It’s fine to occasionally indulge in sweet foods or sugary snacks, especially when holidays or special occasions are involved. However, most people aren’t all that good at monitoring their sugar intake. For a 2,000-calorie diet, women should limit their daily sugar intake to about 6 teaspoons, and men shouldn’t have more than 9 tsps. However, the average American consumes nearly 20 teaspoons of sugar daily, which is more than 60 pounds of added sugar per year per person. It’s also important to be mindful of sugar’s potential effects on your spine’s health. Here’s why.
Your body requires some sugar to produce the energy it needs to keep things running efficiently, but if you have too much sugar in your body, hormones such as insulin are going to be overproduced, causing an inflammatory response. Inflammation, in turn, can contribute to recurring or chronic spine-related pain by:
• Decreasing the circulation needed to deliver beneficial nutrients to your spine and help with your body’s natural healing process
• Compressing structures in and around your spine to the point where nearby nerves may be irritated
• Restricting movement, mobility, and flexibility
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed each year in the United States, and 1 in 4 Americans are already living with diabetes. Excessive sugar consumption happens to be one of the factors that can increase the risk of developing this disease. Diabetes that isn’t properly controlled can also impact spinal health by:
• Slowing down circulation and making it more difficult for your spine to naturally heal
• Contributing to weight gain, which can place extra stress on your spine and its supporting discs and joints
• Speeding up the natural disc degeneration process
• Increasing nerve sensitivity
People who experience one or more of the conditions above may ultimately need to have a spinal surgery procedure, such as a disc replacement or another alternative to spinal fusion. Beverly Hills residents should have yearly checkups to make sure their blood sugar levels remain within normal range.
Even if you’re an avid label reader, it’s not always easy to keep track of daily sugar intake. You may be well aware that you’re getting a sugar boost if you’re having some candy or sipping a soda, but some sources of sugar aren’t so obvious. For example, tomato sauce and ketchup are often loaded with sugar. Even fruit-flavored yogurt can have up to 7 teaspoons of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends that men and women limit their sugar intake to 38 grams and 25 grams per day, respectively. How can you achieve this goal and minimize the effects of sugar on your spinal health?
• Opt for plain yogurt instead of fruit-flavored varieties
• Make homemade versions of tomato-based foods so you can control the sugar content
• Drink more water and fewer sugary beverages
• Watch your use of sweeteners and creamers in your coffee
• Stay away from mixed alcoholic drinks, since they tend to have a higher sugar content
• Eat more nutrient-rich foods (e.g., fruits, leafy green veggies, lean proteins, low-fat dairy products)
• Get at least 30 minutes of exercise 2–3 times a week or regular daily exercise to speed up your metabolism and burn off more calories so your body uses sugar in a productive way
Limiting your sugar intake doesn’t mean you have to give up all things sweet. In fact, there are some natural and healthy sugar alternatives available for your consideration. Stevia is a no-calorie natural sweetener that’s not associated with any negative health effects. It has also been shown to lower insulin and sugar levels. Be cautious with coconut sugar, honey, maple syrup, and molasses, since the body metabolizes these things like regular sugar.
Sugar can have negative effects on your whole body, and that extends to all the parts of your spine. If you need more information about how to boost your spinal health through good nutrition and healthy habits, contact your primary physician or a Beverly Hills spine surgeon. The back experts at The Spine Institute understand the importance of lifestyle choices on spinal health. Call us today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.