“Believe it or not, milk contains lactose, which is a sugar, disaccharide. It’s very unhealthy” – Dr. Kevin Jackson
Rob Heppell: Welcome to the “Your Best You Today” show. I’m your host, Rob Heppell, and I’m joined with health expert Dr. Kevin Jackson. Dr. Kevin is a naturopathic doctor who’s been helping people find natural solutions to their health issues for over 25 years.
With the “Your Best You Today” online radio show, we’re going to dive into the common health issues and explore natural solutions to them. Welcome back to the show, Dr. Kevin.
Dr. Kevin Jackson: Hey, Rob.
Rob: Hey, last time we had a great episode. We were talking about the effects of sugar that sweet little tablespoon of white granular stuff that tastes so good, really can wreak havoc on our body.
Before we dive in a little bit deeper on sugar, just give us a little bit of a recap of what we talked about.
Dr. Jackson: Last time we talked a little bit about the effects of insulin as a result of sugar intake. Sugar increases our insulin levels and insulin has some really negative effects on health.
The one thing that we touched on last time is that insulin tells our body to store fat. It’s more important in fat storage than any other single factor in our body.
When we’re ingesting large amounts of sugar for prolonged periods of time, we’re increasing our insulin levels. If that insulin is there in high quantities, then we’re constantly in storage mode.
If we’re constantly in storage mode, it’s pretty hard to lose weight when your body is storing fat constantly.
One thing we didn’t talk about, we touched on it last time. We talked about how fruit juice is a really unhealthy thing to ingest, contrary to popular belief.
The big five things that we ingest that contain sugar, number one, by far and away, is soft drinks. That accounts for 33 percent of our sugar intake. Number two on the list counting for about 16 percent of our sugar intake is candy, chocolates, that kind of thing.
Number three, accounting for 13 percent of our sugar intake is cakes, cookies, and pies. Number four, at around 10 percent is fruit drinks. Number five, dairy, desserts, and milk.
Believe it or not, milk contains lactose, which is a sugar, disaccharide. It’s very unhealthy. Contrary to popular belief, again, milk is not something you want to put into your body on a regular basis.
We’re going to be talking about it in an episode down the line. Today, we want to really concentrate on the effects of sugar on insulin.
Again, it affects our body. It tells our body to store fat but what else does it do?
Insulin has a number of negative effects on human health. The first thing is there’s an indirect effect when insulin is elevated inflammation is promoted in the body.
If you have any disease that ends in “itis”, bursitis, arthritis, tendonitis, it means inflammation of, the tendon, the bursa, the joint. Insulin promotes inflammation, through a number of inflammatory pathways or cascades.
What that means is if we have a lot of sugar in our body or we’re ingesting a lot of sugar, which is causing our insulin to go up, it’s there promoting inflammation in the body, in a number of ways. For some people it manifests much more than other people.
Not everybody is going to see that effect, but commonly what I see in people who ingest a lot of sugar, is by the time they hit 50, 60 years of age, they’re much more prone to osteoarthritis.
Osteoarthritis, which is considered by the medical profession, conventional medical profession, to be a wear and tear disease of old age, is really very treatable.
In fact, if somebody comes into my office, and if they’ve had osteoarthritis for only a couple of years or less, most cases, we can get rid of that. Not by taking drugs to kill the pain but by actually treating the cause of the problem.
Often that cause is sugar or one of the sugar metabolites. These people, are often ingesting sugars, in some form, often hidden in large quantities.
When we get that sugar out of their diet, often the inflammation goes down and you see a resolution or diminishment in the problem, which is often driven by this insulin sugar combination.
Rob: You said if someone, for a short period of time, if someone has arthritis, and they’ve had it for even 10 years, they still have an opportunity to get rid of it…if they change their diet, their joints are going to be able to work a bit better?
Dr. Jackson: Absolutely, Rob. I have a number of patients who were on the waiting list for hip or knee replacements and by making dietary changes…It’s not just sugar that does this. It’s not just insulin. There are many things in our diet that can promote inflammation.
But a number of these people who were waiting to have these body parts replaced took themselves off the list because they didn’t need it anymore, because we’re able to get the inflammation of their body down because a lot of the inflammation that I see in chronic inflammatory conditions is driven by what we’re putting into our body.
I mean that’s a huge part of this. I just can’t emphasize enough how important it is to get the sugar out of your body and watch what the effect is.
What I say to people is this, “Get all the sugar out of your diet and the worst thing that’s going to happen to you is you’re going to be healthier.” That’s the worst thing. You’re not going to feel so good maybe in the first week that you do this because it’s like a hangover. It’s like a detox effect almost.
People often tell me that “I’ve never felt worse than I did for those first three days when I took sugar out of my diet.” Which speaks volumes because it tells you how severely addicted the person is and how their body is so adapted to having that sugar there all the time. When it’s gone, it goes into shock almost.
That’s another important factor, inflammation and the insulin‑sugar combination. We’ve talked about the fat deposition and storing fat driven by insulin and sugar.
The third thing that’s important with regards specifically to insulin is that insulin blocks magnesium from entering smooth muscle cells and that’s kind of a mouthful.
But what that means is there’s this special type of muscle in our body called smooth muscle. Smooth muscle wraps around the arteries and it’s involved in organ systems. When you block magnesium from entering smooth muscle, the muscle contracts.
You could picture this. If all your arteries in your body are surrounded by this type of smooth muscle and you stopped or blocked magnesium from getting into that muscle cell and as a result, the muscle has to constrict or contract then all of our blood vessels get smaller in diameter. What happens? Your blood pressure goes up.
About a third of all North Americans over the age of 20 have high blood pressure or what’s considered to be elevated blood pressure or hypertension.
By changing and getting rid of sugar from your diet, it has a profound effect in lowering blood pressure by relaxing that smooth muscle and allowing the blood vessels to dilate. Even more importantly than reducing hypertension if your blood vessels are constricted all the time, it increases your risk of stroke and heart attack.
Why? Because if you have plaque buildup in your arteries like most people do and you make your arteries smaller in diameter, now, there’s a greater chance that you’re going to get an occlusion or blockage in those arteries.
By keeping the sugar and therefore the insulin out of the picture, you now allowed those arteries to get bigger in diameter and actually reduce your risk of stroke and heart attack.
Rob: So, what we’ve covered already is that it affects your fat storage. Now, we’re getting into how it affects other parts, your joints, and now like even your circulatory system and preventing high blood pressure.
I wasn’t even thinking when you said we get to talk about sugar and I said, “OK, this is great because we can maybe not gain as much weight.” Are there any other negative effects sugar has on our body?
Dr. Jackson: Yes, absolutely. Again, sticking with the sugar‑insulin connection because if you’re eating a lot of sugar over a prolonged period of time, your insulin goes up.
If your insulin’s high for prolonged periods of time, it tends to elevate your cholesterol levels and especially the LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol in your body. There’s a lot of controversy about cholesterol and we’re going to talk about cholesterol in another episode.
But the bad cholesterol, the LDL, that’s the stuff you don’t want a lot in your body.
When your insulin’s elevated, it tends to push cholesterol levels up, the LDL cholesterol levels up. That’s not a good thing. That’s something we want to try and avoid.
Again, by keeping the sugar out, you’ll often lower your bad cholesterol and your triglycerides, which is another negative indicator for total health.
That’s a really positive thing when you’re monitoring blood work or if you’re on a statin drug like so many people in North America are. We’ll be talking about statin drugs in another episode as well because I don’t believe anybody should be on statin drugs.
It’s important, I think, to look at cholesterol vis‑à‑vis sugar and insulin and that almost never is the case. We’re told to avoid eggs and saturated fats which play very little role in our cholesterol levels.
Rob: What else is sugar/increased insulin doing to us when we’re sneaking a chocolate bar and whether it’s Easter time or Halloween or anytime that we think that we can grab a sweet treat?
Dr. Jackson: We already mentioned that it’s very common place for people just to incorporate sugar into their diet. You don’t think anything about it. You have that sweet after a meal or the snack between meals often has something sweet in it.
It adds up to this ongoing effect on elevated insulin. For a lot of people, this is the biggest player. I mean obviously the weight gain and the fat storage is huge for many people. But the big thing for a lot of people is that when insulin is elevated for a prolonged period of time, and this is a little confusing, it suppresses serotonin levels.
Actually when you first elevate insulin or you elevate insulin earlier on in life, it actually increases your serotonin levels which is a neurotransmitter in the brain. When you increase it, you actually feel better. But with prolonged exposure to insulin, 40 years down the road, it starts to suppress your serotonin.
This is something I see, it’s so common place. So many people are on anti‑depressant medications because their serotonin levels are low. When serotonin is low and again it’s suppressed by elevated insulin for prolonged periods of time, when your serotonin is low, it affects your sleep potentially.
It can cause anxiety and depression. It can cause obsessive compulsive thoughts and behaviors, negative thinking, repetitive thoughts, addictive‑type behavior, low energy, irritability, brain fog, craving carbohydrates, and increased appetite. The strange thing about this is when your serotonin is low it’s actually telling your body to eat more of those carbohydrates and sweets.
You eat them, your blood sugar goes up, your insulin goes, up, your serotonin goes down, and you crave them more. All the while, potentially feeling more depressed, anxious, sleep‑deprived, and obsessive and compulsive and all the other things I mentioned, brain fog, etc.
It can be a very difficult vicious cycle to pull yourself out of when you don’t really know what’s causing it.
Inevitably people if their major symptom from this particular situation is depression, they’re on anti‑depressant medications. Anti‑depressant medications, I think, are the number three prescribed drug in North America right now. There are a lot of people on these medications and many of them are very difficult to get off of.
A lot of what I do in my practice is helping people get off these medications, get their serotonin back to normal naturally so that they’re not relying on an SSRI drug or Selective Serotonin Re‑uptake Inhibitor to increase their serotonin artificially.
These are probably the five most important things about the negative implications of elevated insulin on our health and they are far‑reaching. Just a couple of other things, Rob, that I want to mention about sugar without even looking specifically at insulin is that sugar is linked to cancer growth, the growth of tumor cells.
Virtually, all tumor cells in the human body thrive on sugar. I treat a lot of people with cancer, different types of cancers. One of the very first things I tell every single one of them is to get their sugar to as close to zero as possible every day.
There’s an interesting analogy to this and that is there’s a test that’s done specifically for cancer and it’s called a PET scan. This PET scan, what it does is it puts an ingredient into your blood stream. That ingredient goes directly to the tumor cells in your body.
On the x‑ray, it lights up like a Christmas tree. Always little areas or major areas of tumor cell growth in the body will actually glow or show as hot spots on the radiograph. Interestingly enough, the substance that they use to send into the bloodstream that they tie the dye to is sugar.
Rob: They’re using sugar to get to the cancer and the reason why the sugar gets to the cancer is the cancer wants sugar?
Dr. Jackson: Absolutely. In a nutshell without getting into the really complicated part of this, absolutely, that’s what it boils down to. As a result, I mean that is probably the clearest indicator that sugar should never be ingested by any person who’s trying to recover from any form of cancer.
The other thing that ties into this, to some extent, is that sugar is an immune suppressant. It takes down our immune system. It shuts down or reduces the efficacy of our immune system. When you look at vitamin C, our immune system…this is one of the very important fuels in the tank of our immune system.
Our immune system runs on vitamin C if you will. I mean there are many things that are important to the immune system but vitamin C is a very important part. Sugar and vitamin and C are actually very close, chemically. The immune system can’t really distinguish effectively between vitamin C and sugar, glucose.
In fact, we’re only one of, I think, three animals on the planet that don’t make our own vitamin C. We need it from the outside. Most animals make their vitamin C from glucose. They’re very close, chemically. The immune system can’t distinguish between glucose and vitamin C.
If you shove a bunch of glucose, sugar, into your bloodstream, your immune system gobbles it up. But it doesn’t have everything necessary for immune system to function optimally, so it actually can’t function optimally.
As a result, your immune system underfunctions, because it can’t distinguish between the vitamin C and the glucose. Net effect, sugar suppresses our immune system. What I often see with patients is that people who have high‑sugar diets, they’re frequently ill.
They’re more prone to colds and flus. That isn’t always the case, but I often see that. I’ll see that in kids, especially, where their immune system’s trying to develop. It’s trying to become more powerful, as time goes on, and more intelligent, really, is what it comes down to.
If it’s suppressed by sugar all the time, those kids are going to be much more susceptible to the effects of microorganisms they are exposed to. To wrap that up, it’s to say sugar has so many deleterious effects on our health. We just touched on the highlights of the negative implications of sugar.
When people say, “Wow, it tastes good. It’s got to have something good that it does for us.” The answer is aside from taste, there’s nothing positive you can say about sugar. A lot of people say, “You have to have sugar for energy, don’t you?” Absolutely not. You never, ever have to put sugar in any form into your body.
Again, recapping what we said before, that’s brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup, honey, agave syrup, white sugar. It doesn’t matter. It’s all the same thing, basically. A lot of people fool themselves into believing, “I’m using agave syrup. It’s supposed to be actually quite good for us.” It’s absolutely not good for us, because it has the same effect on insulin.
The insulin, in prolonged periods of time, as I said, has all these other implications in our health, and all negative. Even for diabetics. A Type 1 diabetic has to inject themselves, or have an insulin pump. They need to have insulin on a regular basis.
But what I help Type 1 diabetics do is to minimize the amount of insulin that they have to use every day by reducing the foods that provoke the necessity for insulin.
Insulin, in that situation, saves lives. But we still have to get these people, who are Type 1 diabetics to minimize that insulin they’re using every day. They’ll be so much healthier, as a result.
I’ve helped many, many patients with their health. This is something I often see is that Type 1 diabetics, and Type 2 diabetics, tend to have issues around obesity as they get a little older. If we can get that insulin down, there’s a better chance they’re going to lose that weight, and they’re going to be much healthier, as a result.
Rob: If we flip this onto the other side, then, if we reduce our sugar, we’re going to gain less fat, or we’re going to create less fat. Our joints are going to work better.
Dr. Jackson: I would say we’re going to have less inflammation in our bodies. For some people, that manifests as a joint issue. For other people, that could be chronic bladder infections. Anything that involves inflammation, basically. You’re right.
Rob: We also won’t be strangling our cardiovascular system as much. From our serotonin levels, we’re going to be happier, less irritable, less stressed, sleep better.
If we’re fighting cancer, we’re going to starve cancer from one of the things it’s looking for, as you explained in that.
Just from our immune system, we’re not going to be suppressing our immune system, so we should be healthier as we go through flu season or what have you.
Dr. Jackson: Absolutely. I guess the final, crowning glory to all that is that if your immune system is functioning optimally all the time, or optimally more often, then there’s less chance that you are going to potentially come down with things like cancer.
Cancer, obviously, there’s a very complicated rationale behind how cancer actually starts in the human body, but our immune system plays a role in that. If our immune system is functioning optimally, there is less chance that we’ll end up with cancer, which is fast becoming the number one killer in North America.
It’s currently not, but it will exceed heart disease or cardiovascular disease as the number one killer, certainly in this century. I think there are so many great reasons to stop or dramatically reduce sugar in our diets.
We’ve touched on a few of those today, but if you’re looking to act preventively, because cancer is such a big problem, and I’m sure that every one of our listeners knows somebody who either has cancer or has died from cancer, we need to do everything we can to try to prevent this nasty disease. Getting sugar out of our diets is certainly a big step in the right direction.
Rob: Now that we’ve really laid it out for them, over the last couple episodes, why they should reduce their intake, or eliminate their intake to the best of their ability, of sugar, what are some of the strategies? I know what it’s like. Those three or four days are like hell.
Dr. Jackson: The three or four days when you stop?
Rob: When you stop. If you go cold turkey from what I understand, to get rid of an old habit, it’s better not to just cut it out, but to replace it with a good habit.
Are there some alternatives or maybe should they do something before they do this? Like get some stevia in the house and maybe even start to experiment using that, if they have that sweet tooth that needs to be catered to, over a period of time.
What will happen, and I’ve seen it with myself and with other family members, they’ll get into day two and then they’ll lose it, and then they’re back to square one again.
Dr. Jackson: It’s true. Sugar can have a very powerful hold on us, if we’ve ingested it for prolonged periods of time. I think the important thing to know is that if you get it out of your diet completely, within three to five days, you’re starting to feel noticeably better. Feeling that way almost has a built‑in motivation to continue along the path.
I think it’s important that the people who are listening know that they may experience some discomfort. Headaches, lethargy, sometimes gastrointestinal symptoms, even joint pain, muscle pain, these kind of things. Depression, even anxiety in a period of time when you’ve cut sugar completely out of your diet.
Actually experiencing those things is a good indicator that you’re doing the right thing.
I think if you embrace it, if you know it’s coming and prepare for that, I think that’s half the battle.
I agree with you, using stevia ‑‑ stevia has a bit of an aftertaste, so some people, it takes them a while to adapt to it ‑‑ so maybe using stevia for a while, building up the use of it would be a great way of switching over from sugar to stevia. That’s another good strategy.
I think, also, people can use fruit as a substitute for sugar in a lot of cases, just to get them off, especially that first three to five days.
Rather than having a piece of cake and some cookies for dessert, you have some fruit. Have some fresh fruit, fruit cocktail, a baked apple with some cinnamon on it. It’s a much better option than having the refined sugar built into some processed food that’s inevitably going to have a negative impact on your health.
Fruit’s a great option, and it’s another way of tiding one over until they actually can make it through that first three to five days.
Rob: Excellent. I think this has given everyone some great steps to start to get sugar out of their system. Hopefully, if you do this now, by the next time you listen to our next episode, you’ll have gotten through that tough point, and you’ll be experiencing the benefits of a sugar‑free life. On behalf of Dr. Kevin Jackson, this is Rob Heppell.
Thanks for listening to the “Your Best You Today” online radio show. We’ll be back soon with another episode, where we will help you look at your health in a more natural light.