Nutritional series 1

Inflammation steals your energy

Your energy levels are the best indicator of health. Energy to do the things you seek out in life. Energy also translates to clarity of mind and focus. If on the other hand you feel sluggish, sleepy during the day this can be an indication that something is not working right and stealing your energy. And in most cases what hurts your energy status is inflammation. Inflammation is stealing your energy. And sugar might be main reason for inflammation.

Why energy?

Let’s consider the car analogy. All cars  need fuel of-course or they can’t function. It might be diesel, petrol, gas, electricity, but it doesn’t really matter. As long as each model has the right fuel, and enough fuel in the tank you expect that they run as per their specification. If they don’t run as fast you expect or they make strange noises you know something is wrong and you call your mechanic right? And every cars needs to product a steady energy. Not running as expected or producing the right output is obviously a malfunction. 

I really hope you never had car problem. They cause problems, they cost money and we would be all better off without them.

 If you can relate to the above example, you should not be surprised if I tell you that humans are exactly the same. When we have the right nutrients and the right amount of them we should be producing a steady amount of energy to fuel all the function we need in an optimal way. This energy is produced in every single cell that has mitochondria which is the energy factory of the cell and is called ATP. The process is very complex but at the end everything should work as expected. You have the right amount of energy throughout the day!!

This is the single indicator that your body is well tuned machine. That everything is working well and no parts are falling. If there are parts that need fixing you can’t really perform optimally. 

Inflammation steals your energy

We mostly connect inflammation with skin wounds caused by injuries or with sport accidents like twisting an ankle. These injuries all require an inflammatory response, like a swelling for example, in order to support the healing process. Inflammation in these cases is required and healthy and as long as the wound heals this is called acute inflammation.

On the other hand however we can very well have inflammation in various parts or organs within our body which we might never relate to as inflammation. However these are the most deadly ones as they can be going on for years and can increase our risk of various diseases such as cardiovascular disease or even cancer. This is know as chronic inflammation.

When any type of inflammation is occuring in our body, this is treated as an emergency state which needs to be addressed. More blood flows to the inflamed area to carry nutrients, while the fire brigade (see your immune white blood cells) is sent there to put out the fire. This state of alert means that many resources that should be doing other jobs have left their position. You can’t run if your gut is messed-up. Maybe only till the toilet! 

And there are many types of inflammation. Here we will consider the below

  • Cellular inflammation : Taking place inside a cell. This can be very dangerous and is called by many as the silent killer. A damaged cell might alter it’s DNA structure, replicate without control all of which is very tightly coupled with cancer.
  • Joint inflammation : Taking place in areas around the joints where there is a lot of intersticial fluid. This leads to arthritis which are the main reason of a reduced quality of life in the elderly.
  • Intestinal inflammation : Taking place in the gut, and impacting us in so many ways. Triggering auto-immune conditions, SIBO and celiac just to name a few
  • Vascular inflammation : Taking place in our veins and arteries and the main cause of clotting, cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.

Summary

  • Inflammation is a process that injures your tissues, joints, and blood vessels, and you often do not notice it until significant damage is done.
  • Inflammation is an emergency state for the body which can turn into chronic inflammation if not treated.
  • Inflammation of any sort diverts energy to the inflamed area and human performance can be severely decreased.

Sugar and inflammation

Let me come directly to the point. Sugar is at the heart of each of the mentioned inflammations. Sugar can cause global  chronic inflammation! And let me give you a clear real life example which you are probably not aware of.

The effect of glucose - TPN

During some surgeries patients are provided nutrition in the form of intervenous (IV) glucose. This is called TPN. What is interesting is the this IV is only placed in one of the large veins closed to the heart. The reason? 

To avoid damaging the smaller periphelar veins causing clotting due to higher concentration of glucose! You heard it right. It is well know that high glucose concentration are damaging to the arteries.And TPN is generally controlled to be below 180mg/dl, which is the glucose you typically have when eating cakes and sweets! Read it again please!!!

Now that you know what the effect of sugar can be let’s take a closer look.

1. Sugar and instestinal inflammation

  • Sugar can cause chaos already upon chewing it starting from the mouth where excess sugar causes issues at the gums.
  • Going furhter down, when sugar is overeaten there is a relaxation of the esophagus sphincter, which causes this acid reflex in our esophagus. This can be very toxic and dangerous. 
  • In the small intestine the high concentration of sugar affects the lining of the cells, changes the PH of the intestine due to the sugar fermentation process. This can lead to IBS, Celiac, Chrome’s disease to name only a few of some of the most inflammatory conditions that lead to many auto-immune issues.

2. Sugar and vascular inflammation

From the gut the sugar needs to travel through the blood to be distributed. This is a long and dangerous journey.

  • Sugar decreases the elasticity of blood vessels and causes them to narrow, impeding blood flow. This can lead to a reduced supply of blood and oxygen, increasing the risk of high blood pressure and damage to large and small blood vessels. 
  • Sugar also detroys the structures of structure of the blood vessels, creating clotting. This is why the most predictable test for the risk of heart disease is a corony CT scan. This is where we typically have the highest concentration of glucose.
  •  And you can’t exercise that sugar off. This sugar will hit your blood vessels whether you want it or not!

3. Sugar and interstitial fluid inflammation

Interstitial fluid are found in the space between the blood vessels and the cells. It comes from substances that  travel from the blood capillaries (the smallest type of blood vessel). It helps bring oxygen and nutrients to cells and to remove waste products from them. Interstitial fluid consists of a water solvent containing sugars, salts, collagen, fatty acids, amino acids, coenzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, white blood cells and cell waste-products.

You might know that sugar is retaining a lot of water. It really acts like a spunge. As sugar crosses the blood stream towards the cells it sucks up even more water from that space. When eventually sugar is absorbed by the various cells you are now left with all that excess water which builds up in the interstitial space.  This will 

  • Cause swelling of the joints that so many people are suffering from
  • Cause concusion in the brain which is swelling of the interstitial space
  • Increase the blood pressure

Further to the above sugar attaches itself to collagen and can cause inflammation in every joint of the body. If you wake-up every day very stiff, this is interstitial fluid inflammation around the joints. This is called glycosolation.

4. Sugar and cellular inflammation

When we eat, the cells are supposed to take up the glucose they need for their necessary function. If we eat too much sugar though we can overwelm the cells with many side effects. 

  • Mitochondria damage
  • Reduction of O3 fatty acids, which are the anti-inflammatory agents in our cells.
  • Damage to the cellular skeleton.
  • Damages of the cellular proteins and communication pathways.
  • Damages to the DNA structure and function of genes. 

If there are DNA damages, you run the risk the altering the behaviour of the genes. You might turn-on genes which should be off. This might very well lead to cancer. 

It is important to note that the intestines and blood vessels are the first to be affected by excess consumption of sugar since sugar needs to travel every time both through the gut and the blood stream before reaching the cells. Even that one ice-cream creates some of those effects. The good thing is that the liver can store some glucose in the form of glycogen and minimise the damage.

Summary

  • Sugar has very inflammatory effects as it travels through the body.

What should you do

All carbs have sugar. It doesn’t matter if it is an apple or an ice-cream. Both will turn into glucose into your body.

This does not make them all equal but you have to consider your own individuality.  One approach is to know if you can handle carbs well and what is your carb threshold. You can then choose how to integrate sugar into your lifestyle.

Here are some simple tips.

  • Avoid Refine Sugar : There are some red lines when it comes to sugar. I don’t think there is any place, in any diet, for sweets, cookies, breads, ice-creams or any refined products, 
  • Limit starches : Most starches should be limited, to small portions and once in a while. I would say that once a week is plenty. That goes for potatoes and rice. 
  • Eat fruit seasonally : Some fruit, if they are tolerated, can be included during some period of the year. In the past, druit were only found seasonally and mostly during summer. If you want a guide so as to what to eat for this simple tip. Seasonal, fresh and local. Try also to stick to low glycemic load fruit (<7)
  • Wear a CGM : Wearing a continious glucose monitor can give your a great insight to your carb tolerance levels.
  • Follow keto : A ketogenic diet is sustainable, healthy and delicious diet which avoids all the pitfalls of high sugar diets. It is shown in various studies that keto, when done correctly, helps lower inflammation levels.
  • Eat vegetables : Fiberous carbs help minimise the effect of glucose as they will slow down the digestion and distribution of glucose into the blood stream. Most vegetables usually have moderate carbs and come with some fiber which make them the best option when it comes to carbs.

Final Thoughts

  • Your energy levels can be a very good indicator of your health and inflammation levels. 
  • Most health problems are manifested from some sort of chronic inflammation issue. 
  • High sugar consumption is at the core of most inflammatory conditions as these food are not found in nature and we are not able to handle them.
  • High sugar consumption is lethal. Avoid refined sugar at all costs, while being smart with your carbs.
  • Follow a health ketogenic diet to reduce inflammation and feel better.
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