Sugar: The Culprit Behind Chronic Inflammation & Autoimmune Disease

German philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach once said: “We are what we eat”, a quote that many years later would still be in the mouths of thousands of healthcare practitioners and health enthusiasts. And it is a good claim. We truly are what we eat.

And while a big part of what determines our health falls upon our genes, a vast majority of it comes down to lifestyle choices, including our diet and daily habits. Do you eat healthy? Do you work out enough? Do you sleep well? And, most importantly, if you suffer from any autoimmune disease, whether that’s hypothyroidism or psoriasis: are you overindulging on sweets?

Inflammation: The root cause of most autoimmune diseases

Before we discuss how your favorite candy may worsen psoriasis and cause inflammation in your body, we need to understand exactly what inflammation is.

Inflammation is a physiological process our body utilizes to protect itself from external aggression or invaders. However, when inflammation is maintained over time (chronic inflammation), it promotes the appearance of a wide range of diseases, including cardiovascular, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and, especially, autoimmune disease, like psoriasis.

Unsurprisingly, our diet greatly influences inflammation. So, a diet rich in sugars and ultra-processed foods is likely to promote an inflammatory response in your body over time. Now that we know the effects of sugar in our overall health, it is time to see how this affects, in particular, autoimmune conditions, like psoriasis.

On the other end of the spectrum, an autoimmune disease is a pathological condition in which the immune system becomes the aggressor, attacking and destroying healthy body organs and tissues. Normally, the immune system distinguishes on its own from the strange, and defends us from external agents such as viruses or bacteria. But, in the case of an immune condition, the body attacks itself.

Know the enemy

Sugar comes in many forms, and not all types of sugar are equal. Sugar is everywhere, from the natural sugar found in fruits and dairy products to the artificial substitutes often added to processed foods and beverages.

Eating too much sugar increases our risk of developing chronic inflammation, leading to a wide variety of diseases. So, to protect your health, it is essential to know how to differentiate between natural and healthy sugars that, in moderation, are beneficial from unhealthy and artificial substitutes.

There are so many names for sugar, which is why it is sometimes difficult to recognize them, so next time you go grocery shopping, check nutrition labels in order to make better choices. Let’s divide them into two groups: natural and artificial ones.

Natural sugars

Sugar is naturally present in fruits and some vegetables, milk, pure raw honey, natural maple syrup, and molasses. Those are natural and nutritious sweeteners that provide calories and energy. However, it’s worth mentioning that even natural sugars should be consumed in moderation.

Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are not only sweeter than sugar, but also have added (and unwanted) chemicals. And, unlike natural sugars, these do not include fiber or other key nutrients. Artificial sweeteners can provoke a vast range of diseases, including autoimmune, digestive, and others.

Additionally, artificial sugars have been linked to increased cravings, hormonal imbalances, gut bacteria imbalances, acne, eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions.

Artificial sweeteners are often found in ultra-processed foods, even those marketed as “healthy” or “sugar-free,” including sodas, candy, canned foods, jam, dairy products, granola, protein bars, baked goods, and many more.

As per U.S. Food and Drug Administration‘s approval, the main artificial sweeteners in the U.S. are:

  • Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K)
  • Aspartame
  • Neotame
  • Saccharin
  • Sucralose (Splenda)
  • Stevia

Other names may include:

  • Brown rice syrup
  • Dehydrated cane juice
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Maltose
  • Sorbitol

Does sugar cause inflammation?

Not all sugar is the same and your body knows that. However, regardless of the type of sugar, too much sugar can cause your body to trigger an inflammation response. The scientific literature suggests that our diets significantly affect inflammation. While certain foods, like sugar, seem to increase inflammation while others can reduce it. So, as per the current data, a diet high in sugar could be contributing to chronic inflammation.

What’s more, a recent review showed that multiple studies had associated sugar consumption with chronic inflammation.  People with higher sugar diets have reported struggling with inflammation.

The evidence is clear. A recent 2014 study revealed that those who decreased sugar intake lowered inflammation agents in their blood. And these conclusions and many others back the fact that sugar consumption indeed causes inflammation.

The link between inflammation, psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis

There’s no doubt that inflammation is terrible for our health, especially our skin and particularly in folks who suffer from autoimmune diseases. Countless studies have shown that sugar consumption may worsen autoimmune symptoms. The data shows that chronic inflammation can make skin and joint symptoms worse.

In the case of psoriasis, too much inflammation may lead to developing psoriatic arthritis, a type of arthritis that affects people with psoriasis, causing painful and swollen joints. So, how can we reduce the inflammation, and thus, eliminate these symptoms and prevent psoriatic arthritis?

How to reduce inflammation

In my last article, I mentioned the importance of AIP, which stands for “Autoimmune Protocol”. This type of diet helps reduce inflammation in the body, especially for people who suffer from an autoimmune disease, through diet and lifestyle changes. The main objectives behind AIP are to improve the immune system, lessen intestinal disorders and repair the digestive system.

AIP relies heavily on an elimination protocol, where you remove foods that normally cause inflammation, intolerances, allergies, or sensitivities. Then to reintroduce them one by one and see how they affect your body. And a big part of this protocol relies on in the elimination of sugars, since most of the foods that are eliminated in the first portion of the protocol are merely sugars.

If you want to learn more about the AIP protocol, how to reduce sugar consumption and heal your Psoriasis or any other autoimmune diseases, Download my free e-book, where you’ll learn everything you need to know to heal your skin.

One thought on “Sugar: The Culprit Behind Chronic Inflammation & Autoimmune Disease

  1. Pingback: Gut Microbiome: The Driving Force of Chronic Inflammation – Kim Pipes, Health Coach

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