How Sugar Wreaks Havoc on Fibromyalgia (And the Amazingly Simple Way to Beat It)
It’s 3 p.m. and I’m at my office desk. I fidget restlessly in my chair. The afternoon crash is starting to hit me. I tell myself to stay strong – just drink some water and push through it. Then I glimpse the soft, inviting glow of the soda machine sitting just 20 feet away in the break room. My heart flutters. As determined as I am to win this battle, in my heart I know I have already lost.
I grab my quarters and walk anxiously (and somewhat ashamedly) to the machine to get my afternoon fix. As the sweet taste of Coke touches my tongue, by body rewards me with by releasing pleasure endorphins. Mmmmm…so delicious.
I’ll do better tomorrow, I tell myself – as I do every afternoon around this same time.
Does that story sound familiar? Hopefully you’re stronger than me – but if not, don’t worry – you’re not alone. In fact, Americans in general have an unhealthy addiction to sugar. For one – it’s delicious. On top of that, it’s everywhere! In his book Sugar Crush, Dr. Richard Jacoby notes that 80% of the food supply in America has high fructose corn syrup. The average American consumes 150 lbs of sugar each year!
How does sugar affect chronic pain?
What does all that sugar do to us? Well – we already know that it’s unhealthy when consumed in excessive amounts. For those of us with chronic pain, sugar is even more dangerous. While it’s tempting to consume sugar filled foods or drinks to give us energy, too much of the stuff can lead to accelerated weight gain (among other things). According to various studies published in the Journal of Pain, obesity has a direct affect in increasing the severity of symptoms including pain, function, mood and sleep.
Sugar also wreaks havoc on the nerves – which can lead to sharp pain, numbness or tingling associated with nerve damage. When consumed in large amounts, sugar causes the nerves to absorb water. As the water is absorbed, the nerves swell. At the same time, sugar makes the nerves and their protective coating (known as the myelin sheath), less pliable and more prone to cracking and damage. Over the long term, this combination of less pliable nerves and repeated swelling can damage the nerves, resulting in neuropathy (whose symptoms include sharp, stabbing pains in the hands, legs, arms and feet).
How can I overcome my sugar addiction?
Kicking a sugar addiction can be near impossible if you don’t have a plan. A lot of people try going cold turkey. After multiple failed attempts, they often abandon any hope and give up entirely on trying to cut sugar out. One of our favorite strategies for eliminating sugar is the one Dr. Axe outlines in his YouTube video below. If you don’t have time to watch the full video right now, look below to see our notes and a quick outline of the 4 steps he says are essential to successfully overcoming your sugar addiction:
Step 1: Add in food that balance out blood sugar levels
According to Dr. Axe, this is the first step to take. Balancing out blood sugar levels is a key step to calming your sugar cravings. Notice he doesn’t say to cut out sugar yet, so he’s not recommending you go cold turkey. Rather, you should add in foods to your diet that will help to naturally start to curb those sugar cravings. The three types of foods he recommends are:
+ Proteins (i.e. organic grass fed beef, wild turkey, organic whey protein powder)
+ Healthy Fats (i.e. chia seeds, flax seeds, almonds, coconut oil)
+ Fiber (i.e. vegetables, nuts, seeds, berries)
In addition to helping balance your blood sugar levels, these foods will keep you fuller longer – which is key to curbing those cravings!
Step 2: Start eliminating sugars & grains from your diet
Like any other addictive thing, the more sugar you eat the more your body wants it. So, after you’ve spent a few weeks adding in food to help curb your cravings, begin slowly weaning yourself off of sugar and continue adding healthy replacements in its place. Things like smoothies or protein powders can be lifesavers at this stage in the process!
Step 3: Take the right supplements to balance out blood sugar
To continue to balance out blood sugar and curb your sugar cravings, Dr. Axe recommends four different supplements:
This is a mineral used by the body for various functions, including digesting food and moving blood sugar from the bloodstream into cells to be used for energy. Chromium helps balance blood sugar levels and is often used by patients with type 2 diabetes to manage blood sugar. It also helps the body burn fat. According to Dr. Axe, you should take 200 mcg three times daily, with meals.
B-Complex vitamins supplement
B-vitamins will help curb your sugar cravings by keeping us running. Their primary role is to help our bodies convert food into fuel to allow us to stay energized throughout the day. B-vitamins can be especially helpful in eliminating those afternoon crashes that can often make us want to reach for sugar.
Probiotics help eliminate yeast – which feeds off of sugar – from your system. Eliminating yeast and bad bacteria will help reduce your sugar cravings.
High quality fiber supplements can also be beneficial to anyone trying to cut back on sugar. You can take a fiber supplement or you can add in fiber-rich flax or chia seeds to your meals.
Step 4: Do the RIGHT type of exercise
No – you don’t need to jump on the treadmill and run 3 miles. In fact, Dr. Axe says that cardio exercises like running can actually increase your body’s cravings for sugar. He recommends exercises like yoga or Pilates. Not only will these exercises help reduce your cravings; they’re also better fitted for those of us with chronic pain because they are low-impact and cause less stress on the body. In fact, yoga and Pilates are commonly recommended as alternative exercises that can help to manage fibromyalgia pain.
With an overwhelmingly unhealthy addiction to sugar plaguing the United States and many other countries – the time is now to make changes that will improve your health and well-being. For anyone with chronic pain, reducing or eliminating sugar from their diet can pay big dividends and help reduce the severity of their symptoms.
How many times have you tried cutting back on sugar unsuccessfully? Share your experiences below or comment on our Facebook Page and tell us what has or hasn’t worked for you!