If you have a gut dysbiosis, autoimmune condition, suddenly find yourself struggling to maintain a healthy weight or balance your blood sugar levels, it is important to take a look at foods you're eating. Chances are, hidden sugar is a cause for your woes.
Sugar - in all forms - can cause an inflammatory response in the body. While sugar might help things like baked goods, breads, pasta, it is one of the biggest culprits in destroying healthy gut flora. It is a big concern for anyone dealing with a gut health issue, such as IBS, Chron's Disease, SIBO or the lesser known IMO (intestinal methane overgrowth).
Some different names for sugar include:
High fructose corn syrup
Malt Barley Syrup
And the list goes on and on!
This ingredient is hidden in just about everything that's packaged! Prepackaged foods are highly processed, with compromised nutritional value, because they are particularly high in sugar, as well as harmful chemicals, additives, acritical ingredients, and sodium. Look at your labels! Be extra mindful when buying "simple things" like yogurt, salad dressings, sports drinks, fruit juices, kombucha, alcoholic beverages and even salty condiments, such as your ketchup. The more you read your labels, the better off you'll be. Note: 4g equals one teaspoon of sugar, to keep things in perspective. A single can of Coke contains 39 grams of sugar. Whoah!! Imagine how much is in the Super Size portion????
The addictive nature of sugary sweets
The more sugar you have in your diet, the more the brain fires off dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with cravings and addiction. It is the chemical in the body that is associated with pleasure and reward. Hence, this is why we Americans have been misguided into thinking that more is better, so why not get the Super Size meal, instead of the single portion?
Some simple swaps...Eat This, Not That!
If you have an addictive personality, as I do, staying away from sugary treats can be difficult, but there are options! More and more, you will find some great keto snack options available. Beware, though, please be mindful of the labels; many processed "healthy foods" contain hidden sugar, such as maltodextrin or erythritol.
A favorite go-to is Eating Evolved brand Keto Cups. I love the coffee flavored ones, because I am not supposed to drink coffee, so this is my little guilty pleasure. 1 gram of sugar, a healthy dose of fats and 2 grams of protein, and I am good to go in the morning! I get mine at either Caraluzzi's Market or Whole Foods. If you live in a more rural area, you may need to purchase these online.
If you love to bake, there are several types of organic sugar choices that are low glycemic and more easily digested:
Stock organic monk fruit or stevia in your cabinet, using this in your morning coffee instead. Large bags of these low-gylcemic sugar products can be purchased, so you can also substitute these for sugar in your baked goods.
Please note: I have learned the hard way that ingredients like Erythritol can wreak havoc on your tummy; if you have a sensitive gut, you may also want to steer clear of this additive. I will say, though, that if you accidentally have a protein bar or food with Erythritol on occasion, you shouldn't have too much of an issue. Everything in moderation is a good rule of thumb; however, if you are sensitive, please tune into your own body and see what works best for you.
A great little splurge:
Here is a family favorite, my classic Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins. Gluten, soy and nut-free, so a good choice for school.
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins - GF, Soy, and Nut-free
Makes 36 mini muffins
Prep-work and Tools:
2 medium to large mixing bowls
Wooden or rubber spatula spoon
2-3 mini muffin tins, 18 muffins each
Grease the tins or use mini muffin liners
Oven to 375 degrees.
Mix together in one large bowl:
1 1/2 cups Krusteaz Gluten Free Flour
1/2 cup Lakota Monk Fruit Sweetener (or 1/4 cup more, if you like it a bit sweeter)
1 teaspoon organic Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon organic Baking Soda
1/4 teaspoon Himalayan Salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground Cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground Ginger
In a second bowl:
1 can organic Pumpkin Puree (or sweet potato)
2 organic Eggs
1/2 cup organic Agave or Local Honey
1/2 cup 2% Cow's Milk, Goat Milk, Flaxseed or Oat Milk (nut milks are fine, if no allergies)
Blend the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing well. Add a generous amount of Enjoy Life Allergen-Free Dark Chocolate Morsels. Add the mixture to each of the muffin tins. Bake at 375 degrees for 18 minutes and then let cool a bit before indulging.
Note: These GF muffins are amazing with melted ghee, the healthier way to do butter. When the family is over for a big celebration and indulging in "mainstream sweets" with gluten and a lot of extra sugar, place these yummy treats out, too. You'll get rave reviews for the taste and also be able to indulge with a small portion, without upsetting your tummy. Extras can be frozen for later use, which helps control portions.
Some good rules to follow, to reset your gut health:
Follow a back-to-basics plan, such as The Whole 30.
The Whole 30 is a wonderful 30-day reset and is a great go-to for most everyone to follow. The Whole 30 asks you to re-examine your foods and incorporate only whole foods, such as fresh meats, poultry, vegetables, healthy nut choices, bone broth, and eggs. All forms of grains - including wheat, barley, malt, rice, and quinoa are not allowed, nor is dairy, soy, legumes, carageenan, peanuts, and all forms of sugar, including stevia and monk fruit. If you have autoimmune issues and are trying to tame a flare, you will also avoid shellfish, nuts, chicken, and nightshades.
The 80/20 Rule:
Eat healthy 80% of the time and indulge 20% of the time with an occasional treat.
Intermittent Fasting helps heal the gut and improves mental clarity, contributing to your overall health and wellness. By simply shortening the length of time in which you eat, you can help heal your body from inflammation and even produce stem cells, to repair the existing damage, if you fast long enough.
Intermittent Fasting Tips:
Start by pushing back your breakfast by one tiny hour. Try this for a few weeks, until you get comfortable, and then move your breakfast out by two hours.
In menopause, I am finding success following a 16/8 fasting window, eating from approximately 8 am to 4 or 4:30 pm every day.
Eating a lighter dinner and allowing your body to fully digest your meal before bed is a wonderful way to calm your intestines and promote healthy gut bacteria.
For more information on my healing work or to schedule a session with me, visit my website. I see clients at Get Glowing Medical Spa in Ridgefield, CT and by appointment at Integrated Health & Wellness, under the direction of Dr. Rich Bailey, longtime chiropractor, acupuncturist and functional medicine practitioner.
I am passionate about helping people move into the very best version of themselves, no matter how old or where you are in your journey! All you need is to be ready to roll up your sleeves and do the inner work. Nothing that is worthwhile in this life is easy....making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle can be life-changing, and I am happy to support you in your wellness journey.
Be well and have an inspirational day!