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How does sugar affect my body? 

It’s the time of year when people (like me) are trying to improve their health and wellness. For many, that means ditching sugar, and carbs and reducing your calorie intake. Whilst it’s nicer to feel a bit slimmer in your jeans, minimizing the amount of sugar you consume can do much more for the body than assist in weight loss.  

The sciencey bit behind sugar…

Haemoglobin (Hb) is a protein within your red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body; when it joins with glucose, it is known as HbA1c. In the UK, we use a blood test to measure your HbA1c levels to give us an average over a 2-3 month period; the results will be a normal level, pre-diabetic or diabetic. With this spectrum of results, you are able to make changes before it becomes a problem – if you are concerned about diabetes or your blood sugar level, you should speak to your GP. 

So, what’s the problem with sugar?  

Simply, it makes everything sticky! If you’ve ever come face to face with a two-year-old with a packet of sweets, you know what I mean! The higher your glucose level, the stickier your haemoglobin becomes, and eventually, it can stick to other proteins or fats (creating what’s known as an AGE) and stop them from functioning normally. For example, your super sticky haemoglobin could bind to a nerve that relays information between your brain and the rest of your body (peripheral) and suddenly you’ve lost sensation in a finger, or it could bind to a capillary causing you to lose circulation. 

For chiropractors, one of the most difficult things to manage is that glucose can also bind to collagen. Collagen plays an essential role in the structure of skin, cartilage, bones and connective tissue. Now, if it’s all gloopy and caked in sugar, your individual strands of collagen can get joined together like a net. This makes your collagen less elastic; resulting in stiffness throughout the body. When people start to feel stiff, they book in for treatment, hoping for a miracle fix, but often people fail to respond as well to care because their collagen just isn’t as flexible as it once was. 

Long-term health benefits of lowering your blood sugar 

  • Reverse insulin resistance which is closely associated with obesity, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 
  • Increase the period of your life spent in ‘good health’ – preventing cognitive decline and reducing age-related conditions such as high blood pressure and strokes. 
  • Improve hormone health and help everything from your stress levels to your sex drive! 

Short term health benefits 

  • Increase energy, reduce fatigue and more focused 
  • Improve your mood including anxiety and stress 
  • Fewer cravings 
  • Clearer skin 

What can I do? 

  • Get at least of 150minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise, using a combination of cardiovascular and resistance exercise. 
  • Avoid eating too many carbohydrates or sugar – fill your plate with lots of colourful vegetables and lean protein. Stick to similar meal times with regular intervals and don’t skip meals. 
  • Lower your cortisol levels by practising meditation or deep breathing 
  • Get a good night’s sleep and stick to a sleep schedule! 

Hopefully, by now you’ve got no gooey, chocolatey goodness leftover from Christmas and with lent coming up in February, perhaps try letting go of the sweet stuff and see if you feel some short-term benefits. If you do, keep it going and change your future health.  

Elizabeth Garvey
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