Sugar Detoxing Strategies

Don't drown in that sweet, sweet poison like this poor girl

In this article you will learn:

  • Some basics about blood sugar management

  • Why sugar is dangerous to your health

  • How (and where) to go on a "detox" journey from sugar and sugar cravings

Lazy Reader's Section:

Sugar is live energy that gives your body a stress reaction, which over time will cause serious issues in many areas of your health. It is addictive physiologically and psychologically, so both aspects must be accounted for in a detox program. For a free book on how to do both of these, check out my friend Michael Collins' The Last Resort Sugar Detox Guide or take his 30-Day Sugar Detox Challenge.

The Details:

Sugar is one of your biggest enemies for optimal health, and in this article we're going to go over some basics of sugar, how it interacts in your body as a chemical, why it's dangerous and should be used responsibly (or avoided, really) and how to setup effective habits around it so that you and your family don't fall prey like moths to the proverbial flame.

Firstly, sugar is a carbohydrate, so in some sense it is essential for life because it provides energy. Don't get too excited, because remember that even water or oxygen can kill you if used irresponsibly. Everything degrades to sugar in your body, so all this means is that sugar is the basic energy unit we use. You can get sugar from a soft drink or you can get sugar from some organic yam. Even broccoli degrades to sugar eventually.

Besides their primary role in giving your body immediate access to energy, carbohydrates also allow storage of energy through glycogen in the liver and muscles. Think of this as a backup reserve tank. For thousands of years, we evolved on intermittent periods of fasting and scarcity, so the body had to evolve some way of storing energy and preserving muscle tissue from being broken down as long as possible. That’s the buffer that carbohydrates provide through glycogen storage, and most people have about 300-500 grams of glycogen in their body at a given time.(1)

This is why you usually wake up hungry, because the body has run out of its glycogen (or sugar) stores overnight.

So far so good: we need sugar for energy, and the body stores unused sugar in bank. We also didn't have lots of sugar available when we were evolving. Put a mental pin in all of this for later.

Blood Sugar Basics

The next important thing to understand here is how blood sugar works. The primary role carbohydrates have is to give you immediate energy, and what that means is that your body will have an immediate response. Everything in the body operates in that sweet spot of optimal functioning between two extremes, and your blood sugar has a golden zone that must be maintained both for short-term and long-term health.

If your blood sugar goes too low or too high, your body has fail-safes in place to correct the imbalance. Too low and it releases cortisol, a stress hormone, to break down your glycogen reserves for energy (the piggy bank mentioned earlier). This is one of the things that happen metabolically during starvation or fasting because your body, in essence, perceives this as a stress.

When you eat, your blood sugar will rise and this triggers the release of the hormone insulin to bring the blood sugar back down. Your body doesn’t have eyes to see, so it uses chemical and electric signals to know what’s going on. When sugar rises, this tells your body that you’ve eaten and it’s time to shuttle that energy into the cells. Insulin does this job, and if there’s runoff, it puts it back in storage (your bank) as glycogen.

So, blood sugar as a wave represents your life force just like the iconic EKG graph represents your life through a movie of your heartbeat. Your sugar goes up and down according to your circadian rhythm, when you eat, your stress level, exercise and so on.

Furthermore, your body automatically responds to imbalances using hormones like cortisol and insulin to keep it in the functional zone, and the less it swings wildly the better off you are. Keep all of this in mind because it is very important.

Different Sugars, Different Outcomes

The next thing to know is that different carbs impact your blood sugar in different ways. This is called glycemic impact or Glycemic Index (GI) and it is a measure of how a particular food reacts in your blood within the first 2 hours with pure sugar having a score of 100. Carbohydrate sources that digest slowly, meaning they are low in sugar but

high in fiber, will have a lower GI than those that are closer to pure sugar.

A second measurement that is also valuable is the Glycemic Load (GL) and it is obtained by multiplying the Glycemic Index of a food by the amount of carbohydrate grams in the serving, and then dividing by 100. Why using these two numbers in tandem is important is that it gives you a comprehensive picture of the impact on your blood sugar that a particular food has.

Let's take for example a bagel with 45 grams of carbs and a GI of 72 compared to a watermelon with 11 grams of carbs and a GI of 72:


72 (GI) x 45 (carbs) = 3,240

3,240 / 100 = 32 (GL)


72 (GI) x 11 (carbs) = 792

792 / 100 = 8 (GL)

A Glycemic Load of 10 or under is considered low, whereas anything over 20 would be high. The points to take home from all of this math are pretty obvious but worth reiterating: not all sources of carbohydrates are the same and how much you eat of a given food will determine the impact on your blood sugar.

Your body is very intelligent and follows the same principles that Nature employs all around us: never hurry yet accomplish everything needed. Nature does not waste or do anything out of timing. It always responds appropriately and accordingly. When you eat foods of varying glycemic impact, your body will release only the insulin needed to do the job (assuming you are healthy and have no issues) so that your sugar can regain balance.

The Downward Spiral

Disorders like type 1 diabetes happen when the body’s sensing capabilities have been compromised, like damage to the pancreas, and it is responding inappropriately to the messages your blood is sending. Likewise, type 2 diabetes is when insulin’s ability to do its job becomes less and less effective because your body has become desensitized from constant insulin spikes (due to high sugar or carbohydrate intake), meaning that

too much sugar remains in the blood and leads to a host of other problems.

While type one is usually autoimmune in nature, type two can be reversible with good dietary practices.(2) This is because of an intermediary step that generally precedes full on type two diabetes and that’s called insulin resistance. A simple example to understand what this is can be seen anytime you eat. Imagine you are starving, and you’ve managed to secure yourself the perfect meal that’s going to hit the spot. That first bite is absolutely amazing and deeply satisfying, but something happens bite after bite to where the last few are just faint echoes of pleasure. What's going on here?

This is because of habituation or desensitization, a process that happens in nearly every aspect of our life. What habituation has to teach us is that the strength of a stimulus will weaken as we are continually exposed to it. This goes the same for relationships as it does for food, drugs, movies or anything else. When you get “desensitized” to something, it doesn’t have the same effect anymore and it takes much more of the stimulus to achieve the desired result.

Interestingly enough, this happens in many areas within the body and it is what can lead to chronic disease. In the case of blood sugar, excess sugar intake and insulin, too many drastic spikes in your blood sugar over time will habituate your cells to insulin’s rallying call, rendering it less effective over time and leading to insulin resistance, which eventually leads to diabetes and all of the issues associated with it.

This means your pancreas has to go on overdrive to produce more and more insulin to get the same effect. The result? You’ve now become resistant to your own chemicals and have entered a state of chronic stress.

Why Sugar is Evil (Sorry, it's True)

In 2017, the CDC released a report estimating that about 100 million Americans have diabetes or pre-diabetes,(3) which is about a third of the population. The worrisome thing to me is that diabetes is just the first warning sign of much worse things to come. Complications from not managing your blood sugar can be severe like nerve damage, organ damage, heart disease, brain issues, and of course, an earlier death than someone who’s healthy.

Understanding what foods will spike your blood sugar, make it crash and eventually lead to insulin resistance will be key areas of focus so that you can live a long and healthy life, as well as have the energy needed throughout the day to do what you want. Understanding how to minimize excess sugar, and also re-train your body (and mind) so that you don't have sugar cravings in the first place is also very important.

When I used to lift weights, I would throw in some pure dextrose powder (literally pure sugar) into my workout shakes so that I’d have a boost of energy available to do what I needed. This is a decent strategy for high intensity exercise or weight lifting, but those diabetes numbers are the way they are because people do this kind of thing to their bodies on a regular basis while maintaining a sedentary lifestyle.