Carbohydrates. Let's start here.
"Carbohydrates come from nearly all foods in your diet and eventually break down into glucose. You need glucose, the simplest form of carbohydrates, to provide energy to every cell in your body. Because glucose is your body's main energy source, most of your calories need to come from carbohydrates. Animal meat and some types of seafood are the few foods that lack carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are either simple or complex. Simple carbs include fructose, or fruit sugar; lactose, which is milk sugar; and sucrose, more commonly known as refined white sugar. Complex carbohydrates, which are starches in bread and potatoes, are long complex branches that take longer to digest. Your diet should include 45 to 65 percent calories from carbohydrates, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. All carbs offer 4 calories per gram. Following a 2,000-calorie diet means that you need 225 to 325 total grams of carbohydrates each day. Both simple and complex carbohydrates end up as glucose, but digestion of each of these carbs is slightly different."
So we need carbs to live but too many carbs can be bad for us, especially when we are eating straight sugar (let's look at the "bad" sugar for this post).
"In most cases, fructose is bad for you because of how it's processed by the body. Fructose can only be metabolized by the liver, which is not a good thing. This means a greater number of calories—about three times more than glucose—are going through liver processes and that results in a much higher production of VLDL (the bad cholesterol mentioned earlier) and fat. It also results in a higher production of uric acid and a lot of other things you don't want, which is believed to lead to fun stuff like hypertension and high blood pressure."
(My liver panels are always slightly off when I go for my blood tests! Although my cholesterol is good, so who knows...)
I feel we should mention the "good" sugar, which was already covered above:
"Glucose is a simple sugar that your body likes. Your cells use it as a primary source of energy, so when you consume glucose, it's actually helpful. When it's transported into the body, it stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin."
What happens if you are "sugar sensitive?"
"Sugar Sensitivity is an inherited biochemical condition that has predictable and specific effects on the brain and on a person’s behavior. What foods a sugar-sensitive person eats and when they eat them will affect them profoundly. Sugar sensitivity describes three core issues:
- Volatile blood sugar that overreacts to refined carbohydrates
- Low natural levels of the brain chemical Serotonin that affects mood and the ability to say no.
- Low natural levels of the brain chemical Beta Endorphin that modulates both physical and emotional pain."
"What is clear is that people who have prediabetes aren't quite processing sugar (glucose) properly anymore. This causes sugar to build up in the bloodstream instead of doing its normal job of fueling the cells that make up muscles and other tissues.
. . .
During digestion, sugar enters your bloodstream and with the help of insulin is then absorbed into the body's cells to give them energy.
Insulin is a hormone that comes from the pancreas, a gland located just behind the stomach. When you eat, your pancreas secretes insulin into your bloodstream. As insulin circulates, it acts like a key that unlocks microscopic doors that allow sugar to enter your cells. Insulin lowers the amount of sugar in your bloodstream. As your blood sugar level drops, so does the secretion of insulin from your pancreas."
And how about those of us who have had gastric bypass and get dumping syndrome?
"Dumping syndrome can occur after any operation on the stomach as well as after removal of the esophagus (esophagectomy). Gastric bypass surgery for weight loss is the most common cause today. It develops most commonly within weeks after surgery, or as soon as you return to your normal diet. The more stomach removed or bypassed, the more likely that the condition will be severe. It sometimes becomes a chronic disorder."
The best way to avoid dumping syndrome?
"Avoid eating sugar and other sweets..."
Want to completely cut sugar out of your life because you've heard rumors that it feeds diseases such as cancer?
"There is no conclusive research on human subjects to prove that sugar makes cancerous cells grow and metastasize. Avoiding foods with processed sugar is a good idea in general, but eliminating foods with natural sugar won’t stop cancer cells from dividing.
In fact, every cell in the human body – including cancer cells – need blood sugar in the form of glucose for energy. Most people associate the term 'sugar' with the white sugar we put in coffee. When talking about biological processes, sugar is a general term for dozens of vital chemical structures in our bodies."
I definitely need to cut down on the refined sugars. If I eat too much, I quickly get sweaty and tired, which indicates I'm experiencing dumping syndrome. And, although my blood sugar doesn't indicate that I'm pre-diabetic (my fasting blood sugar is always around 90 -- right after surgery, I actually had quite a few episodes of low blood sugar that caused me to pass out), I do worry that there may only be a finite amount of insulin available in my body and if I keep using it up by eating tons of sugar, my pancreas may run out. I do love fruit. I could eat watermelon and grapes all day (although grapes can make me dump too). But winter doesn't leave as many yummy fruit options available.
Are you a sugar-a-holic? How do you keep yourself from eating up all the good stuff when it's around?