.
Sugar Weakens Your Immune System
The effects of sugar consumption are immediate, accumulative and far reaching. After a sugar indulgence, your ability to fight pathogens is instantly crippled – and this effect lasts for at least several hours. In the midst of a pandemic (and on top of flu season), a weak immune system is the last thing you want to happen.
The bottom line… A consistent high carbohydrate diet will put your immune system in a coma!
The Sticky Truth - Sugar Increases Your Susceptibility to Illness
Let’s take a look at how sugar directly impacts your immune system…
1) SUGAR DECREASES WHITE BLOOD CELL POWER
It specifically weakens neutrophils, the most abundant type of white blood cell that helps you fight infection and heal tissue.
2) SUGAR CAUSES HORMONE IMBALANCES
A sugary diet creates a web of hormonal problems.
The dangerous state of insulin resistance is one of many effects. One job of insulin is to stabilize blood glucose levels by escorting sugar out of your bloodstream and into your cells. When your cells are overwhelmed by constant sugar, they begin to resist insulin. This drives the body to produce even more of it to handle high blood sugar.
Insulin resistance negatively impacts the body in so many ways. Besides rendering cells unable to fight pathogens efficiently, it’s the driving factor in developing Type 2 diabetes. Diabetics are at very high risk for COVID-19 complications.
Did you know that obese individuals tend to have fewer white blood cells and a reduced ability to fight infection? Having strong insulin sensitivity and keeping a healthy weight are two leading ways you can support your ability to overcome a COVID-19 infection.
3) SUGAR CREATES and WORSENS INFLAMMATION
Inflammation is at the root of just about every disease!
One effect here is an increase in cortisol production. This stress hormone made by your adrenal glands regulates your immune system by suppressing it in order to reduce inflammation. Although this is a natural mechanism to promote healing, chronic elevated cortisol levels create a powerless immune system.
Excess sugar, poor diet and stress send cortisol levels soaring and many health problems can result. Chronic elevated cortisol:
- Weakens your ability to fight colds and viruses
- Puts you at higher risk for GI problems, cancer, food allergies and autoimmune diseases
- Inhibits the function of insulin, creating a buildup of glucose in the blood.
- This effect is only advantageous if you’re in a stressful situation (as in the fight or flight response) so glucose can be an immediate energy source.
- Chronic elevated cortisol tampers with insulin’s job resulting in high blood sugar, starved cells, weight gain, and an over worked pancreas.
4) SUGAR DESTROYS THE BALANCE OF YOUR MICROBIOME
Sugar gives bad bacteria the opportunity to dominate. Friendly bacteria in your gut is necessary for white blood cell development. Too much sugar destroys this good bacteria and sets the stage for illness.
Your microbiome is the collection of good and bad bacteria in your gut. One of the things that the good bacteria do is help stabilize your blood sugar. But a high sugar diet throws that balance off, leading to a situation where you have too much bad bacteria. This imbalance causes cravings and a rollercoaster of hormones. Over time, you end up with systemic inflammation and damage to your gut lining where you don’t absorb nutrients properly.
An unhealthy microbiome is directly related to (and can worsen) mental health conditions.
A healthy gut means better immunity AND:
✔️ Brain function
Taking a probiotic supplement helps to boost your immune system and restore a healthy balance of bacteria, but proper diet and stress control is really the foundation for a reliable immune system.
Choosing a probiotic supplement can be tricky, but I’ve got you covered here.
ASIDE FROM SUGAR...
So far, we’ve only looked at the effects of sugar. But add to that the fact that candy is often filled with artificial sweeteners, food coloring, and other chemical junk that inevitably detract from your health and function and, in many cases, set the stage for some kind of disease.
Healthy Halloween Alternatives
Halloween may look a bit different this year given the current guidelines to decrease the spread of the COVID-19 virus. If you’re gathering with others, do so in small groups and help support everyone’s health and immunity by offering something other than sugary candy. You can hand out things like stickers, crazy straws, markers, bubbles, key rings, even coins.
If your kids do get candy, they can trade it in for some toy they really want, or for a game, or for a healthier choice like dark chocolate.
Just get rid of some of that candy and don’t eat it yourself. If you want something sweet for Halloween, make sure you eat well during the week leading up to it, and then eat something other than the sugary junky candy – maybe a small piece of dark chocolate or something along those lines.
Whatever you do, have fun, make sure the kids are safe, and if you fall off the wagon… get back on it on November 1st.
We care about you! Stay Healthy & Safe!
Happy Halloween from BODYMANUAL
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