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The Fear of Sugars -- A Worthy Phobia

It’s vital that the bariatric patient keep an eye on sugar grams in food! About 97% of all bariatric surgery patients learn to become very familiar with what is known as the “dumping syndrome”, which is a way the body tells you that you ate something that you really shouldn’t have eaten. “Dumping” shows up in many forms from sudden fatigue, to nausea, to vomiting, and even diarrhea. When the “dumping” comes, take note of what you most recently ate, and do your best to avoid it again. Many things can cause dumping. Foods containing too much grease, fats, carbs, and sugars CAN make you “dump.” But the biggest culprit in this short list (yet so many foods have these elements in them), is SUGAR and SUGAR ALCOHOLS.

What exactly are “Sugar Alcohols”? Basically, Sugar Alcohols are artificial sweeteners or “anything that serves as a sweetener in food but cannot be labeled as a sugar since it isn’t pure sugar.” Sugar Alcohols may not add calories (as real sugar does) to your body, BUT they DO ACT like sugar in the sense they will make the bariatric patient DUMP as if they partook of real sugar. On average, the bariatric patient cannot tolerate more than 12 grams of sugar PER MEAL. Beyond 12 grams of sugar will almost always cause some type of dumping, be it mild or severe. This is why it is essential to add up both the sugar AND the sugar alcohols that are being consumed per meal.

Let’s say the food label says the product has 2 grams of sugar and 14 grams of sugar alcohols. Does that mean it’s safe? It is NOT safe because when the sugar alcohols act just like sugars, in essence, you are consuming 16 grams of “sugar-action” because you have to ADD the two together since they react in the body the same way. Some “diet” foods claim to be low in sugar – TRUE – but then they contain 22 grams of sugar alcohols. This is okay for non-bariatric patients, but a sure “dumping in the making” for us! What exactly is “Sugar”? Chemically, sugars are carbohydrates. As the body digests food, carbohydrates (except fiber) break down into sugars. We can find sugars in a variety of forms. Sugars just aren’t used to sweeten food: they are also used as natural preservatives and thickeners. Sugars are added to foods during processing and preparation. The body cannot tell the difference between “natural” sugars and artificial sugars because they are the same in regards to chemical breakdowns. “Incognito” Sugars Watch out for these sugars in disguise! Some are obvious while others are tricky: • Brown sugar • Corn sweetener • Corn syrup • Fructose • Fruit juice concentrate • Glucose (dextrose) • High-fructose corn syrup • Honey • Invert sugar • Lactose • Maltose • Molasses • Raw sugar • Table sugar (Sucrose) • Syrup If you find these things listed on food labels, remember this: the product is likely to be high in sugars if one of the above-mentioned shows first or second in the ingredients list.

If several of these are listed, then the product most-definitively will be too high in “sugars” for the bariatric patient and will cause dumping. Also, fruits contain “natural sugars”. And fruits, unlike packaged foods, don’t have convenient wrappers on them revealing any sugar values within them. This is where we have to “know” how much sugars are in the fruits we eat. Pineapple is one of the highest natural-sugar fruits out there, and grapes are pretty high too. Fruits are good for our system, if taken in moderation. But too much of the “natural” sugars can also cause an ill effect. If you haven’t developed the FEAR OF SUGARS by now, then you might be doing yourself an injustice. It is important o know how sugars effect you personally so you can learn how to eat anywhere with confidence. When you begin to understand how sugars affect your system, you can then attend any social event and know what is okay to eat and how much of that “party” food you can safely eat without causing an embarrassing and inconvenient dumping episode.

When you’re dumping, attention is naturally drawn to you because others genuinely care and will inquire about why you’re not feeling well. If you don’t want this kind of attention, then get your Sugar Intake Safety Zone down to a personal science for you so you can always relax and enjoy your food.


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