Sugar ruins your gut surprisingly fast — but there’s an antidote

Thanks to all the sweet treats that go hand-in-hand with holiday gatherings and the tins of treats that arrive in the mail, I have no doubt that I eat more sugar during the holidays than in the previous six months combined.

And, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Alberta, that’s a huge problem — but not just for my waistline.

So, if like me, those holiday desserts are calling your name, here’s what you need to know about what they’re doing to your health and how to protect yourself, without giving them all up…

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Just 2 days of a high-sugar diet leads to serious damage

The study, published in Scientific Reports, looked specifically at how eating a high-sugar diet for even a short amount of time can result in major health issues — specifically inflammatory bowel disease.

You see, the researchers already knew that many people who live with colitis report that small changes in their diet can make their symptoms flare-up. But, the team wanted to know just how small (and for how short of time) those changes could be to lead to damage.

And, they got their answer…

They found that after only two days of a high-sugar diet, mice had an increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease compared to those who ate a healthy, balanced diet.

Yup, all it took was two days of sugar-rich foods to change their susceptibility to the disease!

In fact, the changes caused by the high-sugar diet were so extreme and fast that even the scientists were surprised…

“We wanted to know how long it takes before a change in diet translates into an impact on health. In the case of sugar and colitis, it only took two days, which was really surprising to us. We didn’t think it would happen so quickly,” said Karen Madsen, who led the study.

The antidote to sugar damage

But, what could drive such a significant change in such a short time — turning the sugar-rich holiday season into a minefield of inflammatory bowel dangers?

Well, according to the research team, it all comes down to your gut bacteria and the impact food has on them.

Madsen says that when you eat a high-quality diet, full of fiber-rich food, it acts as fuel for the “good” bacteria that live in your gut, producing short-chain fatty acids critical for an efficient immune response.

However, when you switch over to a high-sugar diet and decrease your fiber intake, you instead feed the “bad” microbes, such as E. coli in your gut, that lead to inflammation and a defective immune response.

Basically, you set yourself up for health failure.

But, the team found a way around the problem…

The researchers found that even when mice ate a high-sugar diet, as long as they were supplemented with the short-chain fatty acids their good bacteria would normally produce on a balanced diet, their immune response and intestinal tissue normalized.

That means instead of giving up all the deserts this holiday season in order to protect your intestinal health, you could instead simply eat more fiber. Just make sure you eat foods with inulin fiber which boosts your short-chain fatty acids.

“Changing someone’s diet is one of the hardest things to do, even if you tell them that it will fix their health problems,” said Marsden. “People want to eat what they want to eat, so short-chain fatty acids could possibly be used as supplements to help protect people against the detrimental effects of sugar on inflammatory bowel disease.”

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Where to find short-chain fatty acids

If you choose to go the more fiber route so that your body makes its own short-chain fatty acids, good options to include in your daily diet are these foods that provide inulin fiber:

  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Bananas
  • Apricots
  • Carrots
  • Oranges
  • Chicory root

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  1. Sugar binges increase risk of inflammatory bowel disease, study suggests — EurekAlert!
  2. Short-chain Fatty Acids —
  3. Fermentation of Fructooligosaccharides and Inulin by Bifidobacteria: a Comparative Study of Pure and Fecal CulturesApplied and Environmental Microbiology
  4. Short-chain fatty acids and human colonic function: roles of resistant starch and nonstarch polysaccharidesPhysiological Reviews
  5. High dietary fiber intake linked to health promoting short chain fatty acidsBMJ
Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.