In this episode I breakdown the sugar science and discuss what happens when we eat too much. I share my personal struggles with diabetes and the horrible moment the set me on a better path.
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Episode 12 Transcript
Brigitte Factor 0:13 Hello, and welcome to the hungry for truth podcast. I'm your host, Brigitte Factor with truth seeker, researcher, scientists, nutritionist, teacher in truth teller, and awakening is coming. Get ready for it.
Brigitte Factor 0:46 Hello, and welcome back to another episode of Hungry For Truth. Today's episode is going to be really sweet, because we're going to talk about sugar. That's right, today's episode, I'm going to talk about sugar, what sugar is where we find it in different foods, how much is too much, and what happens when we have blood sugar dysregulation. I'm also going to share some personal stories with this because of my personal history with struggling with diabetes in my family history of diabetes. And I recently lost a family member due to the consequences of having lifelong blood sugar dysregulation issues. And so this topic is very relevant to me right now. It's been on my mind a lot lately, and I've been recently asked to talk about it more, so I thought this would be a great time to explore this topic. First, let's get on the same page about what I mean when I say sugar. Sugar is a very generic term. And most of us think of like white table sugar when we say that word. But sugar is also an all encompassing term in what it means because scientifically, all carbohydrates break down into sugar or carbohydrates are essentially sugar.
Brigitte Factor 2:28 The simple molecules of carbohydrates are glucose, fructose, and lactose. And those are sugar molecules. And all carbohydrates eventually break down into glucose. And glucose is what we our cells use to make energy, mainly. They can use fatty acids as well. But they mainly use glucose as their source of energy. This is why it gets so much attention. So when you take a bite of food with carbohydrate in it, your body breaks it down uses enzymes break it down in to glucose molecules, and those glucose molecules are what get absorbed into the bloodstream. Now some foods will have other sources of sugar in them, like fruit has fructose, and milk has lactose. But even those foods also have glucose. So every carbohydrate containing food has glucose in it, that's the ultimate sugar molecule. And so really, when we talk about carbohydrates, we are, those carbohydrates also contain sugar. We usually think of sugar in the general term as the simple carbohydrates the sucrose, which is one glucose molecule and one fructose molecule, so but ultimately, it's all the same thing. And it all gets broken down into glucose. And then the glucose is what gets absorbed into our bloodstream. Now, all carbohydrates matter in terms of regulating blood sugar, and it's just a matter of how quickly they get absorbed and how well our body responds to maintaining those blood sugar levels. So our body is built in mechanisms, I call them homeostatic mechanisms, or homeostasis. There's that nerd word again, that refers to when our body's trying to maintain safe levels or maintaining a safe environment. And this applies to blood sugar as well.
Brigitte Factor 4:41 So when we eat food that contains carbohydrate, and that carbohydrate gets absorbed into the bloodstream as glucose, the body kicks in to maintain normal levels of blood glucose. And as our blood glucose increases, a hormone called insulin is released to help us manage that and get the blood glucose out of the bloodstream and put it into the cells. So that way the sugar isn't floating around in the bloodstream, because sugar floating around in the bloodstream at elevated levels causes damage. And so insulin helps to tuck away that glucose into the cells, it basically acts like a key that unlocks the cell and lets the glucose in. So we can either use it for energy or store it for later. And that's the purpose of insulin. Now, when we eat simple carbohydrates are carbohydrates that are refined and have large amounts of these simple sugars, sucrose and glucose. Those get absorbed or very quickly into the bloodstream, which sends our pancreas into overdrive into alarm mode to over produce insulin to keep up with how fast low blood sugar is rising.
Brigitte Factor 6:04 And then what happens is, as the body is trying to play catch up to maintain those safe levels of blood glucose, it ends up over producing insulin in some cases, and then you have a precipitous drop of blood glucose, because there now you have a large amount of insulin that has been released to try to keep up with the large amount of blood glucose that's coming in. And this in turn causes your blood sugar to drop too low, on the other side of that. So a few hours later, or an hour later, when you start to have really low blood sugar or hypoglycemia, you may experience that sometimes you get a little shaky, or feel like you need to eat again, or you get kind of cranky if it's been a couple hours since you have eaten. And this is pretty normal for the American experience for people on the standard American diet. This was normal for my experience, and I didn't realize what I was doing at the time. You know, a typical day for me, especially when I was going through college and graduate school would be to eat a carbohydrate, heavy breakfast with cereal and orange juice. And then or a donut and then to have a carbohydrate heavy lunch at Subway with my cookie and my coke. And then it eventually became Diet Coke, then, you know, needing an afternoon snack to try to keep up with my blood sugar because it was dropping, and I was tired and wanting to take a nap and I was less focused, and then go into the vending machine to get a granola bar or a Snickers bar. And then later that evening having a carbohydrate, heavy dinner as well in the form of pasta. And that kind of as a typical way Americans eat is a typical way I was eating at the time.
Brigitte Factor 8:10 And I didn't realize what I was doing to my body. Because back in the day, all of the focus was on fat, you know, to eat low fat, to avoid red meat. And to avoid saturated fat or limit your saturated fat in your cholesterol intake all of the focus was on fat. And I wasn't paying much attention to the negative effects of sugar and refined carbohydrates. And a lot of that has to do with the industry influence and marketing, TV advertisements, the industry influence in government regulations, and all of that, and I just didn't know, I wasn't aware at the time of what was going on. And eventually, this led to a deterioration in my health. And I'll come back to that point in just a minute. But the average American consumes 129 pounds of sugar per year, that's 40 teaspoons of sugar per day. And the current guidelines are to consume no more than six teaspoons of sugar per day or no more than 24 grams of sugar per day. And I mean simple sugars or added sugars in that term, not necessarily carbohydrates. Now, there are some people that can get away with consuming sugar in larger amounts or carbohydrates in the larger amounts. But I am not one of those people. And in fact, a very small percentage of our population can actually tolerate that level of carbohydrateas evidenced by how more than half of our population has pre diabetes or diabetes at this point.
Brigitte Factor 10:05 And like I had mentioned, I didn't really know what was going on, I would go to my annual physicals and checkups. And the doctor would say your blood sugar's a little elevated something you want to monitor, you know, you want to pay attention to your diet. Well, I didn't really knew know what that meant. I was like, Okay, I think I'm eating healthy. What does that really mean? And then year after year, that would continue. But my wake up call came when I was sitting in the doctor's office, and I had taken the glucose challenge test, during the first part of my pregnancy. I was pregnant with my first child. And I had to take this glucose challenge test. So I was waiting in the doctor's office. And apparently, I didn't do very well on that test. And so they sent me to a perinatologist, to work with me, because of the numbers that were on the test. And I remember sitting there, in the doctor's office waiting for her to come in to tell me you know what needed to happen.
Brigitte Factor 11:13 And she walked in the door, and the first thing out of her mouth was, you failed miserably. And I was completely taken aback by this. So here I am, someone who has prided herself in doing well in school graduated with multiple degrees with honors. And here I have a doctor telling me that I have failed. Of course, that didn't settle well with me. But I knew that my child's health mattered. And I was going to set aside her horrible bedside manner, and listen to what she had to say, because I needed to take control of what was going on. And at that, that's when I really started paying attention to the nutrition and the effects of the food that I eat and how it affects my body. And I met with dieticians, who outline a food plan, and I followed the food plan to a tee. I still had to take medication to help control my blood sugar's at the time. And it was a huge, huge wake up call for me. Now, for a lot of women, as they go into pregnancy, they can develop gestational diabetes simply because of the pregnancy hormones. And so that is the case for some, some women. That wasn't the case for me. I had pre diabetes, and I didn't fully realize it before I got pregnant. And the pregnancy just gave that my diabetes, a voice, a way to wake me up and say hello, it's time to start taking care of yourself. And I know that my gestational diabetes diagnosis wasn't just due to my pregnancy hormones, because of my previous history, my family history. And then after I was pregnant, my diabetes didn't go away. So I really had to dig deep and figure out what was going to work for me. And this is what sparked my passion for nutrition. And also sparked a career change for me in my mid life after having kids. And I really spent the time that I had, you know, staying home with my kids raising a family to really dig into the nutrition research, read lots of books, attend lots of trainings, and gain a large amount of knowledge about nutrition, which is why I do what I do today. And share that knowledge with other people to help them improve their health as well. And even though the way the perinatologist presented her information to me, didn't settle well with me, it was actually a pretty horrible experience for me. I turned that moment around and used it for good.
Brigitte Factor 14:19 And so I want to spend the rest of the time kind of talking about the dangers of sugar. And why it's important to minimize our intake of sugar and how to recognize the amount of sugar that's in our food. And this really is hitting home for me recently too, because of the family member that I have lost. You know, this family member started down a pathway with a diabetes diagnosis that eventually led to having a limb amputated, which then eventually led to their death and it's really sad that we live in, in an environment and in a society where we are surrounded by so much processed, packaged and fast food that people consider that the norm for eating. And we don't realize what we're doing every time we eat those kinds of foods. So it really comes down to raising awareness for ourselves, and the people around us, which is what I'm doing through this podcast and through the work that I do, and through the work through the Missouri Nutrition Alliance. And it starts by reading food labels, start becoming aware of what you're actually putting into your mouth and reading the food labels. Look at the ingredients, how many ingredients are listed, how many times is a different type of sugar listed. So one of the tricks that food manufacturers do is they use different types of sugars, because they can list each sugar separately on the ingredient label. And that way, sugar doesn't have to be the first ingredient. So it's you want to look at the ingredient label. And you also want to look at the nutrition facts and see how much sugar is actually there to know how much you're getting.
Brigitte Factor 16:21 Now, I will say that each person is different. There are studies showing that two people eating the same food can have completely different blood sugar, glucose responses to that food. So this is a very individual thing as well, in terms of how these foods affect you. And if it's something that you're wanting to learn more about, then you want to work with a trained nutritionist that knows how to help you navigate that. So once you become aware, you can start managing or being mindful about the amount of sugar that you're consuming. And I want to share with you five things that excess sugar consumption can cause or the harms or dangers that excess sugar consumption is associated with just to help motivate you or your loved ones, to make better decisions when it comes to the food they eat. And the first one is obvious that excess sugar consumption increases your diabetes risk. And this is especially true for those that have a genetic predisposition to diabetes or have a strong family history of diabetes, it just basically means that these people have an easier time developing diabetes in an environment of excess sugar. It doesn't mean though, that you're guaranteed to get diabetes, because the environment that you're in plays a role in how your health is expressed or how your health comes together. So our bodies are designed to regulate the amount of glucose with precise control. And when our blood sugar starts to fluctuate outside of normal ranges, again, our insulin has to kick in. To help manage this. It's important to know that normal fasting blood glucose is between 80 and 100 milligrams per deciliter. So this is when you haven't eaten for a while or when you wake up in the morning, you really want your blood glucose in that 80 to 90 range, that equates to about one teaspoon of sugar in the entire blood volume. And so if the average American is consuming 40 teaspoons of sugar per day, what do you think that's doing to our blood sugar control mechanisms, and the amount of insulin that's circulating in that we're producing to try to keep those glucose levels in check. So when you're eating a standard American diet, and you're having these daily blood sugar fluctuations that are outside of normal range, like I was doing, during, you know, my early adult life and probably most of my life, not realizing it, is over time, the cells get really tired of hearing that signal from insulin, and the cell stop responding to insulin. And basically the cells close the door to glucose. They say no, we're not going to take any more glucose we're full. And this is what leads to insulin resistance. And insulin resistance strongly increases your risk of type two diabetes.
Brigitte Factor 19:51 And type two diabetes used to be called adult onset diabetes because you usually saw it happen in adults after school. Several years of blood sugar dysregulation that needed to happen in order for this insulin resistance to develop. But now we're seeing it more commonly in children. And a lot of this has to do with the epigenetic changes that are occurring in mom, or in dad that are getting passed on to kids so that they're set up to have these things happen earlier on in life. And I talked about epigenetics in an earlier episode, if you want to go back and review what that means. Now, type two is different than type one, I just want to mention that quickly. Type One is an autoimmune disease that you are born with, or that develops very early on in life for most people, where the immune system attacks the pancreas cells and you're no longer able to produce your own insulin that is a different mechanism and how that gets started. And even though type two and type one, diabetes start differently, the end result is the same with elevated blood sugar levels because of the inability to produce insulin or the body's inability to respond to insulin.
Brigitte Factor 21:21 Another thing that can start to happen when we consume excess sugar is nutrient depletion. Because our body uses vitamins and minerals to run its biochemistry, we need vitamins and minerals to be able to process and metabolize the food that we eat, including the carbohydrates. Now, in unrefined, Whole Foods, those vitamins and minerals are packaged together with the carbohydrates so that our body can use those to properly metabolize and break those things down. But we're consuming refined sugars, those vitamins and minerals are stripped away in our body has to find them from other places that we have stored to be able to metabolize and break down sugar. So if you're consuming excess, refined carbohydrates over time, this can lead to nutrient depletions, like magnesium, and B vitamins, and specifically thiamin. And those kinds of things. So that is something to be aware of, because people that are have been on a standard American diet or an ultra processed diet for a long period of time, end up needing extra vitamin and mineral support to help them with their metabolism.
Brigitte Factor 22:41 So the third thing that excess sugar consumption does is it contributes to hormone imbalances. And this is because never in the history of the human race have we had an emergency need to lower blood sugar until recently, we didn't used to be surrounded by such a glut of processed foods. We had to actually go out and either farm or garden or grow or hunt or gather the foods that we ate, and those foods were in their whole natural unprocessed form. But now the environment that we live in is completely different. And so when our blood sugar rises after a carbohydrate heavy meal, our hormonal signals are sent into a panic to keep up with this rapid rise in glucose like I've talked about before. In this overproduction of insulin causes the blood glucose to fall below normal range and sends a stress signal to the body. This stress signal causes secretion and cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormones. And what cortisol does is it helps the muscles release that stored glucose in emergency situations. So it was originally designed for us when we were in fight or flight mode for that cortisol to be released. So we would have an emergency surge of energy to be able to escape whatever danger we were under. But now in our modern environment with a glut of refined and processed foods that we have access to, and that we over consume, we are tapping into that stress signal that cortisol release several times a day when we're writing that blood sugar rollercoaster and having these moments of hypoglycemia. So high insulin levels, if we're having to overproduce insulin to keep up with the amount of glucose coming in, leads to excess androgen production and lower sex hormone binding globulin. And which basically means that binds up sex hormones. So this cascade of events creates excess estrogen and testosterone in the blood and it is taxing our endocrine system. All of this can lead to hormonal imbalances and increase the risk of cancer, like PCOS and thyroid disease. And unfortunately, the conventional view of these conditions doesn't take into account the effect that blood sugar problems have, unless you find someone who is more holistically minded in studying these, or has actually been able to do some additional research beyond their conventional training, but there's a huge link to our diet and our hormone problems.
Brigitte Factor 25:32 The fourth thing that blood sugar swings can cause or excess sugar consumption can lead to his behavior problems. So not only does it disrupt our hormones, but it can also impact our brain chemistry as well. And so research has shown that sugar consumption strongly correlates with aggressive and restless behavior in young children, you know, picture children having a sugary breakfast, and then a couple hours later, being very aggressive or having a very difficult time paying attention or sitting still in school. A lot of this can be attributed to their diet and their blood sugar dysregulation. Especially if kids are waking up and eating a bowl of cereal for breakfast, they're getting a large influx of refined carbohydrates into their system. Sugar also stimulates the reward centers in the brain. Similar to cocaine, it's a very addictive and rewarding molecule or substance. In some studies have shown that sugar can be more addicting than cocaine as well. And so this excess sugar consumption can promote addictive and aggressive behavior in our kids. Again, this is another area we need to bring more awareness to for the sake of our children and the health of our children and the health of future generations.
Brigitte Factor 27:06 The fifth thing that excess sugar can do is actually suppress our immune system. Now, there's some mixed research out there, showing the different effects that sugar has on the immune system. There are there are some research showing a little bit of glucose, or sugar can actually enhance the immune cells functioning. And I think this is due to just the energy aspect of it. But there's also research showing that excess sugar or excess glucose can actually reduce immune function. And it also promotes chronic inflammation. And chronic inflammation and insulin resistance become this vicious cycle that is a huge underlying factor for many chronic diseases. High blood glucose can disrupt our immune cells ability to identify and destroy pathogens. So again, this is based on one particular study that is showing the negative effects of high blood glucose. The other thing that we see happen is when we have inflammation and insulin resistance, this makes it harder for our immune system to do its job and it makes us more vulnerable to infections. This is why people that have high blood sugars have a harder time recovering from infections. This is also what leads to amputations is the inability for our tissues to repair because the damage of the the sugar excess sugar is causing and the inability of our immune system to respond properly. So I've talked about a variety of things that can happen downstream as a result of excess sugar consumption over time. And this isn't going to happen in one sitting.
Brigitte Factor 29:09 So you know, food is meant to be enjoyed. We are designed to get pleasure from food. And there are appropriate times for that. This really comes back to designing a lifestyle and diet plan where we can be eating nutrient dense whole foods, most of the time supporting and nourishing our body the way it's designed. And then occasionally enjoying those sweet treats and allowing our body to be able to tolerate them on occasion. But unfortunately, you know, a large percentage of the standard American diet is ultra processed food. So it comes back to raising awareness about this issue. Talking about it sharing this information. The other piece of this is that is hard and difficult for people is the fact that process food, specifically sweetened food and sugar is very addicting. And it can be hard to make those changes effectively, you may be able to do it for the short term, you may be able to do a 30 day plan or a two week plan and feel really good. But then you start to feel deprived or left out or you know, something stressful comes up and then you go back to reaching for those foods again. So this is one of the reasons why I am starting to teach these finally free workshops, which are focused on helping people recover from sugar addiction and emotional eating. And I'm actually launching the next series of workshops in April. So if that's something that you're interested in, you want to check that out on my website at BrigitteFactor dot com you can do a 30 day no sugar challenge to get started or you can sign up for the entire series of workshops. There are seven workshops in total that really help us to dive into the reasons why we eat and help us to navigate that in a compassionate and understanding way. And so check that out if you're interested or share it with somebody who you think may benefit from that helped me spread the word help me raise awareness. And with that being said, I will post the link to that information in the show notes. So you can click on that. But otherwise, you can go to my website at Brigitte Factor dot com and check that out. And I just want to thank you so much for listening. I know this was a lot of information but it's a lot of very important information that can save someone's life and really reduce suffering. And I just feel compelled to share it, you know, given my personal dealings with it and the way it has affected my family members. So, thank you so much for listening. And until next time, Grace and peace to you.