Meet Ria. She keeps getting headaches, mood swings, feels lethargic, suffers from diarrhea often, has back pain, stiff joints, migraines; and bloated stomach almost after every meal.
She gave up fast food about a year back and turned to a healthy and nutritious diet thinking this could help. But it didn’t help.
She is sad as she can’t enjoy food, and worries all the time about the pain and problems that come up after eating.
When the problem became acute, she spoke with her doctor friend thinking this might be some kind of food poisoning. Her friend suggested that it could be a sign of glucose intolerance or sugar intolerance.
Ria had never heard of this term before and she was very anxious to know more about this.
This is what her doctor friend told her about Sugar Intolerance.
It is our body’s inability to digest sugar.
Sugar intolerance results in higher than normal blood glucose level in the body. This increases with age. A person who is intolerant to sugar has blood sugar level higher than normal but not as high as to diagnose one as a diabetic. But the risk of getting diabetes is high for someone who is sugar intolerant.
People with sugar intolerance also face a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels, being overweight or obese.
Some people find it difficult to digest and absorb sugars, leaving them available to be fermented by the bacteria in the gut.
This fermentation causes discomfort and leads to lethargy, irritability in the digestive tract, feeling bloated, headache etc.
If you are sugar intolerant then your body will respond differently to sugar present in the food.
Sugar intolerance is very common these days but the majority of people don’t even know whether they are allergic to sugar or not.
Mostly sugar sensitivity remains undiagnosed and we dismiss the signs by taking counter medicines.
Sugar creates a vicious circle of intense cravings. When we eat sugar, just like any other food, our tongue receptors are activated. The signals are then sent to brain creating a reward pathway causing a surge of feel good hormones.
Let’s Dig Deeper
Our body has to process whatever we eat. Our digestive system breaks down the food we eat, and allows the nutrients to pass to different body systems and organs to use as fuel.
Different parts of the body break down food differently.
Mouth chews and breaks down the food into smaller parts. Stomach uses enzymes and acids to break it down further. The food then goes to our small intestine where most of the nutrients like proteins, fats and carbohydrates get absorbed into the bloodstream by a process called diffusion. What is left over is then passed to the large intestine? The main job of the large intestine is to then absorb what is remaining in the indigestible residue of food.
Carbohydrate is broken down into sugar by our body to generate energy.
There are different types of sugar (fructose, lactose, glucose and sucrose) present in different foods.
Glucose is present in starchy food. Fructose is a fruit sugar present in sweet fruits. Lactose is found in dairy products.
It is important to know which type of sugar causes the problem.
The symptoms of sugar intolerance may not be very easy to spot as most of the times you may confuse it with some other problem.
Here are the signs that you may be suffering from sugar intolerance.
- You feel bloated.
- Cramps in the stomach
- Nausea and vomiting
- Feeling very thirsty
- Feeling tired or lethargic
- Increased urge to urinate
Do not confuse intolerance with allergy. If you are allergic to certain food, your immune system becomes responsive. Whereas in intolerance is a digestive problem.
Try This To Control Sugar Intolerance
These are the few steps you can take to control sugar intolerance.
- Keep a food journal. Before making any changes to your diet, start writing everything you eat. It is important. It will help you keep a track of how much sugar laden food you eat every day.
- Fix a schedule. Eat three meals a day and stick to this. Do not go by food cravings or hunger pangs. Eat sufficiently at the allotted time.
- Never skip your breakfast. Try and eat your first meal within 30 minutes of getting up. Include protein in your breakfast and if possible eat protein first before eating carbohydrates because proteins keep you full for long and reduce your sugar cravings.
- Choose complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates. You’ll find complex carbs in vegetables, whole grains, and low Glycemic Index (GI) fruits such as apples, peaches, grapefruits, plums, pears, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries.
- If you feel hungry between meals, go for a snack rich in protein or vegetable based snacks. Include healthy snacks which are low in carbohydrate such as low carbohydrate protein bars (under 18 carbs); hummus & raw vegetables, plain yogurt (not fat-free!), cottage cheese & fresh fruit; and nuts such as almonds, and walnuts. Fat helps slow down sugar absorption and helps regulate blood sugar.
- An active lifestyle also helps. Keep yourself physically active. Exercise or any physical activity keeps the blood sugar low and boosts your sensitivity to insulin.
Eating a healthy balanced diet with low carbs intake, and an active lifestyle is a key to control sugar intolerance.
The WHO (World Health Organisation) indicates that sugar intolerance may be present if people have a blood glucose of 7.8 mmol/L or more but less than 11.1mmol/L after a 2-hour oral glucose tolerance test OGTT.
The best way to control sugar intolerance is to limit certain foods that cause problem. Here is a list of food you should avoid if you have sugar intolerance:
- Bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, crackers, rolls, pastries, desserts
- Potatoes of all types, corn, rice and beans
- Fruit and fruit juices
- Energy drinks and bars
- Sugar of all kinds – candy, honey, ketchup.
- Alcohol of all kinds
- Sweetened yogurt
List of food items that you can eat/drink are:
- Vegetables of all kinds – except potatoes
- Vegetable juice
- Oils and Fats (Olive, coconut, butter)
People have various reasons to choose a diet that is low on sugar. One person may do it because she wants to get leaner; another may be living with a disease like diabetes, that necessitates a careful diet. The bottom line is that eating less sugar is good for you.
Cutting sugar is not always as easy as it sounds. Without treats and comfort foods, you may feel like depriving yourself. And it may seem like only a teaspoon in your coffee, but these small amounts add up to big issues.
Be mindful of what you put into your body and limit the troublemakers like excess sugar as much as possible.