Sugar is a substance that you probably consume every day at every meal. Unless you try really hard, you're likely getting added sugar in almost every processed food you buy including salad dressings and crackers. The other day I went to buy some bone broth, which I usually make at home, and there was added sugar in the store-bought bone broth.
The Impact of Sugar
There are a variety of different sugars that can appear in processed foods, or naturally in fruits and vegetables. While sugar can affect the way things taste, it can also affect processes within our body. Though many years, researchers have studied the effects that sugar has on our body and the results may be surprising. A study featured in JAMA Internal Medicine found that sugar is connected with our body’s acidity and inflammation levels. This is why scientists now claim that sugars in our diet cause bad health and unwanted waistlines. While sugar can lead to obesity, diabetes, or other diseases, it can also disturb the natural balance of our digestive tract.
The body’s acidity levels have always been in question for doctors and scientists when determining health. A study performed by J Environ Public Health found that it is best if your body is in an alkaline state. On the pH scale, alkaline levels are between 8 and 14. 7 is a neutral pH and anything lower is considered acidic. While your tissues and cells work to maintain a healthy pH level, when you intake sugar, those cells and tissues are disrupted. It has been proven that sugar causes your body to become more acidic, which can increase the risk of kidney stones or inflammation. Since sugar is considered harmful within the body, it is considered a type of toxin. When entering the digestive tract, these bits of sugar aren’t broken down as the body has a hard time processing toxic substances, which then causes more acidic levels to form within the digestive system. This is how leaky gut forms. If you are unfamiliar with the term leaky gut, it occurs when the lining of the digestive tract is disturbed or damaged, causing those toxins to be pushed to other parts of the body, potentially causing toxic build-ups and other larger, long term effects or diseases.
It has also been found that those with high sugar, high acidity diets are more likely to be deficient in magnesium. This is important because magnesium takes part in most of the chemical reactions of your body. Without an appropriate level of magnesium, your body’s digestive system doesn’t move as it should, which may require the use of additional supplements.
Refined sugar is not only a zero magnesium product but it also causes the body to excrete magnesium through the kidneys. The process of producing refined sugar from sugar cane removes molasses, stripping the magnesium content entirely. When you eat high amounts of sugar, you require high amounts of magnesium. If you aren’t eating a lot of food with magnesium or taking supplements, your blood magnesium levels will become low.
Guess what medical show about people with low magnesium? You guessed it, they are more prone to depression. In 18 different studies, depressed patients all showed lower magnesium levels in their blood. So when you eat sugar you are opening yourself up to blood sugar spikes and valleys, and you are depleting your body of magnesium. That is a double whammy.
Most researchers and integrative doctors estimate that 80% of the population is deficient in magnesium. You get magnesium from water, some from salt, green vegetables, and dark chocolate. But if you are deficient in magnesium, you will need to supplement for several months or years.
The Importance of Drinking Water (and Not Liquid Sugar)
Your body is composed of up to 60% water. In children, their body weight is almost 75% water. You read that correctly; your weight is mostly from water. You have to have water in order to survive. Experts estimate that you can live anywhere from 3-10 days without water. Whereas you can live 3-5 weeks without food. In terms of maintaining life; water is actually more important than food in the short term. But considering the symptoms and damage of dehydration (hypohydration), it is best not to test your body’s ability to become deficient in this important substance.
Water is a building block for every cell in your body. Your internal water supply helps to regulate your internal body temperature by sweating and respiration. Water eliminates waste products through your kidneys and out through your urine. Water acts as a cushion for your brain and spinal cord. Water is the main constituent in amniotic fluid in a fetus. Water is necessary for saliva which is used as you chew your food and swallow it. Water is the lubrication for your joints. Without water in your joints, they would become stiff, rigid, and immovable. You would end up looking like the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz.
It is really the water in your bloodstream that transport nutrients from one area to the next. The red blood cells in your bloodstream cause blood to be red. The water in your bloodstream is what gives it the liquid and fluidity.
Two-thirds of the water in your body is inside of your cells. This is called your intercellular fluid. The other one-third of your body water is extracellular water. Water also carries oxygen molecules to your cells.
If you lose even 1% of your body water, you will experience mental and emotional side effects.
By the time you are thirsty, you have already lost 2-3% of your body’s water. That doesn’t seem like a big number, but consider this: you start losing mental capacity and may experience depression and anxiety at just 1% loss of total body water. Are you chronically dehydrated? Is it causing or contributing to your depression?
Getting Enough Water for Your Body
If you aren’t drinking enough water every single day, you are likely to be dehydrated. How much is enough? The amount of water your body needs can vary depending on the time of year, your activity level, and the foods you eat, and the other beverages you drink.
There are many foods and drinks that actually cause dehydration. Coffee, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol are the biggies. Sugar in all its tempting forms will dehydrate your body. That means if you have a doughnut for breakfast, you are setting yourself up for dehydration. This principle also applies to the so-called healthy granola cereal you eat for breakfast. If you check the ingredient list and find sugar, corn syrup, ….. your breakfast choice is contributing to dehydration and dehydration could be a culprit in your depression.
Sugar is not the only culprit for dehydration. How about the alcohol you had at dinner last night. Not only does that NOT count toward your water intake for the day, but it also causes dehydration. So if you want to drink wine, then plan on drinking additional water to compensate for the alcohol. Alcohol causes dehydration because it causes your kidneys to produce excess urine to flush out the alcohol.
I’m not saying that if you drink a glass of wine that you are going to be dehydrated. But it will push you in the direction of dehydration. If you also eat a muffin for breakfast, a soda for lunch and green tea for dinner you are adding compounding factors that increase your risk for dehydration.
Dehydration is diagnosed by physical signs and symptoms, as well as simple tests. The physical signs and symptoms of dehydration are expansive and can range from mild discomfort to severe fall-out. Symptoms that indicate dehydration include:
- Extreme thirst
- Less frequent urination
- Rapid heartbeat
- Rapid breathing
- Muscle cramps
- Dark skin
- Loss of elasticity in skin
You should see a doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Inability to keep down liquids
- Diarrhea that lasts longer than 24 hours
- Bloody or black stool
- Extremely confused and disoriented
To diagnose you, your doctors might conduct a few simple tests. The most prominent test is urinalysis. Of course, if you are severely dehydrated, this might be hard to produce, which is a clear indicator of dehydration in and of itself. A urinalysis can also show if there are any infections in your bladder.
The other common test that a doctor might use to diagnose dehydration is a blood test. A blood test is useful as it can signify your electrolyte levels, kidney functioning, and other important information. If you are severely dehydrated, a blood sample might be more painful to give as blood is almost 50% comprised of water.
Diets high in sugar impact your body's levels of magnesium and hydration. Dehydration and low levels of magnesium can lead to depression symptoms. Paying attention to your water intake can help you fight feelings of depression. Increasing your magnesium intake through foods and supplements can help your mind and body. Finally, limiting your sugar intake can help your body stay hydrated and absorb magnesium.
Our health is interconnected. It's not just one easy solution like "drink more water." or "eat more greens". While these are helpful and necessary steps to living a healthier life defeating depression naturally, you must understand how your other habits might be impacting the one healthy habit you are trying to introduce to your life. Sugar, dehydration, and magnesium all interact with one another and can have a major impact on your mental wellbeing. If you are ready to understand your habits and find the answers to your health questions, schedule a free consultation with me here.