Sugar – friend or foe!?!
So … sugar fasting. It’s a really interesting topic. Sugar in itself can be a really toxic substance. Often people don’t really understand the damage that we’re doing to ourselves with sugar intake. Obviously, if you’re a little bit heavier than you’d like to be, we know the benefit of reducing sugar intake as sugar contains lots of calories. It’s calorie dense and nutrient poor and it’s best to avoid it. However, there’s lots and lots of other stuff going on that sugar is responsible for, so it’s really good to take some time out, be it Lent or a specific month or just a period of time where you try to reduce the amount of refined sugar in your diet.
For me, sugar fasting means cutting out cakes, biscuits, chocolates, sweets, ice-cream, and anything that I know has blatantly got refined sugar in it. There are hidden sugars in so many foods, from bread to baked beans, that we’re not necessarily going to completely avoid. But the overt refined sugars are what I’m talking about here.
Letting go of some sugar, cutting it out of your diet, is so good for your skin. Sugar actually damages the elastin in our skin. If you have a very high sugar diet, quite often, you can find that you look older than you actually are. That’s because the sugar is attacking that elastin in the skin and making our skin more lax -a a little bit saggier. It also attacks the collagen in our skin as well. The collagen is the stuff that makes our skin cells nice and plump and healthy, but as we get older, we naturally lose collagen.
If we’ve got a very high sugar intake in our diets, then we are going to lose our collagen much more quickly. We have three types of collagen in our skin; type one, type two, and type three. So nice and easy to remember! Essentially, type one is the weakest form of collagen and type three is the strongest. So ideally, what we’re looking for is to have lots of type three collagen, sitting there in our skin. The thing about sugar, is it converts type three to type one, so it weakens our collagen. So that dewy, soft look, that glow you want from the skin that really makes it look healthy, we’re going to lose that if we’ve got a lot of sugar going on in our diet.
Cutting out sugar is going to help reduce the number of spots and acne; even hormonal spots will reduce if we reduce the amount of sugar in our diet. It’s also going to reduce the occurrence of things like fungal infections. So if you suffer from thrush regularly, or any of those sorts of problems, reducing the sugar in your diet will make a difference to that quite dramatically and quite quickly.
Sugar itself is actually a product that causes inflammation in our bodies. A lot of people don’t really realize this either. When you’re feeling a little bit bloated, it could be because we fueled our bodies with sugar and it’s causing these inflammatory responses. If you have any other inflammatory disorders going on in your body, osteoarthritis etc, sugar will make it worse.
Sugar fasting is economical! Actually, it will save us money because we’ll be spending less money by not buying all these things that aren’t so good for us. Obviously, as we’re losing the calories that refined sugar brings into our diet, there is a possibility that if you’ve got a few extra pounds to lose as well, then you may lose those too!
The other thing that sugar does, if I haven’t demonized it enough yet, it actually deactivates the antioxidants that work within our skin. Just for clarity, antioxidants, are proteins. They protect us from things like ultraviolet light, environmental pollution, blue light and all the things that we know can age us. Those of you who know me well know I’m a massive advocate for sun protection (SPF) cream. But there are antioxidants within our skin that help protect us against that as well. If you’ve got high sugar content in your diet, then you’re actually going to be flicking the switch to switch those antioxidants off. We don’t really want to do that do we? We want those on and working for us, so to keep your antioxidants working, cut down on the sugar.
Sugar itself once ingested, undergoes a process called glycation. That’s just a posh word, really, for aging, but it increases the lines on our skin. Therefore, if you’ve got some age lines creeping in, a high sugar content diet is going to make that worse. Also, if you’re prone to pigmentation, sugar in your diet will promote hyperpigmentation. If that’s something that is worrying you or bothers you about your skin, cut down on your sugar intake and that will help. Sugar does increase skin sagginess because of sugar’s effect on collagen and elastin and it actually just contributes to the look of poor-quality skin overall. It’s not great, is it? Even though it tastes so good!
My top tips for doing a bit of a sugar fast: Pick a set period of time, 6 weeks is idea. We know that our skin turns over in about 30 days. Therefore, after that six weeks, actually, you will feel some real benefits.
Like I mentioned, it’s cutting out things like biscuits, cakes, sweets, chocolates, anything that contains high quantities of refined sugar; syrups, anything like that. Of course, sugar occurs in fruit, I love my fruit. I like my fruit better than I like my vegetables. I know that there’s a lot of sugar in fruit, but I’m not actually going to stop having that because the health benefits of the fruit actually are pretty good and if I’m not having the refined sugar, then there’s a balance to be had isn’t there?
If you can increase your overall water intake, that will have a massive benefit too. We know that water in itself helps flush out your system. It hydrates you and you do need to be drinking a decent amount of water a day, about three liters, if you can, is great. Additional things which will really help improve your skin is to increase your intake of B vitamins. The B vitamins are fantastic. We’re talking about: B-1 (thiamine) B-2 (riboflavin) B-3 (niacin) B-5 (pantothenic acid) B-6 (pyridoxine) B-7 (biotin) B-9 (folic acid. They’re found in a lot of green leafy vegetables. The vitamin B itself is a very calming vitamin and can help counteracts the effects of the inflammation that sugar has within our bodies.
Those of you who come to me for skincare know I’m a massive advocate of niacinamide, which is another B vitamin, vitamin B3, which has really good calming properties. When patient’s come to me for problems with acne, this is one of the first things that we set them going with. It calms the skin right down. Increase your intake of B-vitamins and increase your antioxidant intake as well, which is also really easy to do because your antioxidants are also in green leafy vegetables.
By doing this, not only are you detoxing your skin from refined sugar, you are building it back up again with all of these lovely nutrients that you can have normally within your diet, it’s not costing you any extra. It’s just adjusting the way that you are eating slightly.
And finally, another really good top tip of things that you can do, is really to take notice of your sleep and really try to manage sleep so that it’s of a good quality. Sleep is a massive subject, there will be much more information coming out about this soon. To start with we’re simply talking about a good sleep routine and the impact that that can have on your skin. It gives it a chance to rest. It gives it a chance to breathe and rejuvenate. If you’re filling your body full of all the good stuff and reducing some of the bad stuff, then that’s really going to sort of turbo boost the effect that will have for you.
Try it and let me know how you get on!