Sugar, Wheat, and Dairy. Or as someone smarter than me coined the term, The 3 White Devils.
If I were to tell you that tomorrow you can't eat any of those things, what's your initial response? Would you have cravings, bouts of moodiness, bad temper, poor focus, a feeling of being depressed and empty, frustration, anger, bitterness and resentment? Did you answer yes to any of those? If so, thanks for being honest! But now the bad news...you might have a food addiction, because that list of symptoms were copied and pasted from a website (1) on chemical dependency and the symptoms that someone faces when going through that. Rather than checking into rehab tomorrow we hope to have a better solution for you, but first I want to break down how these things could be harming you.
The major issue with sugar is it's ABUNDANT use in nearly all processed foods. Food manufacturers have tried to sneak this little devil past us by calling it a whole host of things besides simply sugar. In fact, if I ever do buy something that is processed and contains sugar, I actually prefer the label to just say "sugar." Here is a simple list of other names of sugar that you will find on food labels. I am really excited for the new nutrition label to come out where they actually have to tell us how many grams of added sugar are in the items we are purchasing. I'm sure they will figure out a way around it but it's a step in the right direction. Basically that was the long way for me to tell you it is everywhere.
Now why is it bad that it is everywhere? There are numerous things and some of them are well above my knowledge level. I'll stick to a few basics. The first one: blood sugar disregulation. When we consume lots of sugar, especially in the absence of protein and fiber, our blood sugar will spike. This leads to a spike in insulin, a hormone secreted by our pancreas. Insulin basically acts as an usher. Glucose, the form of sugar in our blood, is like the drunk fan stumbling up and down the stairs looking for his seat at a sporting event. If he stays in the blood (stairs) he will certainly cause harm. Insulin kindly tells glucose to have a seat. Glucose has a few different options on where it can sit, thankfully.
The majority of glucose will be stored in either the liver, muscles, or fat tissue. You may have heard of fatty liver before? That is basically when your liver becomes engulfed in too much sugar and packs on some pounds. Some sugar storage in the liver is necessary but we've taken it way too far. Next up, muscles...this actually is one good spot for sugar to hang out. When stored in muscle tissue it gets converted to glycogen which is fuel for our muscles. These seats don't open up all that often though, unless you are doing a lot of high intensity exercise or heavy lifting. Lastly, fat tissue is the place where sugar tends to get shipped off to. These are the cheap seats, there's always more room here. You can maybe make the connection, if we don't exercise and deplete our muscle glycogen, yet consume high amounts of sugar and carbohydrate bad things happen. We damage our livers. We increase the size of our fat cells. We slowly build up a tolerance to insulin which leads to Type 2 diabetes and obesity...Bad news!!!
On top of all of that sugar, it has also been shown to be highly addictive, pro-inflammatory, and the source of the worst kind of cholesterol, VLDL. I'm glad we are all on the same page now... Sugar is BAD!!!
The other issue with flour is that buzzword...Gluten. This is a huge topic right now in the health world. The science is still really new on this topic so it is hard to trust all of it. Here's what I've learned and what I believe most would accept as fact: wheat that is harvested today is a lot different than wheat that was harvested 50-60 years ago. This mainly has happened because of hybridization of wheat and has thus increased the size of the gluten protein in wheat. More fertilizers are also used on wheat today than in the past. More products containing wheat are on our grocery store shelves.
Here is where the science gets a little murky. Gluten, according to some research, has been shown to cause issues in ALL individuals. Basically what this research has shown is that the gluten protein essentially punches a hole through your intestinal wall and gets into your bloodstream. Your body's immune system then has to neutralize these proteins that shouldn't be in our body and that is what leads to inflammation throughout our bodies and autoimmune diseases. Some people's guts heal quickly and they can continue to consume wheat products while more and more people are having adverse reactions. If you want to read about how I suddenly become gluten intolerant, I recently wrote about that and you can read that article, Gluten, I Used to Love It! Now I'm Allergic!
Here's my take on wheat! It provides very little nutritional value yet substantial carbohydrates and calories. Let's be honest, wheat isn't going to make you healthier and based on the trending science it will likely make you more sick. In case you are wondering about the fiber in whole wheat products, that can be easily taken care of by eating more vegetables. Calorie for calorie veggies win in the fiber contest! People today have wheat-centric diets. Everything needs to be on a bun, bread, or noodle...and I think we need to reassess why that is! To me even if you don't have any sensitivities to gluten, I believe any wheat based products should be consumed very sparingly due to their poor nutritional value.
So other than the drug like effect on ourselves, why else is dairy potentially harmful?
The main thing is a majority of people can't digest one of the main proteins in dairy, lactose. The % of people varies quite a bit depending on your ethnicity but when you average them all out, 60%+ are intolerant to lactose. (3) Nearly 2/3 of the world population can't process dairy, yet many still do. Talk about digestive distress!
Let's dumb down the human species to that of an animal for a second, for some it's not that far of a stretch. All baby mammals consume the milk from their mother. Fact! All mammals other than humans stop drinking milk after a weaning phase. Fact! Why do humans think we have some super mammal properties that we can do something that the entire animal kingdom has learned doesn't work for their species? So not only do humans continue to drink milk past infancy, they drink milk from a completely different mammal!!! Sounds kind of weird when you lay it out that way, doesn't it?
Outside of the intolerance issue, another aspect of dairy that is troublesome is the quality of the dairy most people consume. You've probably all heard the line, "You are what you eat!" When it comes to animal products like dairy you have to take that a step further, "You are what you eat ate!" In the case of cow's milk dairy, whatever that cow consumed, you are consuming. That can be things like genetically modified corn and soy. These things are given to fatten cows up faster and increase milk supply, essentially making them metabollically sick. Another thing dairy cows are often given is a substance called rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) or sometimes called rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin). This is a synthetic hormone that increases the milk supply of cows. Once again you are what you eat ate! These hormones have been linked to a host of health issues in both cows and humans. (4)
My challenge for you would be to test your tolerance for dairy by doing an elimination diet. Take it out for 1 week, maybe 2 then reintroduce it. Do you feel any digestive distress? Gas? Bloating? I believe there is a huge population out there going through life eating foods that cause issues, but they have no idea what they should feel like so they just accept their current health as the status quo. Don't be that person!
What Can I Eat Then???
If you still need more convincing on why these things are problematic we are hosting an online support/educational group on this topic. If you are interested in learning about finding alternatives to these items we will also be touching on that in our free free 5 Day Group. The group starts on Monday, September 28th. It will be setup on Facebook, so you will need an account. In this group we will provide information about healthy swaps, recipes, see if you are sensitive to any of these things and share a little more science on why you should limit these foods. If you are interested in joining us just follow this link and fill out the form.