This is part two of my series on how our health is linked with our planet.
This essentially means that what is good for us is good for the environment and vice versa.
So, by supporting yourself, you also support our home.
Our sugar addiction is having devastating impacts on our health and the environment.
We all know how bad excess sugar is for us, so I won’t go into too much detail on that.
Briefly, high sugar intake leads to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, gut conditions, mental health conditions, and all nature of chronic disease.
We are hardwired to crave sugar because, historically, we needed the energy. But we don’t need the energy anymore. We have an abundance of food (in areas where obesity is prevalent), and we are far more sedentary than ever before in history.
We also get addicted to sugar because it makes us feel good. Sugar activates the same receptors in the brain as cocaine and stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is associated with pleasure.
But enormous clearings of land for sugarcane production have resulted in extensive deforestation and a loss of biodiversity.
The Atlantic Forest in Brazil is now only 7% of its original size.
Further, it’s reported that growers will need to cultivate almost 50% more land by 2050 to meet global sugarcane demand.
Where is this land going to come from?
Sugarcane production often pollutes freshwater ecosystems with silt and fertilizers, plant matter and chemical sludge.
These contaminants flow out into the ocean, including the Great Barrier Reef, and damage coral ecosystems, absorbing oxygen in the water and leading to massive fish kills.
Sugarcane is continually farmed, removed, and farmed again. This causes a loss of soil based organisms, meaning that the soil is less fertile and growers have to increasingly rely on fertilizers for production.
We know that chemical and pesticide residue in food upsets the gut microbiome, not to mention the consequences on animal populations such as bees.
Combating this one is about coming back to the basics.
- Eat a diet of predominantly fresh, whole foods
- Avoid products made with refined sugar (cakes, biscuits, muesli bars, cereals, chocolate, ice cream etc).
- Cook at home more and when eating out or buying pre-made meals, choose healthier options such as salads, plain vegetables and protein, or grilled fish over battered
- Make your own treats – there are so many simple recipes around. I love Sweet Food Story by Dr Libby Weaver.
I do want to acknowledge that sugar addiction affects many people.
So, if you feel like you’re addicted to sugar, treat it like any other addiction and get help. Psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, psychology, acupuncture and health coaching are some of the areas that can support you. I also help my clients work through any food addictions as part of my programs.
At the end of the day, this is about looking after your health and the health of the planet.
The two are linked.
If you want to help the environment, you can do it by making healthier choices for yourself because this has ripple effects across the world.
We live in an increasingly plastic world. The biggest area this is affecting are our oceans.
According to IUCN:
- Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year for use in a wide variety of applications.
- At least 8 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year, and make up 80% of all marine debris from surface waters to deep-sea sediments.
- Marine species ingest or are entangled by plastic debris, which causes severe injuries and deaths.
Birds, whales, turtles, fish, and many other marine life are dying at rapid rates from plastic ingestion or becoming entangled by plastic.
From a human health perspective, plastic is produced with a number of chemicals which are endotoxic – meaning they disrupt the human endocrine system. This remains a somewhat controversial topic, but it shouldn’t be, because the evidence is there.
BPA is one of these chemicals. It mimics oestrogen in the body, throwing off hormone balance and causing health issues like menstrual cycle issues, early menstruation onset, breast cancer, ‘man boobs’ and testicular cancer.
“BPA is a weak synthetic estrogen found in many rigid plastic products, food and formula can linings, dental sealants, and on the shiny side of paper cashier receipts (to stabilize the ink). Its estrogen-like activity makes it a hormone disruptor, like many other chemicals in plastics” – breastcancer.org.
These chemicals are also contaminating our oceans and the seafood that we eat. When marine organisms ingest plastic debris, these contaminants enter their digestive systems, and overtime accumulates in the food web.
Many environmental doctors are advising against eating fish altogether due to this contamination, especially in pregnancy.
From a gut perspective, the chemicals in the plastics disrupt the microbiome, throwing out the bacteria balance and causing gut conditions.
It can feel overwhelming to reduce plastic use, but everyone can do it one step at a time.
- Ask for glass containers, keep cups, reusable straws etc. as Christmas and birthday presents
- Take bottled water with you when you go out
- Ask for no plastic cutlery with your takeaway / home delivery meals – keep reusable cutlery in your bag
- Take reusable produce and shopping bags with you to get groceries
- Get educated on recycling and reusing resources in your area
- Instead of glad wrap, try reusable food wraps or put food into containers
Check out https://www.ewg.org/ to learn more.
Do you have any other tips on reducing plastic and/or sugar consumption? Comment below and let’s share our collective wisdom.