Excess sugar can have a catastrophic effect on the balance of microorganisms in your gut. Your intestines are home to billions of bacteria that work to maintain the health of your immune system, digestive function, and many other processes in the body. Although we’ve always known sugar isn’t good for us, it has now been linked to serious chronic health problems such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Excess sugar can change the composition of your gut flora, reducing the numbers of ‘good bacteria’ like Lactobacillus acidophilus. Without a healthy population of these probiotic bacteria, pathogen microorganisms can thrive.
Harmful yeasts such as Candida albicans are quick to colonize the gut in the presence of excess sugars. Because Candida’s cell walls are largely comprised of carbohydrates, they thrive on sugars and starches as an energy source. Glucose and sucrose are the most favorable – and common – sources of energy for Candida yeast.
When unhealthy populations of ‘bad’ bacteria and yeast begin breaking down the excess sugars in your bowels, the result can be unpleasant symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, and flatulence.
How to Find Out If You Have Sugar-Related Issues
Weakened Immune System
Approximately 70% of your immune tissue is in your gut. An imbalanced microbiome is especially damaging to the immune system cells lining the walls of your gut. Large numbers of pathogenic microorganisms can cause inflammation and disrupt the normal activity of these immune cells. This can leave you more susceptible to colds, flus, and other infections.
The first signs of a gut imbalance are often digestion-related.
Symptoms can include heartburn, indigestion, constipation or diarrhea. This is because the ‘bad bacteria’ disrupt the normal digestive processes in the gut. When food isn’t broken down properly, it sits in the intestines and ferments, causing gas, bloating, and other problems.
The longer these problems are left untreated, the worse they can become. If left unaddressed, they can develop into more serious conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, gastroenteritis, or even inflammatory bowel disease.
Low Energy levels
A common symptom of gut dysbiosis and Candida overgrowth is a constant lack of energy. Pathogenic microorganisms like Candida albicans hamper your body’s ability to obtain nutrients from the food you eat.
Even if you’re eating well, your digestive system may be weakened to the point where it cannot break down food properly, so it can’t absorb and create the vitamins and minerals that you need. This can leave you feeling weak, dull and lifeless.
Four Ways To Quit Sugar
Replenish Your Good Bacteria
The best way to beat the bad bacteria in the gut is to add more good bacteria! Studies have shown that supplementing with the probiotic Saccharomyces boulardii is an effective way to reduce levels of Candida yeasts in the gut. This is because pathogenic yeasts such as Candida compete with good bacteria for space in the gut.
Other probiotic bacteria are beneficial for your gut health too. Good examples are Lactobacillus plantarum, Lactobacillus paracasei, and Lactobacillus acidophilus.
You can also introduce beneficial bacteria into the gut by adding fermented foods to your diet. These include products such as kimchi, sauerkraut, and vegan yogurt.
Kill Your Sweet Cravings With Fiber
Another one of the reasons we crave sugar and carbs is that our gut is burning through foods too quickly. You need foods that’ll make you feel satisfied – that is, full. Fiber is the solution! Fiber not only fills you up, but it keeps you feel satiated for longer. Even better, fiber helps to support a healthy gastrointestinal environment for the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
The best fiber-rich foods include nuts, seeds, kiwis, berries, avocados, pears, bran, and oatmeal.
Heal Your Gut
When the gut wall has been exposed to Candida, it can suffer all sorts of damage from inflammatory processes. Healing the gut is an important part of restoring a healthy gastrointestinal environment that supports the bacteria you need to fight yeast.
Remove harmful inflammatory foods from your diet. That includes anything that is processed, fried, or contains artificial ingredients.
Replace Sugar With A Low-Carb Sweetener
It’s very difficult to turn off sweet cravings completely – but the good news is that there are natural alternatives!
Stevia is an herb that’s 300 times sweeter than sugar— but won’t raise your blood sugar and has none of the side effects of sugar. It’s also calorie-free! Stevia is available in most health stores as a liquid, tablet or powder. It can be used in beverages, baking, and numerous other treats.
Other low-sugar sweeteners include erythritol, xylitol, and monk fruit extract.
The sooner you cut sugar out of your life, the better! Not only does sugar wreak havoc in your gut by feeding pathogens like Candida, but it can lead to much more serious problems later in life.
Other disorders linked to gut dysbiosis include arthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, mood disorders, fatty liver disease and even Alzheimer’s. Start kicking your sugar habit today—and your future self will thank you for it.
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Photo: Ting Tian via Unsplash