Today a brief summary of the sugars in our diet and the similarity between sugar’s effect on the body, and that of ethanol, the active ingredient in alcohol beverages. Candida is a yeast and thrives on sugars – but the worst offenders are not natural sugars but those contained within our processed foods. To understand the role of these sugars you need to become aware of the impact of every mouthful you ingest on one of the most important organs of the body including the liver which is the guardian of our health.
I have mentioned the liver before in relation to cholesterol but it is very important that you develop an understanding of the vital role it plays in maintaining your health and learn to respect it.
We tend to eat and drink mindlessly – it is all about the taste and the immediate gratification or even high. When we are young we rarely think of long-term consequences of our actions. However, our over consumption of sugars in our daily diet and the current binge drinking culture in some of our countries, is going to manifest in a great many health problems. Not just those in middle to old age, but for a younger and younger generation.
I am talking about 10 and 11 year olds who regularly consume 16oz or 24oz fizzy drinks showing signs of liver disease, normally associated with alcoholics. Young people buying cheap spirits to drink before heading out for a night out resulting in high levels of hospital admissions for serious liver disease. Add in the rapid rise in obesity, heart disease, dementia and other related lifestyle related health issues, and we have the potential for a perfect storm.
Why is your liver so important?
The liver is the largest and heaviest gland in the body weighing around 1.5kg. It is a multitasking organ that is capable of around 500 functions. It is also the only organ in the body capable of regenerating itself provided it has been taken care of.
However, since we live in a modern age with a diet full of preservatives in our food, toxins in the food chain, excess sugar, alcohol and lousy fats, keeping our liver functioning well requires attention to both diet and lifestyle.
Without this firewall in your body you would die very quickly. Here are just a few of its many tasks that it carries out every single moment of the day.
- It stores extra blood in case you need it in an emergency.
- Stores Vitamins, minerals and sugars that are timed released.
- It maintains the electrolyte balance in your blood so that minerals, such as calcium and potassium, maintain a healthy heart beat.
- It processes fat soluble vitamins such as A, D, E.
- Helps maintain a healthy hormone balance. Too much sugar causes a sex hormone binding globulin to shut down causing an imbalance leading to skin problems, infertility, impotence and heart disease.
- The liver is part of the bile management system that helps break down fats that your consume.
- Waste removal from the body is crucial otherwise toxins accumulate in the system leading to disease and death.
- If you liver is not functioning you will be more prone to infections and recovery time will be impaired.
If your liver develops scarring resulting from cirrhosis a common outcome of heavy drinking, all of the above functions with be severely compromised and you are likely to suffer from an earlier death than you had hoped. One of the devastating effects is on the brain, plaque in the blood vessels resulting in vascular dementia.
What happens to the liver when you consume either ethanol or sugar?
Studies have shown that the liver reacts in a very similar way to Ethanol (Alcohol consumption) and Fructose (sugars)
A major role of the liver is to keep blood sugar stable. Without the liver you could suffer from Diabetes. Even one fizzy drink a day can raise your risk of developing diabetes by 1%.
Sugar is composed of two molecules … glucose and fructose.
Glucose can be metabolized by all the cells of the body but the only organ that can process fructose is the liver. It turns any excess into glycogen which is stored until needed.
Unfortunately today with the high level of sugars we are consuming most of our livers are full of glycogen and unless you are extremely active and are utilising the stores, any fructose will be turned into fat – hence our epidemic obesity rates.
The fat that is released into the blood stream is in the form of triglycerides – but some remains in the organ contributing to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This results in inflammation within the organ and if not reversed by changes in diet and lifestyle can lead to fibrosis causing early signs of scarring. Further into the cycle and you will develop full blown cirrhosis with excess scarring and the real danger of liver failure. The liver cannot regenerate scarred tissue at that point and even changes in diet and lifestyle will not be effective.
At some point if not reversed your liver will also become insulin resistant – levels of insulin rise all over your body resulting in the pancreas failing to secrete enough insulin to drive blood glucose into the cells, causing high blood sugar levels and diabetes.
Should you eat fruit and drink alcohol if you have an overgrowth of Candida?
There is little evidence to suggest that natural fructose in the form of fruit, eaten as part of a balanced diet is going to cause you problems with your liver.
However, if you have a Candida overgrowth, I do suggest that you limit your intake of fruit to two pieces a day of the lowest fructose content. This way you will obtain all the benefits for your immune system without giving too much to the fungus. Increase your vegetable intake instead, particularly of dark green varieties such as broccoli and spinach.
Certain fruits have lower fructose content and here are some suggestions:-
I firmly believe that even the higher fructose fruits must play a part in our recovery from a severe overgrowth but I tend to recommend that you introduce a couple of bananas a week by week three and also some citrus in the form of mandarins or a medium orange.
If you are not taking in any other sugars in processed foods in the form of cakes, sweets, chocolate and biscuits, please do not exclude fruit from your diet.
When you have reduced your levels of the overgrowth then maintaining that level is important – eating the occasional piece of dark chocolate and enjoying all fruits is healthy.
As to alcohol – if you have a severe overgrowth, I do recommend that you give up drinking for at least six weeks to give your liver a chance to recuperate and, if not under daily pressure, it will regenerate areas that are not scarred.
If and when you start drinking again – it is better to have one glass of good quality wine, spirit or beer (Guinness for example) per day rather than save it all up for the weekend and consume a bottle or several. That will simply overwhelm your liver and result in several days of feeling hung over and open to infections.
If you feel that your alcohol consumption is currently more than two glasses every day then you might think about the serious impact not just on your liver, but your long term health. If you feel that you cannot reduce your intake on your own then talk to your doctor as there are some counselling services that will work with you.
I have seen the devastation to body and mind that excess alcohol can deliver, including vascular dementia a subject for another day, and also the increasing pervasive nature of refined sugar in our processed diet. Please ask for help if you need it.
If you are the person who is shopping and cooking for others, then please take a long hard look at your shopping trolley and estimate the levels of processed sugars you are about to give them. Children in particular, will eat anything put in front of them and the younger you can re-educate their palate away from excess sugars the better.
The previous posts in the sugars and Candida series can be found here.
If you have any questions please put into the comments section or if you prefer you can contact me privately via the email in ‘about me’ – I do not charge fees and am more than happy to help in any way that I can if you have a health issue that is related.