Last month I said “do this”….so to balance it out, here is your “don’t do this” article.  Sugar.  I am now exclusively seeing patients for Naturopathic Orthopedics and limited aesthetics.  Primarily, I’m offering regenerative injection therapies – prolotherapy and platelet rich plasma (PRP).  What makes my use of these injections so different from many standard medical clinics doing similar injections is that I still see and treat the person as a whole.  You are not your pain alone and your pain is most often not the result of a simple joint dysfunction.  It does little good to inject that joint with whatever your solution of choice is if contributing factors, including diet, exercise, lifestyle and other medical conditions such as autoimmunity are not addressed as well. I’ve chosen to mostly ignore this issue for years (because I didn’t want to give it up myself).  Sugar.  It has tremendous negative impact on our bodies, including joints.  It’s easy to think sugar consumption is not a problem for us if we are not diabetic, dealing with metabolic syndrome or obesity.  What you may not know is that research links sugar consumption to conditions as varied and serious as cancer and heart disease to mood disorders and immune suppression, just to name a few.  The list of ill effects of sugar on the body is incredibly lengthy.  Cancer is the “Big C Word” that grabs everyone’s attention.  However, this isn’t necessarily new information about the role of sugar in cancer.  A review of studies in this area was published in the journal Integrative Cancer Therapy in 2003 because mounting evidence between insulin and the etiology as well as the prognosis in colon, prostate, pancreatic, and, particularly, breast cancer were becoming apparent.  Not only were they finding that sugar may contribute to cancer growth, but it was interfering with treatment.  What else is sugar interfering with?

Sugar is highly addictive.  Sugar raises our neurotransmitter levels: dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.  I first became aware of this claim during college when I read the dietary classic by William Dufty, Sugar Blues.  It was published in 1975.  The years since his publication have only confirmed that Americans can’t seem to get enough and are paying the price with their health.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, in the last 30 years, obesity in children has more than doubled and in adolescents rates have quadrupled.  These children then go on to have a nearly 90% rate of becoming obese adults.  Over one-third of adults in the United States are currently obese.  Alaska ranks 24th highest adult obesity rate in the country.  Texas is finally bigger than us in this category – coming in at # 11 in the nation for the highest percentage of obese adults.  For once, we should just let Texas keep that “bigger” title.  This is an epidemic with serious health consequences.

Our reward pathways in our brains literally are being hard wired by sugar.  While a very small study, MRI research at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine in 2014 was clinically significant because it showed that when given sugar, the brains of obese children showed greater response and activity in the areas of the brain involved with reward pathways.  The conclusion they want to share is that not only may some children be born with a predisposition to seek sugary foods, but their brains more quickly wire to learn a reward pathway in response to sugar that keeps them seeking yet more sugar.  A condition that gets carried into adulthood.  Prevention is key.  Start by delaying sugary food introduction to infants as well as significantly restricting children’s sugar intake. We set our kids up for a difficult battle against obesity when we re-enforce this reward pathway with sugar.  What makes this even more difficult is that the current national standards concerning recommendations for food and food labeling laws all work against us. They are developed less by scientific data and more by the great influence of “Big Agra” and the food industry corporations – who have a huge financial stake in making sure we keep seeking more and more food.   Artificial sweeteners are a poison all their own.  You cannot simply replace sugar with a chemical substitute. Sugar hides in many foods and under many names.  Calorie restriction alone is not enough.  Standard diet recommendations are not what I ever see work in my clinical practice for people trying to lose fat and keep it off.  These standard diet recommendations also fuel my patient’s pain and break down their bodies.  A good place to start with easy to digest information on how food and the food system is impacting you is simply to start watching Netflix.  Watch with your kids. There are a wealth of excellent food documentaries.  Start with “Fed Up” and then go on to others like “Food Inc.”, “Forks over Knives”, “Hungry for Change” and more.   A healthy home is one where food is nourishing and where all the family members are participants in learning, preparing and eating.  I am confident that if you make no other dietary change other than to eliminate or greatly reduce sugar from your family’s regular diet, you will have a healthier and happier home. 

Dr. Summer Beattie,ND was born and grew up in Southeawst Alaska – it will always be home.  A 2004 graduate of Bastyr University, she served two terms on the board of directors for the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians, and has worked in a variety of primary and specialty care settings.  This has given her a broad wealth of experience that she now uses in a unique clinical practice with a focus on rejuvenative physical and aesthetic medicine. Dr. Beattie,ND offers comprehensive care as it relates to physical rehabilitation from a Naturopathic Orthopedic perspective. You can find her and on-line patient programs at