Is your gut health feeling a bit off lately? If so, you’re not alone. The delicate balance of your gut microbiome plays a crucial role in your overall well-being, affecting everything from digestion to mood. Surprisingly, one of the primary culprits disrupting this balance is the ubiquitous ingredient found in so many of our favorite treats—sugar.
How Sugar Impacts Your Gut Health
Let’s start by getting one thing clear—not all sugar is “bad.” In fact, sugar is a naturally occurring substance in many foods, like fruits, some vegetables, whole grains, and even legumes, and your body actually needs some of these naturally occurring sugars in order to function properly. Why? Because sugar is a carbohydrate that your body breaks down into glucose, and that glucose is then used as an energy source for your cells and all the functions they work hard to carry out.
So, why does sugar get such a bad rap then? Two words: added sugar. While many foods contain naturally occurring sugars, it is extremely common in today’s society to add extra sugar to foods during the manufacturing process. It is these added sugars that have been found to negatively impact your health, including the health of your gut microbiome. But what exactly happens to your gut when you eat too much sugar?
Well, it all comes back to the bacteria that reside in your gut microbiome. Keeping a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria is key to keeping your gut happy and healthy, but maintaining this balance can be a little tricky, partially because of how sensitive these bacteria are to changes in their environment. In particular, the good bacteria in your gut rely on your body’s ability to produce certain proteins that help them grow and colonize. However, studies have found that certain types of sugar, mainly fructose and glucose, can block the production of these proteins. This makes it harder for the colonies of good bacteria in your gut to thrive and, as a result, it becomes easier for the harmful bacteria to start to take over.
Gut Benefits of a Low-Sugar Diet
According to the guidelines set forth by the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, it’s recommended that American children and adults consume less than 50 grams (about 12 teaspoons) of added sugars a day. However, according to reports from the Center for Disease Control, the average American adult consumes about 17 teaspoons of added sugars each day.
Why does this matter? Well, researchers have found that consuming excessive amounts of added sugars can have a negative impact on nearly every aspect of your health, including your gut health. Let’s take a look at just a few of the ways your gut could benefit from reducing your sugar intake.
Restores Balance in the Gut Microbiome
As earlier mentioned, sugar can disrupt the balance of bacteria in your gut microbiome, slowing the growth of beneficial bacteria and opening the door for bad bacteria to thrive. When this balance is disrupted, a state called dysbiosis, you are more likely to experience digestive discomforts like bloating or stomach pain. When you reduce your sugar consumption, you are taking one small yet impactful step toward helping your gut restore balance. As a result, you’ll likely start to experience digestive discomforts less often.
Enhances Nutrient Absorption
Along with helping to relieve or avoid digestive discomforts, cutting back on your sugar intake can also help ensure that your digestive system is working properly, particularly when it comes to absorbing nutrients. Not only do foods with added sugars usually replace nutritionally dense foods in your diet, but those added sugars can also deplete the nutrients from foods that have already been consumed. In simpler terms, when your diet consists of foods with added sugars, you are not only less likely to eat healthier, more nutritionally dense foods, but your body is also less likely to be taking full advantage of the nutrients found in the foods you are consuming. When you choose to consume a low-sugar diet, you are giving your body the upper hand, helping to ensure it is getting everything it needs to look and feel its best in the long run.
Supports a Healthier Gut Lining
Your gut lining is semi-permeable which means it lets nutrients pass from your digestive tract into the bloodstream so they can be transported throughout your body. At the same time, it also keeps toxins and other harmful elements from entering your bloodstream (and the rest of your body) while they make their way through the digestive tract to be excreted as waste. Excessive intake of sugars can damage this wall and cause it to leak, allowing harmful substances to enter your bloodstream and potentially cause a myriad of health challenges. If you cut back on the amount of added sugars in your diet, you can help support a healthier, strong gut lining that is well-equipped to properly do its job.
Cut Back on Sugar with These Tips
While it’s common to see advice that encourages you to completely cut added sugars from your diet, the truth is that it can be extremely difficult to drop added sugars completely. After all, many of the foods available today contain some amount of added sugars. Not to mention that jumping in and making dramatic changes to your diet makes it less likely that you will stick to the change in the long run.
With all that in mind, let us reassure you that this doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. Even taking the smallest steps now to slightly reduce your intake of added sugars will come with benefits for your gut.
If you’re looking to cut some of the added sugars from your diet, then here are some of our favorite tips to help you out.
1. Read The Food Labels. Because there isn’t an official daily recommended intake for sugars in general, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has advised manufacturers to clearly indicate the amount of sugar that is added to their food products. This means that reading food labels is a great way to know how much added sugar a product has so you can make an informed decision about whether or not to include it in your diet.
2. Know Sugar By Its Names. Yes, sugar has many different names. There is brown sugar, cane sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, beet sugar, the list goes on and on. With that in mind, one of the best steps you can take if you are looking to reduce your sugar intake is to become familiar with the many different names for sugar and where they come from. That way, when you see them on food labels or you are trying to sweeten a recipe at home, you can decide what to take and what to avoid.
3. Reach for Fruit. We all find ourselves craving something sweet from time to time. While it’s okay to indulge this craving with a sweet treat on occasion, if you are looking to curb your craving without the added sugar, then a naturally sweet fruit like strawberries or an apple can get the job done.
4. Choose Fresh, Frozen, Dried, or Canned Fruit. Speaking of fruit, the type of fruit you buy at the store can make a big difference in how much added sugar you are consuming. Fruits that are canned in syrup likely contain added sugars, so opting for fruit that is fresh, frozen, dried, or canned in water is usually the better option.
5. Swap the Soda. Many of the most popular beverages, like soda and premade juices, contain quite a bit of added sugar. Swapping out these drinks for water or homemade juice can make a big impact on your overall sugar intake.
6. Check Your Triggers. If you are stressed or facing a tough life situation, you will notice your craving for sweet things is heightened. This is because stress increases the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which often causes us to start craving sugar-filled foods. Researchers aren’t quite sure why we crave sugar under stress yet, but some theorize that it’s because the brain uses more energy when it is stressed. Since we get our energy from carbohydrates, and sugar is the simplest carbohydrate, it is easy and efficient for our body to break down sugar molecules and turn them into the energy that our brain needs to continue functioning. If you can identify the issues that bring you stress, you can combat them with activities like meditation and breathing exercises that will help calm your body and keep you from indulging in those stress-induced sugar cravings.
7. Prep Your Own Snacks. Snacking is not a bad thing once in a while, but it can be a problem if you choose to eat candy, sweet pastries, and ice cream all the time. To reduce your sugar intake, make snacks at home that you can enjoy. Things like homemade granola, frozen pieces of fruit, savory snacks like celery or carrot sticks, and kale chips are all great options. That way, when you are ready for a snack, you have a healthier, low-sugar option readily available that you can enjoy.
8. Beware of Artificial Sweeteners. With the rise of awareness of the negative ways that excessive sugar consumption can impact your health has come a rise in popularity for artificial sweeteners. While they may seem like a great way to sweeten your food without adding sugar, these artificial options are usually non-nutritive. Essentially, this means they are empty calories that don’t provide any nutritional benefit to your body and can leave you feeling hungry later. If you’re looking for a way to sweeten your food without adding a spoonful of sugar, consider trying natural sweeteners like honey or dates as they provide some extra nutritional value.
Live the #NewEarthLife
Here at New Earth, we are all about making choices that lead us to a happier, healthier life, a life we call the #NewEarthLife. Join us on this journey to health by cutting back on added sugars and giving your gut the healthy, nutrient-rich foods it needs to thrive. After all, a healthy gut is the key to a healthy body and a life full of energy and vitality.
At New Earth we are on a mission to positively impact the health of every body and soul we come in contact with. We specialize in producing third-party certified, organic whole food supplements including a variety of probiotics, and digestive support. Our supplements feature a rare, yet highly nutritious superfood, Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA). Also known as organic Wild Microalgae®, AFA is a unique type of microalgae that is available in many forms including tablets, capsules, and powders all designed to help you on your journey to holistic wellness. The best part? We offer a 90-day money-back risk-free guarantee on all of our products. Visit our website to learn more.