Sugar, Inflammation & Pain: What I’ve Learned EP010

Sugar: we love the sweetness but what else is there? Inflammation? Pain? It happened to me. I’m talking about why we really crave sugar and giving tips on how to get real sweetness in your life.



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In this episode of Self Powered Healing, I’m going to be talking about sugar and how avoiding it can lead to healing.

I’ve known for a long time that sugar is a cause of inflammation in the body. And that inflammation is a cause of our pain. So the logic is there to tell me that sugar can be a cause of pain.

But it’s not something that I ever really put together with what I was doing in my daily life until recently. I should have because it’s painfully obvious. But I had to be shown that relationship for myself. There’s a quote from Ben Franklin, and he says,

“Tell me, and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me, and I learn.”

And that’s exactly what happened to me.

I’ve always loved sugar. When I was a little girl, nine or 10 years old, we would visit my grandmother’s house in Tennessee. My grandmother lived on a farm and had a big barrel of sugar back behind the kitchen door. It was the tastiest sugar, not like anything I’ve had since. Oftentimes, when we were visiting, I would get a spoon and sneak behind the refrigerator and have a bite or two of that sugar.

Over the years, I tried to avoid it. I knew I had a bit of an addictive personality. I would try to avoid sugar, but it wasn’t easy, because I love that sweet taste. What I found for me worked was to not have it around, because if it wasn’t in the house, I couldn’t eat it. But then whenever it was nearby, there I’d be.

So my husband and I weren’t always eating a lot of sugar. But we developed this habit of having dessert on the weekends after dinner. And pretty soon that got to be we would have a cookie or something that we would share just about every day. And we’d have tea in the evening with honey in it. So that sugar started mounting up for me. And I wanted to get off of it. And I saw the opportunity. So in late July, I challenged my husband to stop eating sugar. And so we did.

Just a few days later, we were at dinner at our favorite restaurant. We had a coupon, a birthday coupon, they gave us a $10 off. And I’d forgotten that it actually included a free dessert. We had declined dessert, but then the waiter came back and reminded us that we had this free one. And so we decided to have the dessert. And honestly, I had only been a few days, but I couldn’t sleep at half. Well, actually a quarter of it, I guess because we were splitting it to begin with. In recent months, I’ve had some pain in my right ankle, and it gotten better. But then the day after we ate that dessert, it was up to about a seven or eight out of 10 whenever I would put weight on it. So I started wondering, could that be the sugar causing that pain?

Well, another week goes by and I kind of forgot the whole thing. And we’re at a wedding. And weddings have cakes right? And I love cake. Well I don’t always love the cake, it depends on the cake. But what I do love is the frosting. I like to say that cake is the socially acceptable way to eat frosting. Because you know, you can’t just go and make a batch of frosting and then eat that whole bowl of frosting, can you? Shhh, I won’t tell.

So, I had some cake and we hang around for a while, and we leave and we drive it was probably close to 20 or 30 minutes. We were in the car. When we stopped and got out I could barely walk on that foot. The pain was like a nine. And I said yep, that’s the sugar. So now I’m involved. I’ve learned that lesson that sugar really is not my friend. That was August 10th. And I’ve been very, very good since. I’ve had a bite or two but not much.

Sugar consumption, though, is is a problem in this country. You know, years ago, years and years ago, gosh, when my grandmother was little, sugar was a luxury. It was truly a treat because it wasn’t readily available. People naturally consumed a lot less of it than they do today. And today. It’s in everything. Literally, if it’s a processed food, it’s probably in there. Numbers today suggests that Americans consume about 100 pounds of sugar per person per year. Can you imagine that? That’s a lot. And we wonder why there’s an epidemic of diabetes and obesity. I think we have our answer there.

Well, what is driving that sugar consumption? We know it’s addictive. And we know it’s in a lot of processed foods. But what if there’s more to it? What if we’re craving a sweetness and sugar is the only substitute we can find readily? It could be a chicken and egg type question. Do we crave sugar because we have so much and we are addicted? Or did we become addicted because we were looking for some sweetness and sugar would provide it?

That goes back to the Five Element Theory which is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The five elements are wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. They relate to five organs: the liver, the heart, the spleen, the lungs, and the kidney. Each of those elements has a flavor:

  • Wood has the sour flavor.
  • Fire has a bitter flavor.
  • Earth has a sweet flavor.
  • Metal has a spicy or pungent flavor.
  • Water has a salty flavor.

Those five flavors all have different effects on the human body in mind. The sour flavor has an astringent effect. The bitter flavor has a strengthening effect. The sweet flavor slows things down, it’s a retarding effect. The spicy or pungent flavor has a dispersing effect. And that salty flavor has a softening effect.

That theory also suggests that all of those flavors support vibrant health and a properly functioning body and mind. As long as they’re in balance. We have been overdosed with that sweet flavor and it’s slowing us down. And it’s quite evident if you just look around. We are suffering with high rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, poor immunity and cancer, all of which are linked to excess sugar consumption. But it’s also slowing down our thinking. How often do we spend our time content to sit in front of TV or some other screen to staring at something or scrolling and scrolling through our social media feeds?

Are we looking for that sweetness? I find myself doing a lot of that scrolling and going back to check what’s out there. And I’ve realized that I am in search of something else. It’s a connection. It’s more people to connect with and talk with on a different level than messages on Facebook.

So what can we do instead of sugar? How can we get our sweetness back? Obviously, we want to cut down on our sugar. And I have pretty much been convinced that I should stay off of it. You know if that’s what you want, then there are sweet vegetables that you could bring into your diet like carrots, potatoes, cabbage, beets, cooked onions, or just bring in fruit.

Maybe you need to find other ways to bring the sweetness back into your life. That’s what I need. Here are some suggestions:

  • Make time to relax.
  • Spend time doing those things that you love. You know, I find myself working and working and working and I have plans for this weekend to to not work.
  • Slow down, stop and smell those roses.
  • Enjoy life or change.
  • Put away your electronics and seek out to talk with actual people.
  • Learn something new and maybe if it’s a class, you’ll meet new people, too.
  • Do work that you love.
  • Enjoy your family and friends without conditions.
  • Do something for yourself. Maybe it’s a massage, maybe it’s a spa day, whatever floats your boat.
  • Forgive others and forgive yourself.

I have a challenge for you. But only if you’re up to it. See what you can do to reduce your sugar consumption. You know, just reduce it, maybe 10% maybe 25, maybe 50%. Maybe cut out a soda or a dessert. You don’t have to give it all up. That might be too drastic for you. But if you have chronic pain, it might be a goal you’d work towards.

And then find some of those new ways to add sweetness into your life.

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