Friday, April 13, 2012

Sugar--How Sour Sugared Gummy Bears Ruined my Week

Hopefully it has been reflected on my site that, recently, I have been feeling immensely better than I did this time last year. My excision surgery seems to have been a success, and my lesser pain and increased energy/mood is almost foreign to me. I actually biked 30 miles on my single speed bike on Tuesday! I never could have done that two years ago--I feel human again and its amazing. But I need to remember that I still have an impaired immune system... even if the implants are gone, I'm still dealing with all the other issues of endo and I need to be more mindful of that. More importantly, I need to behave in a way that helps keep them from coming back.

And here is why--I had my first period since I was on Lupron a couple weeks ago (and another one this week :(. Still working on the near constant bleeding thing). My sugar cravings went through the roof! And here I was thinking that because I was so much healthier in my diet and lifestyle, that a little sugar wouldn't hurt. So I ate a lot of it... a lot of sour-sugared gummy bears (my favorite candy).  The immediate feeling of relaxation, happiness, and energy that those gummies gave me was incredible. So I ate probably a pound over a the several days of PMS before.

Unfortunately, I paid a heavy price. I was in so much pain and weakness during that week, that I had to stay in bed for a day or two, was on narcotics, and was struggling to walk. The whole time I'm thinking, "Why is this happening? I'm better now!". It was not until the following week that I considered what could have had such a negative effect on my first 'normal' menstrual cycle. And then it hit me... the sugar.

The effects of sugar on endometriosis are one of the few things about the disease that is well understood. However, that doesn't make it any easier to manage or deal with. Clearly I failed that week. The general effects of endometriosis make us crave sugar--and the general effects of sugar makes endometriosis *worse*. It's a difficult cycle and requires some understanding and planning to handle.

First off, let's see what exactly those effects are. Sudden spikes and dives of blood sugar levels affect various systems in our bodies. How resistant our bodies are to such spikes and dives varies; for example, I have hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). There are two types of hypoglycemia: reactive hypoglycemia and fasting hypoglycemia. I have the second type--I actually have to eat about every two hours. If I do not, I get dizzy, shaky, and can faint (which is awful). If I start having an 'attack' (a point of low blood sugar where common food takes too long to pull me out), I have to have something that is naturally sugary--such as juice or honey. If I have something like candy (when I have an empty stomach), I'll just have a sudden rise and worse fall, and can pass out. So, the moral of this story, is that clearly I have a somewhat more sensitive system to sugars than the average individual. So you would think that I would have been more cautious.

However, just because my system is a little more sensitive, that does not change the point I am trying to make. If anything, it just allows me to use myself as a slightly more clear example. Even though my system is more sensitive, I take in considerably less sugar than most women I know. Because I cannot handle the tremulous ups and downs. Because of this, it makes it more clear cut to track down what, how, and when I caused the pain I experienced.

As I was saying, spikes and dives in blood sugar affects our bodies. It depresses our immune system, puts strains on our adrenals, and it can lead to a spike in estrogen production. Research has even shown that excess sugar can temporarily switch of genes that regulate production of estrogen--meaning that hormone, which is already in excess in an endometriosis body, goes haywire. All three of these consequences are important factors in endometriosis and its symptoms.

Certain sugars cause these sudden, disastrous fluctuations easier than others. Processed sugars, such as refined white sugars and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), are especially dangerous. I do not care that the producers of  HFCS tried to barrage us with commercials and advertisements saying that their sugar is no different from other sugars--it most certainly is. For one significant example, it changes the resistance of the human brain to sugar--meaning it can alter the way your brain recognizes and metabolizes energy. Our bodies were never built to deal with refined/processed sugars. So these especially cause sudden fluctuations and should be of special concern for women with endometriosis.

So, if sugars have such detrimental effects of endometriosis, why do we crave it? Why does it feel sooooo satisfying for me to eat handfuls of sour gummy bears? Because hormone imbalance (increased estrogen in particular) makes your body more insulin resistant. This means your body thinks it's lacking in sugar, so it sends out signals to your appetite that you need more sugar. When you satisfy that craving, you feel happy and relieved.  And yet, the more sugar you take in, the greater hormone imbalance you are creating.

Painful cramping is largely caused by significant hormonal imbalance. The more imbalanced your system is, the worse off you're going to feel. And when you already have a lot of blood to shed (courtesy of endometriosis) and an already existing hormone imbalance (courtesy of endometriosis), to throw in an extra wrench of increased estrogen and impaired body function, is not a smart thing to do (courtesy of sour gummy bears).

I will be the first to admit that between endometriosis and my low blood sugar, it is incredibly difficult to resist the temptations of excess sugar. Especially when I am feeling shaky, low, or tired. But my body, and everyone else's bodies (endometriosis or no), pay dearly for those craving-cave-ins. At the present moment, I will try to better manage the stability of my blood sugar. And hopefully, by next week, I will be able to present a plan for fending those cravings off.

For now, just please be aware of this connection and look at your own diet and cravings--because I am sure I am not the only woman sabotaging herself!

Thank you for reading and your patience with my tardiness :).

2 comments:

  1. Ash, I couldn't agree more with you encouraging our endo sisters to be more aware of their sugar. I know for myself (and for hundreds of my patients) that cutting out sugar is THE number 1 dietary change that makes the biggest difference, for pain and for PMS.

    I also know it's one of the hardest changes to make.

    My 2-week cleanse program started today and on our kick-off call we had a long talk about sugar.

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    Replies
    1. It is a hugely difficult change! I have barely managed to get down to the level I was aiming. I tried eating a DQ blizzard the other day and felt sick after three bites--the more you avoid sugar, the more intense that sugar feels! I'm glad to hear that you encourage your patients to cut out the sugar. I'd love to check out your cleanse. I have yet to find one I'm satisfied with enough to post here.

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About The BedRiddenHead

I want to be happy. And this site is about that chance. How to strive to thrive in the body I've got and maybe turn my experiences into something worthwhile.

This site aims to help educate and reach out to people all over that struggle with pain or illness. To try and make something helpful. I work as a medical research writer, my background is in neuropsychology and biology, and I want to share what I learn in a way that is easy to understand. I am not a doctor. I'm definitely not your doctor. I am just some lady who wants to make someone's (anyone's) life a little bit better. Whether you have endometriosis, a chronic injury, a struggling friend, or just want to learn something new, I hope to make a place that has what you are looking for.

Thank you for stopping by, I wish you strength in your health and happiness.