The role of sugar in chronic pain and inflammation

As a manual physical therapist, treatment of chronic pain from joint and muscle dysfunction is a daily occurrence. A conversation I had again today with a client was about what she was willing to give up to feel better. Chronic pain is a complex problem that requires a complex solution, not just a simple “cause and effect” solution. It is this complex nature of the body that requires a more encompassing approach to treatment: daily exercises, stress management, trigger point work, stretching, weight control, and diet are all big players.

Although nutritional advice strays out of my comfort zone, I do implore my clients to consider eliminating all added sugars from their diet. But why pick on sugar? For starters, the average American consumes over 150 pounds of sugar a year. Sugar is like sprinkling fuel on the fires of inflammation. Research has shown that chronic inflammation has been linked to heart disease and strokes, autoimmune disorders, GI tract problems, and chronic joint/muscle pain just to name a few.

The effects of sugar on inflammation:

*Sugar contributes to the production of Advanced Glycation End products (AGE’s). AGE’s are harmful compounds that are formed when fat or proteins combine with sugar in the bloodstream. This process is called glycation. When AGE’s accumulate in the body, high levels can lead to many diseases including the big A -Alzheimer’s.

*High sugar foods create a spike in insulin levels (to bring blood sugar levels back down) and this begins a chemical cascade of reactions that eventually leads to an increase of C-Reactive protein. CRP is a marker found in the blood and is associated with an increase in inflammation.

*Micro-nutrient deficiencies: Without a deep dive in to all the science here, just realize that Vitamin D, Magnesium, Calcium, and Vitamin C absorption rates are all negatively effected in the presence of a high sugar diet. Remember, Magnesium has a huge role in muscle relaxation, flexibility, and sleep.

Bottom line: take a critical look at the food and drinks you ingest, try to reduce or even eliminate added sugars, and save yourself for the occasional indulgence. Have you already tried to eliminate or reduce your sugar intakes? Let us know if it helped,
Cheers ~ Ed