The Sweet Truth about Sugar and Pain

By Laurie Roth-Donnell | Master Herbalist and Holistic Health Practitioner

Beyond weight gain, sugar can be attributed to feelings of fatigue, stress, irritability, mood swings, difficulty sleeping, and joint pain. Sugars are hidden in a variety of foods and drinks consumed daily like crackers, yogurt, ketchup, and peanut butter, many loaded with high-fructose corn syrup. Simple carbohydrates such as pasta, potatoes, and white rice are also quickly converted into sugar in your body.

Sugar and Pain_Two Teaspoons of SugarAmericans consume between 100 – 180 pounds of sugar each year according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Of which, 29 pounds is consumed directly from the sugar bowl, the balance from your daily diet. Sugar is presented in many forms including refined white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, high fructose corn syrup, malt syrup, sucrose, fructose, dextrose, molasses, honey, and simple carbohydrates. Consumption of two teaspoons of sugar will upset your body chemistry and disrupt homeostasis, a state the body needs to maintain, repair, and rejuvenate itself.

The Sugar Inflammation Connection

Inflammation is the immune system’s healthy response to restore an affected area to normal status, following an injury, irritation, or infection. It has been shown that the body’s response to high sugar and simple carbohydrate intake, floods the body with insulin and stress hormones, inundating your blood supply, therefore triggering the inflammation (natural healing) process. This results in stress and pain to your organs and joints. The less sugar you eat, the less inflammation you will experience, and the stronger your immune system will be to protect you from infectious and degenerative diseases.

Food Tips That Reduce Inflammation and Pain

Sugar and Pain_CarbohydrateLimit intake of simple carbohydrates like processed breads and cereals, corn, french fries, fruit juices, pasta, quick breads, popcorn, and white rice. You may even consider avoiding the nightshades, such as white potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers. In addition, everyone realizes soda, fruit drinks, and alcohol are also very high in sugar and should be avoided.

Complex carbohydrates are much more agreeable to support your overall homeostasis. I suggest apples, asparagus, and all varieties of beans, broccoli, berries, cabbage, melon, kiwi, leafy greens, peaches, pears, plums, spinach, and all colorful vegetables. Incorporate all colors of the rainbow in your daily diet sourced from fruits and vegetables, organic if possible, purchased from the local farmers market being optimal.

Protein is required to support and achieve optimum health. Fish such as salmon, cod, halibut, snapper, tuna, anchovies, and sardines are all stars in the delivery of lean protein. Other top choices include turkey, skinless chicken, pork, and lean grass fed beef. Non-GMO soy products, eggs, low fat cottage cheese, milk, and yogurt are also great sources of protein as well. It is proven that omega 6 (GLA) and omega 3 (fish oils) help reduce inflammation. GLA is found in leafy green vegetables and dietary supplements. Oleic acid, an omega-9 fat is found in olive oil, walnut oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, avocados, nut butters, and macadamia nuts have great anti-inflammatory properties. You may want to consider adding an essential fatty acid supplement containing EPA and DHA. There are many high quality supplements with antioxidants on the market that will help alleviate the inflammation response, and nourish each cellular membrane.

Natural Anti-inflammatory Agents

In addition to dietary suggestions, there are also topical applications like creams and lotions, supplements, herbal extracts, natural oils to assist with the natural reduction of inflammation. Alternative remedies include ginger, turmeric, white willow bark extract (nature’s aspirin), omega-3 fatty acids, jojoba oil, and numerous essential oils including lemongrass, rosemary, and mint.


Sugar and Pain_TurmericTurmeric extract is effective against all sorts of inflammatory disorders and is the first one chosen among herbs for inflammation treatment. Those suffering from arthritis or tendonitis have immensely benefited from as little as 600 milligrams of Turmeric (divided in 3 doses daily), of whole turmeric with not less than 95% constituency. Results and positive effects are realized after a 60-day regimen, but it is contraindicated in people with gallstones and/or bile duct disorders. Pregnant women are advised to eat turmeric in its food form or apply a poultice to the affected area. It is the presence of helenalin (sesquiterpene lactones) in this herb and its selective capacity to inhibit NF-kB (the transcription factor) and regulate the immune response making this natural herbal remedy an effective anti-inflammatory.


Sugar and Pain_GingerJust 500mg to 1000 mg of dry and powdered ginger acts as a natural anti-inflammatory if administered for a span of time, same as turmeric. No contraindications have been reported; please note an over ingestion may result in a burning sensation to the tongue and stomach for a short time. Pain and inflammation appear to have a deep root in diet, or lack of a natural, whole food diet. If you are suffering from pain and its cohort inflammation, and are consuming the national average of sugar, I suggest you begin pushing back from the sugar bowl…life can be sweeter without sugar! As always, please consult your primary care physician before engaging any new health regime. Live Well.

US Department of Agriculture