Over the past 3 weeks, I have drastically reduced my added sugar intake to almost nothing. Although I’ve allowed myself a maximum of 1 tablespoon per day of specific all-natural sweeteners that I, and only I, add to my food, I’ve cut out all other sources of added sugars from my diet. As a current victim of candida yeast overgrowth and psoriasis (which I believe to be a symptom of my candida), I’ve been experimenting with a 30-Day No Sugar Challenge with the high hopes of finally vanquishing these unwelcome hitchhikers. The results haven’t been exactly what I hoped for, but they still have been interesting. See below for the full rules of my Challenge.
Read on for updates about my progress and experience so far. Be sure to check out my first and second blog posts chronicling this journey.
Since I cut out sugar, to no surprise I started having insta huge fruit cravings. Like, whoa. I don’t know if I’ve ever really sugar binged on fruit before, but I definitely have now. I think we’ve all been there - it’s getting kind of late at night, you’ve already had dinner but there’s totally more room in that stomach of yours, and the only thing that sounds perfect also happens to be heavily laden with sugar. Except, now I’m not allowing myself to dive into the freezer and dig up some ice cream I’d successfully hidden from my roommates. No, now all I have are apples. And dates. And prunes. And oranges. All at once. For those of you keeping score, there’s definitely been a good handful of days now where I’ve exceeded the ≤ 3 servings of fruit per day limit that I set for myself. Sigh.
I mean, it’s been kind of nice - I’ve never enjoyed fruit as much as I do now. But, even too much fruit can set my psoriasis off and suddenly my poor elbows are lightly throbbing and aching, sending me a clear message that I shouldn’t have eaten that. It’s such a bummer to know that you eat well plus exercise plus sleep enough and even have begun practicing meditation, YET still have something as simple as an orange trigger pain. So. Much. Fun.
I’m considering following this sugar-free month with an additional 2 weeks where I also cut out sugar. I’ll scared to consider it - after all, I label myself a (mostly?) recovered sugar addict… but maybe that’s an even better reason to cut out all fruit for a bit. Plus, it’s easiest to cut out fruit in the winter. We’ll see...
HE WHO SMELT IT…
Dealt it. Oh yeah, I’m going there.
Let’s be real: often when we do something that’s good for our microbiome like improve our diet, we’re rewarded with several days straight of stanky farts. I hear similar stories all the time - like folks who start taking probiotics pills but then stop because it’s making them fart or poop more than usual. Umm yeah that’s what probiotics are supposed to do! Often, even if you’re doing the right thing such as eating healthier, your body may accidentally punish you simply in its effort to find a new place of balance. I even had a nutrition client whose cholesterol went up after she improved her diet - then finally began lowering by the time her second set of bloodwork was taken. After you make a healthy change, your body might freak out for a minute, but don’t let it fool you into giving up. The sad truth is that in the process of healing your gut by changing your microbiome, you will probably catch at least one case of the stanky farts for at least a few days on end. Send your condolences to my boyfriend.
HOWEVER, armed with knowledge, I now begrudgingly welcome these changing-microbiome farts. So, for about a week I was riddled with a cloud of my own, um, defense shield. There’s nothing to do but suck it up (metaphorically, not respiratorily), walk away from your loved ones when you feel one coming, and stay the course! If you’re eating healthier and it’s giving you the farts, KEEP GOING! Your microbiome will settle down again after the initial shock, and you’ll be much less stinky soon enough. Don’t give up!
BEST PERIOD LIKE, EVER?
Guys! I mean, ladies! I just had the best period EVER since I’ve been sugar-free. I’m talking no PMS symptoms at all, followed by a period so short in duration that it left before I even got used to it being here. That might be reason enough to keep me on this no/low sugar kick beyond these first 30 days. If you have period pain, your #1 goal should be improving your diet! What you eat and your hormones, which dictate how terrible or not that period feels, are directly related. Improving your diet is hands down the best way to alleviate period pain naturally. Speaking from experience here, folks.
PSORIASIS… GO AWAY!!!
Bah, psoriasis. When I began my no-sugar month, my main hope was to get rid of the stupid psoriasis that still lingers even though my health as a whole has improved drastically in the last 3 years by constantly improving my diet and lifestyle. Now, I’m not quite so hopeful. I mean, cutting out sugar has definitely helped my psoriasis, but maybe won’t get rid of it all together.
Although psoriasis can change daily and you have to pay more attention to the overall trends, at the time of this writing I have a tiny little patch on my ankle and in my belly button about to leave (if I can lay off the fruit, ahhh!), and both my elbows are doing very well and have very little psoriatic plaque, but are still inflamed. Random tiny patches keep popping up but then quickly disappear on my chin and nose. It seems like my psoriasis is moving up my body in general - and my current hunch is that that’s a good thing. It seems logical and follows my own disease pattern observations that the further the patches are from my mouth and digestive tract, such as on my ankles, the more severe the problem is.
In short, my psoriasis has improved during the 30-Day No Sugar Challenge, but there’s still work for me to do.
Fruit, as mentioned above, has been my main coping mechanism. I won’t let myself go for ice cream or a chocolate bar, so a dried date is the next best thing. Citrus has been catching my eye more than ever lately, too.
I also have been relying heavily on granola, since my homemade recipe calls for a little dried fruit and maple syrup, so it takes the edge off my sugar cravings.
Finally, I’ve been indulging in Amy’s frozen meals a little more than usual. Most of these meals don’t contain any added sugars, are gluten free, and have no white rice. Easy, simple, and relatively inexpensive too.
INCREASED SUGAR SENSITIVITY.
Thankfully, my sensitivity to sugar is increasing. I had been allowing myself 1 teaspoon of coconut sugar in my (decaf) coffee each morning. (For those keeping track: 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons, so this is one third of my allowed added sugars for the day). Now, however, I’ve dialed it back to ½ teaspoon in my coffee each morning. I’m pretty proud of that one.
Also, I’ve been finding myself avoiding sources of sweetness when I’m really just not craving it. For example, instead of eating the aforementioned homemade granola and yogurt just because I’m hungry, I’ll go find a savory meal without even any natural sugars. Now, I try to save my tiny daily sugar allotment for when I’m actually craving sugar. If I’m not craving it, I won’t reach for it.
30-Day No Sugar Challenge: THE RULES ~REVISED~
For one month:
If you're also trying out a sugar free month, leave a comment below with your experience.
More about the author:
Caylee Clay, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in autoimmune conditions. As a graduate of New York University and Hunter College, Caylee has studied under leaders in the health and nutrition world, including completing an independent study and graduate course with Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics. Caylee has five years experience in community nutrition, working with a wide variety of patients including infants and young children, HIV+ adults, school aged children, expecting and new mothers, and several minority communities. To contact for consulting and counseling, please use the "Contact" link at the top of the page.
eat yer veggies
We’re two Registered Dietitian Nutritionists of kindred spirit, living and working in New York City. We believe that healthy eating and sustainability go hand-in-hand — every bite you take has the power to improve both the world and your health!