If you eat more sugar than usual for a few days, it won’t be harmful, many people think. Wrong thought! Even a short period of eating cookies and gingerbread can have unforeseen consequences for your gut and immune system.
After just two days, sugar damages the intestines
If you only increase your sugar consumption for a short period of time – for example in the run-up to Christmas because there are so many gingerbread and cookies – then this can have an extremely unfavorable effect on your health, suggests a study from the University of Alberta, published in 2019 in the journal Scientific Reports was published.
Researchers had found in mice that they became much more susceptible to intestinal inflammation if they were fed a high-sugar diet for just two days in a row.
Even small changes in the diet lead to a flare-up of inflammation
Study leader and nutritionist Karen Madsen, who specializes in the effects of diet on inflammatory bowel disease, said the results of this study would confirm what many patients suffering from chronic intestinal inflammation say: Even small changes in the diet lead to flare-ups of their symptoms.
“Also, it has been shown before that diet can affect susceptibility to disease,” Madsen said. “In our new study, we wanted to find out how long it would take for a change in diet to have an effect on health. In any case, sugar can have a negative effect on the intestines after just two days. We never thought that you would see an effect so quickly.”
Dietary fibers could compensate for harmful sugar effects
What could be the reason for this? Everything indicates that sugar has a harmful effect on the intestinal flora and promotes the excessive proliferation of harmful intestinal bacteria. This in turn leads to a permeable intestinal mucosa (leaky gut syndrome), inflammatory processes, and a misguided immune system – an effect that becomes even worse if the intake of fiber-rich foods is reduced at the same time. Dietary fibers could possibly compensate for the harmful effects of sugar, as they provide the good bacteria in the gut with food, which has a positive effect on the immune system.
In Madsen’s study, the mice that ate a lot of sugar had compromised immune systems and gut damage, which improved when the animals were given short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids are normally formed by a healthy intestinal flora (when the intestinal flora receives fiber), serve as an energy source for the cells of the intestinal mucosa, and thus help in the regeneration of the intestine.
Changing your diet is difficult for many people
Many people think it’s okay to eat relatively healthy meals during the week and indulge in high-sugar junk foods on the weekends. Madsen is certain that such behavior is not okay at all.
Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult for most people to change their eating habits. In Madsen’s experience, they won’t do it even if you tell them that changing their diet would solve their health problem.
It is therefore now necessary to examine whether the administration of short-chain fatty acids in the form of dietary supplements could represent an opportunity to alleviate health problems despite suboptimal nutrition and to protect the intestines from the harmful effects of a sugar-rich diet.
Damaged intestines can lead to serious diseases
Of course, an intestine damaged by unfavorable nutrition not only leads to local problems such as intestinal inflammation but also to completely different diseases. “The study situation indicates that there is a connection between the intestinal flora and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” explained Madsen.
The present study again points to the two most important aspects in the prevention and treatment of diseases: the importance of a healthy diet and good intestinal health. If you pay attention to both, if you also like to exercise, ensure good stress management and sufficient sleep and optimize your supply of vital substances, then nothing can go wrong!