Inflammation Guide Part 2: How Alcohol and Sugar Impact Your Inflammation

That cake and cocktail might contain more than just empty calories, it make be contributing to inflammation in your body! Today, I’m talking about how sugar and alcohol impact inflammation and some health hacks that’ll help you beat the bloat. 

(Did you miss Part 1 of our Inflammation Guide? Hop back and read up on whether dairy and gluten are ramping up your inflammation, and if they’re really worth cutting.)

Does Sugar Impact Your Inflammation?

Sadly, sugar is on top of the list of foods that boosts bloat and inflammation. But before you slam your laptop shut and binge Ben & Jerry’s in rebellion, let’s look at exactly what kind of sugar causes inflammation. 

Added and processed sugar, specifically, is linked to chronic inflammation, stroke risk, coronary heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Items like soda, refined carbs, and high fructose corn syrup are some of the biggest culprits. 

Quantity matters too. Indulging in too much added sugar can raise blood pressure and increase chronic inflammation, both of which are pathways to heart disease.

Sugar causes inflammation throughout our bodies in four main ways: 

  1. When sugar combines with fat or protein in our blood, it creates inflammation-boosting compounds called Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs).

  2. Sugar causes our intestinal walls to become more permeable, allowing bacteria, toxins, and other inflammatory particles to leak through and into our bloodstream. 

  3. Sugar increases our LDL cholesterol, which results in higher C-reactive proteins and inflammation. 

  4. Too much sugar can cause weight gain and more body fat, leading to insulin resistance and increased inflammation. 

Low-Inflammatory Sweet Treats to Try

When the candy cravings come knocking, try these low-inflammatory hacks: 

  1. Chomp on dark chocolate: Chocolate that’s at least 70% cocoa will calm those cravings and bring a wealth of health benefits! It boosts the feel-good hormones, like serotonin, and it’s rich in antioxidants. Try Lily’s chocolate, which is sweetened with stevia, or add a scoop of cacao powder to your smoothie. 

  2. Sweeten your treats with honey: Honey is used as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial agent. Plus, honey has a lower glycemic index (GI) than sugar. That means that, after you eat honey, your blood sugar won’t spike as much as it does after eating sugar. 

  3. Sprinkle on some cinnamon: Studies have shown that this spice has powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, cinnamon has been shown to balance blood sugar levels and lower insulin resistance!

  4. Sip on a sweet supplement: If you’re craving sweets (especially chocolate), it could mean your body is deficient in magnesium. This raspberry-lemon flavored magnesium supplement will help you eat less sugar and makes your water taste sweet and refreshing too! 

How Do I Reduce Inflammation After Eating Sugar?

Cutting back on sugar will reduce inflammation in your body. But what about the times when you do indulge? Try these three tricks to lower inflammation after you submit to your sweet tooth. 

  1. Flush it out: Some studies have found that drinking plenty of water helps to flush glucose out of the blood. Aim for at least 64 oz of water each day to keep your body optimally hydrated. 

  2. Cut other carbs: Since your body breaks carbs down into glucose, which then raises your blood sugar levels, take it easy on the carbs. If, on Christmas morning, you enjoy a big cinnamon bun with your family, fill up on protein, healthy fats, and produce the rest of the day. 

  3. Take a walk: Exercise lowers stress, blood sugar, and inflammation! Pick an exercise you know relaxes you, like walking or yoga, to help bring balance back to your body. 

Does Alcohol Impact Your Inflammation?

Occasional boozing may not have a negative impact on your health. In fact, enjoying a moderate amount of alcohol might actually reduce inflammation and lower your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular disease

Heavier drinking, however, can lead to chronic inflammation and long-lasting, detrimental effects. So how much is too much? A serving might be smaller than you think. Healthy benefits are reaped by the people who drank no more than 8 grams of alcohol per day. That works out to less than a glass of wine or beer daily. 

Alcohol, when we have too much of it, causes inflammation throughout our bodies in three main ways: 

  1. Alcohol can significantly increase and spread lipopolysaccharides from your guts. This causes increased inflammation throughout your body. 

  2. Alcohol can impair your body’s ability to regulate inflammation by causing damage to the liver and central nervous system—two of your key physical components that prevent inflammation. 

  3. Too much alcohol impairs not only the function of your gut and liver, but also the interactions between your organs. This leads to persistent systemic inflammation and, ultimately, organ damage. 

Low-Inflammatory Alcoholic Drinks to Sip On

Sporting events, summer vacations, grill-outs, and holidays all call for a special something to sip on. Imbibe these anti-inflammatory drinks instead. 

  1. Red wine: This ancient drink has greater anti-inflammatory effects than other alcohols. Red wine is packed with beneficial antioxidants like resveratrol, which can help improve heart health and even lower inflammatory markers like CRP.

  2. Low-sugar mixed drinks: Mixed drinks are typically packed with sodas, juices, and simple syrups. The combo of sugar and alcohol hitting your system at once is a recipe for disaster when it comes to inflammation. Instead, opt for a high-quality clear liquor on the rocks or mixed with soda water and fresh citrus juice to avoid excess sugar. Or try one of these 5 Calorie-Friendly Summer Drinks

  3. Hard cider: This fall, look for a crispy, dry cider that doesn’t contain added sugars. Big companies like Angry Orchard and Woodchuck tend to sweeten their ciders with corn syrup, so look for a local brand that’s dry with a lower ABV. For example, Commonwealth’s Dry Cider, sold in Philadelphia, is refreshing and fruity, clocking in at just 140 calories and 1 gram of sugar per bottle. 

How Do I Reduce Inflammation After Drinking Alcohol?

When those occasional sudsy sips pass your lips, there are a few anti-inflammatory tricks you can try. 

  1. Hydrate: Drinking water before, during, and after boozing can help prevent inflammation. Make sure you’re well hydrated to lessen alcohol’s inflammatory effects on the body and skip that hangover too.

  2. Detox: Whenever you finish a season of more regular drinking (like summers or holidays), take an alcohol detox. Fasting from alcohol will have multiple benefits on your body, including a decrease in inflammation. Give yourself several days or weeks off so your body can fully recover.

  3. Boost your diet: If you’re enjoying alcohol in moderation, pair it with a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods. Munch on veggies, fruits, seeds, nuts, and foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids. Fill your plate with a rainbow of fresh plant-based foods, healthy fats, and clean protein to help your body fight off inflammation easier. 

Beat the Bloat Once and For All!

At LEAN, no food (or drink) is off-limits. Instead, I give you the honest truth about how different foods and beverages will affect your health and weight loss. Next time you’re on a family vacation or out with friends and want to beat the bloat, try one of my healthier sweet treats or boozy drinks! 

For more tips on how to make simple switches toward healthier living, sign up for the LEAN newsletter. If you’re ready to see some serious results in your health and weight loss, join the next LEAN session.

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