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How to Reduce Inflammation by Cutting Sugar

If you’re interested in improving your health, you couldn’t be living at a more interesting time. Scientific advances—from mapping the human genome to understanding our gut microbiome—are occurring at a breakneck pace, meaning that doctors and laypeople now have more information than ever about what contributes to good health or causes disease.

In that research, one word has come up again and again: inflammation. You probably never heard about inflammation or the importance of anti-inflammatory foods when you were growing up, so it might be tempting to dismiss findings around inflammation as New Age mumbo jumbo. However, the most recent science is clear: reducing inflammation is critical for maintaining your health and one of the best ways to reduce inflammation is cutting back on sugar consumption.

What Is Inflammation?

Simply put, inflammation is an immune response that causes cells to grow larger and increases blood flow: think of the swelling when you get an injury or the redness surrounding a cut. Inflammation is meant to help the body heal.

However, these days many people experience chronic, low-grade inflammation. Although scientists don’t know exactly why, they have linked an increased sugar intake with more inflammation. Being constantly inflamed can have serious health consequences: in fact, one theory of disease suggests that the root of all diseases—from cardiovascular disease to diabetes and even mental health disorders—could be chronic inflammation.  

Inflammation in the Gut

Your gut is absolutely essential to your health. Researchers now know that our guts hold a thriving microbiome that continues up to a trillion bacteria, all of which help our body function. The gut is also home to a host of neurotransmitters that affect everything from brain signals to hormone production. Having a healthy gut can boost your immune system, keep depression away and reduce obesity, research has found, because the gut’s microbiome can either reduce inflammation throughout the body or make it worse. Essentially, your gut is the hub of health—of ill health—in your body.

However, that essential ecosystem is surprisingly fragile, and eating sugar can decimate it. Research shows that the gut changes quickly based on the foods we eat, including sugar, which alters the types of bacteria found in the gut. Research also shows that artificial sweeteners are similarly bad for gut health.

“The evidence seems to suggest that, contrary to popular belief, artificial sweeteners may actually be unhealthier to consume than natural sugars,” the authors of one study wrote.

Improving Gut Health to Reduce Inflammation

Looking at the science of how sugar affects the gut can be scary. However, there’s a silver lining: once you adapt a low-sugar lifestyle and start eating gut-healthy foods like fiber and fermented vegetables, your gut health can quickly improve, and your overall health can soon follow suit. In fact, research suggests that you’ll see vast improvements after 2-12 weeks of eating healthier.

So the next time you’re tempted by a sweet treat, remember that though it might taste good temporarily, it can have widespread effects on your health—and not just your weight. Instead of indulging, have a Sweet Defeat, remind yourself of your goals, and continue on your low-sugar lifestyle.