How a Sugar Binge Affects Your Body
It’s amazing how many of us turn to sugar when we’re in need of a quick pick-me-up; when it comes to relieving workplace stress, exam tension, or general upset, few remedies are as appealing as a bar of chocolate, a tub of ice cream or slice of cake. As tasty as those sugary drinks and sweet snacks are, though, it’s essential that we understand the effects of a sugar binge on our bodies. Sugar is capable of aging your cells as quickly as cigarettes or alcohol, and possibly one of the worst things you can reach for in times of stress or upset. You wouldn’t necessarily take up smoking to calm your nerves, so why is it we fill our bodies with this sweet, but sickly treat?
So, what is all of that sugar doing to your body?
In the first instance you’re likely to feel satisfied, and perhaps a little euphoric as the results of your sugar binge begin to wend their way around your body. Absorbed into the bloodstream within fifteen to thirty minutes sugar is capable of triggering all kinds of chemical reactions, including the release of cortisol, epinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, and beta-endorphins. Your body will interpret those heightened levels of sugar as stress, and react accordingly releasing hormones that calm your nerves and raise your spirits – much like a smoker experiences with a cigarette.
All of that excess sugar must be converted into energy; your pancreas springs into action, creating excess insulin to deal with the glucose that’s coursing through your bloodstream, tissue, organs, and muscles. Excess sugar is sent straight to your liver, where it is stored as fat. Your sugar binge began just half an hour ago, but already your body is starting to show signs of intolerance. A quickened heart rate, perspiration, and flatulence – yes, really –indicate that your body is experiencing increased stress; the exact opposite of what you were hoping to achieve with your guilty snack.
Between thirty and forty-five minutes following your binge, you’ll reach the peak of your sugar rush; the high that you’d been craving when you unwrapped that sweet treat. It doesn’t last, though. A sugar rush is quickly followed by a crash, which is prone to leaving us feeling more upset than we were before. Feelings of lethargy and irritability accompany this hangover, and we’re often left searching for another fix – anything to relieve the stress of just another sugar downer. Are you sure you want to reach for that second helping of sticky toffee pudding?
What are the long-term effects of a sugar binge?
Although, every once in a while, a single slice of cake is unlikely to cause any lasting damage, sugar binges can create disturbing habits and physical symptoms if they’re enjoyed too regularly. Within fifteen minutes of enjoying a single slab of chocolate a mixture of saliva and bacteria has already begun to attack your teeth’s enamel; imagine, then, what frequent sugar binges would do to your pearly whites.
It’s not only your teeth that are at risk from your latest sugar binge, either. That momentary fix could lead to enhanced, and frequent bouts of fatigue, which are your body’s way of telling you that it’s time to slow down. You might also notice that you’re hungry a lot of the time, as your body craves the vital nutrients and goodness that it’s missing out on every time you choose sugar over anything of substance. Neither of those sensations is normal; your body isn’t designed to run on sugar, and sugar alone.
As you’d imagine obesity is prevalent in those who frequently binge on sugar, as is diabetes, which occurs when the body builds up a resistance to insulin and can no longer regulate blood sugar levels. Have I already mentioned the increased risk of strokes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cardiac arrest, and some forms of cancer? Your immune system, battered by frequent hormonal changes will struggle to fight even minor infections and afflictions for up to five hours following a sugar binge, while your skin’s tone and texture is likely to be dramatically affected by sugar’s attacks on collagen and cell renewal. Come to
mention it, that sugar fix seems like an increasingly awful idea.
Is there a healthy way to curb the cravings?
Doom and gloom aside it is possible to move on after a sugar binge and to curb the cravings so that a healthy amount of sugar begins to satisfy your taste for the sweet stuff. There is such a thing as a healthy amount of sugar; women are recommended to limit themselves to 100 calories of sugar a day, while men are suggested to quit at 150 calories. It is also possible to recoup your energy levels and dramatically improve your joie de vivre without any sugar at all; a little more sleep, a healthy amount of exercise, and a great playlist can keep you going.
A balanced diet containing ‘healthy’ sugars and high-energy foods is a must, particularly when it comes to curbing those pesky cravings that landed you in this predicament in the first place. Apples and chia seeds are particularly good for us, providing the equivalent energy to a cup of coffee or a ninety-minute workout, respectively. Green smoothies containing berries, protein powder, and green vegs are delicious and nourishing too; you’ll soon make these your favorites as your cravings subside.
Esteemed scientist and professor of oncology Mikhail Blagosklonny is an advocate of superfoods when it comes to recovering after a binge – or for anyone conscious about their health. Avocado, bananas, sardines, white tea, asparagus, and citrus peels can all contribute to a healthier diet and lifestyle while giving our bodies the break they need from foods rich in fat, sugar, and processed ingredients. Informed as he is, it’s little wonder that so many people are finally listening to advisors such as Blagosklonny when it comes to fighting off cancer and associated conditions.
The effects of a sugar binge are more damaging than you might ever have imagined as you reach for your second slice of cake or chocolate chip cookie. Perhaps the most significant risk posed by a binge is our inability to see the damage that sugar is doing to our bodies, and the ignorance many of us exhibit when it comes to dealing with addiction; sugar addiction is real, and it affects many more of us than we’d be willing to admit. That seemingly harmless snack is doing so much more than raising your blood pressure or sticking itself to your thighs; it’s eroding your self-confidence and exploiting your weakness. Once you start to eliminate sugar from your diet, you feel lighter, happier and more confident!
Kristin McGee is a celebrity yoga and Pilates instructor in New York City. She is the star of over 100 videos, a contributing editor at Health Magazine and a spokeswoman for many brands and causes she believes in. Kristin also appears frequently on television. A proud mom to three, she sure keeps herself busy!