I Quit Sugar
The ‘no fructose’ movement is gaining momentum at the moment and I am firmly on the bandwagon. Sarah Wilson is leading the charge with her book and blog I Quit Sugar. This new movement is not just for those with a fructose allergy, or for those with chronic illnesses, but for everyone. Biologically, we are not built to handle the huge amounts we are assaulted with in the modern diet. Looking at the science, there are two reasons to quit the sweet stuff:
1 – Fructose makes us fat. Briefly, fructose does not trigger the hormone that says “I’m full now, stop eating thanks”, allowing us to eat huge amounts of calories without feeling full. Fructose is also converted directly into fat as it is metabolised directly by the liver.
2 – Fructose makes us sick. There is a scarily long list of health issues that fructose has been linked to. Some of the highlights are that fructose: inhibits our immune system, messes with fertility, speeds up ageing, is connected with dementia, causes indigestion and malabsorption, causes rapid rises in adrenalin, hyperactivity and anxiety, causes fatty liver which leads to insulin resistance and is linked to the precursors of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
The main part of the IQS book is the HOW of quitting sugar. For a better understanding of the science behind why excessive amounts of fructose are bad for the body, try David Gillespie’s book Sweet Poison (well worth a read, book review coming later).
The I Quit Sugar program is done over an 8 week period. The first two weeks are for cutting back your sugar intake – this is much gentler and kinder to the body (the detox symptoms can get nasty for some) as well as the spirit; there is nothing we want so much as the thing that we can’t have! In order to reduce cravings and feel full and satisfied (emotionally as well) Sarah suggests that good fats are introduced to ‘crowd out’ the desire for sugar. I admit, I may have taken this step a bit far, but it was delicious! All fructose is cut out in week three, including high-fructose fruits. This done to recalibrate our tastebuds and reset our eating habits so we become accustomed to eating less sweet foods. At the end of week 8 whole fruit and sweetener alternatives such as stevia and rice malt syrup are added, but by this stage you won’t be craving that sugar fix at 3pm, or automatically reaching for the chocolate when the T.V. goes on.
The best part about the IQS book and website is the gentle and sensible voice of Sarah. She is practical about the realities of food and our relationship with it, and advocates a gentle approach, free from guilt or excessive adherence to arbitrary rules. Admittedly, some of her happy remarks are hard to take, especially when giving up sugar seems akin to cutting a limb off; her suggestion to sate sugar cravings with a milky drink (mmm, the lactose!) or the information that she likes to take a ‘snack cucumber’ with her when hiking quite frankly makes you want to throw something. But while it’s unlikely I’ll be packing a cucumber as a snack any time soon, I can report that with persistence and an attitude of gentle kindness to oneself, you can get there. I have been properly sugar-free for over three months now, and it just keeps getting easier.
Of course I am not perfect and I do have the occasional planned ‘cheat day’ for a special treat out, and some unplanned cravings days, when I just can’t go on without an entire block of Cadbury’s Marvellous Creations. These episodes (and the hangover symptoms that follow the next day) serve to remind me how ‘worth it’ reducing fructose is. Part of my cfs symptoms includes uncomfortable gut problems. While massively reducing my fructose intake has not completely solved these, they have improved, and the ‘bloaty’ feeling that I often get has almost disappeared. I also feel healthier and more perky somehow. My skin is fresher and I feel more alert and resilient. It has not made a huge impact on my chronic fatigue, (although I feel I am improving) but as Sarah says “anyone with a compromised system simply cannot afford to have their stress hormones (adrenalin and cortisol), their neurotransmitter levels (dopamine), or their insulin levels tipped off balance by sugar.” Anything that takes the strain off my body and allows it to get healthier is a good thing, and will help me to heal in the long run.
Here’s a link to Sarah Wilson’s website; http://www.iquitsugar.com/