Why people with CFS/ME should avoid sugar

By on October 25, 2011 in Detox, Nutrition with 15 Comments

There is a tonne of information about the big bad nasty sugar, but did you know that people suffering with CFS/ME can actually improve their symptoms substantially by avoiding it?  Here are a few reasons why you should be avoiding sugar if you have CFS/ME.  They might even motivate you to join me on a ‘Quit Sugar Challenge’ in November…..

Low Blood Sugar (hypoglycemia)

Sugar can mess with your blood sugar levels, with levels rising after sugar and plummeting shortly after.  With low blood sugar you can get light headed, headaches and fatigue.  Many people are able to manage it by simply reducing sugar and keeping their blood sugar levels steady with regular healthy balanced meals.

Before getting ill with Ross River and then Chronic Fatigue I would regularly grab something sweet to pep me up when I was running low on energy and too busy or lazy to make a decent snack.  I would even push back or skip lunches if things were a bit too hectic.  This is a classic scenario for setting up the boom and bust blood sugar levels.  No wonder I would get light headed and run down.

With CFS/ME I can’t afford to have these problems exacerbated, so keeping a steady blood sugar level is essential.

Sugar is converted to fat and stored in our organs (not to mention the more obvious storage areas)

The body gets rid of sugar by burning it.  Unburnt sugar is stored in the body as glycogen and when the glycogen stores are full, sugar gets stored as fat.  The body will burn sugar in preference to fat so if you want to reduce fat you need to go easy on the sugar.

When our body starts to store fat, not only is it storing it on our tummy, hips and thighs but it’s also storing it in our organs such as the liver, heart, muscles, kidneys and arteries causing fatty degeneration (see Dr Sandra Cabot’s Liver Cleansing Diet).  A sluggish liver can also exacerbate the symptoms of CFS/ME.

Insulin resistance can develop

Insulin is released after meals to encourage our tissues to take up glucose.  Cells can become insulin resistant when they are trying to protect themselves against high levels of insulin.  So if you eat a lot of sugar and demand a lot of insulin this could lead to insulin resistance which has a whole gamut of symptoms pretty similar to some of the CFS/ME symptoms (i.e. fatigue, brain fogginess, low blood sugar, intestinal bloating, sleepiness, depression).

Sugar contributes to Candida

Sugar is well known for feeding Candida yeast infections, along with white flour.  Candida infections allow viruses in the body to multiply and can cause headaches, fluid retention, skin complaints, bloating of the abdomen, mental disorientation and allergic reactions.

Candida feeds on sugar and white flour and produces acetaldehyde as a waste product.  This product has a narcotic effect causing fuzzy, foggy, spaced out feeling, loss of memory, concentration and inability to clearly articulate one’s thoughts.  Sounds familiar to me!

Signs of Candida include sudden bloating or onset of allergic reactions when small amounts of sweets or alcohol are consumed.

It Could be Allergy and it Can be CuredStarving the Candida, killing it with products such as Nystatin, resting, boosting nutrition, reducing stress and chemicals and adopting a positive attitude is the best way to beat Candida according to Phillip Alexander, author of It Could be Allergy and it Can be Cured.  This is a really good book full of lots of useful information including a Metabolism-Balancing Program and an Anti-Candida Program.

Sugar depresses the immune system

There are reports that excess sugar can depress the immune system by affecting the ability of white blood cells to mop up viruses and bacteria.

In the 1970’s researchers found that white blood cells contain high concentrations of vitamin C and Linus Pauling found that high dose of Vitamin C are required to combat the common cold.  Unfortunately Vitamin C and sugar have similar chemical structures and they compete with one another to enter white bloods cells.  Thus with excess sugar in the system there is going to be less Vitamin C accessing white blood cells – not great if you are wanting to boost your immunity!

This last one has been the clincher for me and as I have been taking Vitamin C in large doses for a while now, and I know that when I give way to the sugar addiction I’m working against my own efforts.

Quit Sugar Challenge

I know that sugar is addictive and unfortunately it’s not just about knowing that it’s bad for you and turning it off.  I wish it was.

So to help myself, I am setting myself a ‘Quit Sugar Challenge’ which I am now in preparation mode for and will officially commence on the 1st November.

I will be developing my own meal plans, utilising Sarah Wilson’s ‘I Quit Sugar: My Simple 8-week Program that works for good’ and generally being as kind to myself as I can possibly be to get through the challenge.  Sarah Wilson is an Australian media personality, journalist and blogger.  She has had her own struggles with an autoimmune thyroid problem and she is a great source of inspiration.  If you are interested in her ebook, click through from this page and I will receive a commission (10% of all money generated through this site is being donated to CFS/ME research).

Let me know how you are going avoiding sugar.  What helps you?

Keep up the good work!

Extra Links

Facts about sugar

Complex carbohydrates are absorbed more slowly with more gradual release of sugars into the blood.

How blood sugar affects weight loss

Can promote inflammation in the body

Can promote fatty liver

141 reasons sugar ruins your health

Glucose and Vitamin C compete

More on Sugar

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There Are 15 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Graham says:

    I’ve recently given up sugar too, after reading about it’s role in adrenal fatigue. I saw a documentary a couple of months ago showing how sugar is made from sugarcane, and the process is disgusting. Refined sugar really isn’t natural. Giving it up hasn’t been too hard for me; giving up chocolate has been the tricky part!

    Good luck!


    • Yes, chocolate will be the hardest for me too Graham, and in runner up would be icecream! But hanging on the sidelines would have to be my substitutes cakes, honey and fruit. Ahh, may as well vent now! Would be interesting to see that doc on sugar, kind of be like the nicotine ads, LOL!
      Thanks for your well wishes. Just doing a bit of planning this morning, reading, lists, more lists etc. Phew, now I’m buggered.

  2. Michelle Romeo says:

    Just wanted to say I love your posts. I got west Nile virus in ca,ifornia 4years ago and the CFS hit me hard ever since. I really appreciated your last post with all the yoga poses in it. I realized recently that it is not about finding the miracle cure to CFS but learning to manage it. Mellow exercise, yoga and meditation are nit overrated. I’ve been on a gluten free and light light sugar diet for about 3 weeks. After a week I lost the sugar cravings and my only weakness is good root beer. Not so bad really.
    Anyway I was wondering if you or anyone else ever have the need to pee constantly? I can drink nothi g without it literally coming out every few minutes fo like an hour and a half. It makes taking supplements before bed miserable. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Michelle, good to hear your going pretty well on the sugar free. Have you felt any improvements on CFS symptoms? Re the peeing, no, havn’t really ever had that problem although I go regularly enough as I’m drinking a fair bit of fluid. Could be a bladder infection or something similar, probably worth getting it checked out by a doc I recon.

  3. Carey says:

    Hi i just wanted to let you guys know that i have been told many tiems that Vit C is NOT good for M.E. I was taking it like I thought but apparently people scientist, whom ever beklieve that we have an overactive immune system or to many B Cells being produced. Vit C feeds the immune system. great if your immune system sucks but not if you ahve an over active one. Notice how we never get colds unless we get very very hit with a nasty one. Im not saying Im right Im just saying me and my mates with M.E here IN NZ are avoiding it. Up to you whetehr you do or not. Sugar definitely a no go though 🙂

    • Thanks for your comments Carey, it just highlights that everyone is different and that it is really best to be able to find a good doctor who can pinpoint your particular circumstances – not always easy LOL!

      I have come across that school of thought re the overactive immune system and early on for me I was onboard with it, but as I’ve progressed down the road a bit more I’m a little skeptical. I’ve been doing some ‘thought management’ through the Ashok Gumpta Program and it has really highlighted to me how the nervous system is running a muck simply because of the fear cycle that my mind has been running on (ie worried if I do too much that I will get sick etc. These thoughts send signals to the body that things arn’t ok and set many wheels in motion in the fight or flight response – basically keeping symptoms running). This in turn lowers our immune system so I really believe that it needs that extra support to cope. Since I started the high doses of vitamin c I have improved a lot. I am also now seeing a lady who swears by intravenous vitamin c for people with adrenal fatigue (one form of chronic fatigue). So I’d be wary about what you hear and definitely work with a doctor, but I’ve always found the best thing for me is to just see how my body responds. Love to hear about what things have been helping you guys over in NZ 🙂

  4. carey says:


    Yeah I brought the program but didnt take to it, but that was my decision and hopefully it helps you.
    Were all waiting for the drug the norweign doctors have found to be working and putting patients in remission. Plus ampligen is looking sucess ful for up to 80% of patients. We have had a couple of people here in NZ that have managed to be given the drug by oncologists and they have both gone into remission so ot me its just a waiting game. Alot of countries are helping the Norweigens oncolgists to also do trials to speed up the process.Looking forward to the day were considered as importnat as those with MS and HIV who once like us were not taken seriously.

    I do belive the brain plays some role in our illlness and that we do react to must things as though its drastic due to our bodys placement but I also velieve it is as they believe and autoimmune disease resulting from overactive B cells. This would have the body in a nervous state as it always thinks its under attack, because it is. the gupta may work it may get the person to retrack and get back to a rest and repose state like most, and this may result in the change of the immune system but it may not also, it may just help, but not reverse the situation. however I know that part of the program si your not meant to read things like this and always stay posiitve so, you stay strong and believe in your self and i hope it works for you and if not a drug will come soon. much love.

    • Thanks Carey, I do hope they bring something out in the future it would really be a great relief for many people. But until then I think the only thing I can focus on is what I can do now to help myself. The waiting and hoping for something to come out as a cure is excruciating and very disempowering. I have to believe that I can cure myself, and I’ve got to say, since I managed to get to that place of mindset things have been getting a lot better.

  5. carey says:

    I just saw this in your reply.”These thoughts send signals to the body that things arn’t ok and set many wheels in motion in the fight or flight response – basically keeping symptoms running). This in turn lowers our immune system ” I thought Gupta said that this in turn.. puts the immune system into over drive not underdrive. For example how many people do you know get colds or flus with M.E. i got a bad chest infection after the earthquakes here but before that I ahdnt had one for four years, my mates hadnt had one for 6-8 years, due to the immune system beign so damn effective lol So Id just be careful.
    I thought id mention some tips that have helped me:

    Wear glasses when using the computer, ones the prevent sunglare.
    Earplugs when goign to malls
    Always ahve something like a banana or a treat in your purse in case of faintness.
    I find aspirin helps more than panadol
    Myself and mates were urinating alot and I mean alot a day. i started drinking milky black tea instead of cold water and I would go from 20-3 times a day. Either the milk, caffine, tea or half a tespoon of sugar or warmth of the water means its absorbed more. Im doing an experiment next week on this changing things each day and seeing what it is that does it lol.
    Cool flannels over the eyes when resting is great.

    Good luck hun, I hope the program does nothing but great things for you.

    Stay Strong

    • Thanks for your warm wishes. Hmm, yes not sure about the immune system as yes it can make a sharp jump of increased activity after fight or flight is first activated (according to Wikipedia LOL), but its also known that prolonged amounts of stress suppresses the immune system. One of the major areas of impact is on the digestive system and without that, well we are not getting the nutrients we need to fight off anything! LOL. So I guess I’m not sure either way about the immune system debate, but I have personally found that controlling my anxiety (and Gupta’s program is helping heaps) and boosting nutrition I’ve really been able to lower the symptoms. Also, since taking the mega dose vitamin c for 12 months, many of my blood results are improving well beyond what I was showing 10 years ago (according to my ortho molecular doctor friend)! Quite amazing really. In the end though, I really think we all end up finding the solution that is right for us personally, for anything to work we need to be welcoming it into our body. So best of luck Cary, thanks for sharing your views.

  6. carey says:

    Yeah I totally agree. I am actually going to see a new doctor tomorrow w who Ive ehard is good and I am going to get as many tests done as possible. I will ask her about the vit c and if she agrees I will start taking it. I am going to go abck in B12 injections,hopefully she will do alot of tests as I am sure I am anemic and vit d deficent. i have been many times before. IM the worst Ive been in years many due to the stress of the quakes and my study. The quakes really put alot of strees on me as adrenline had to kick ni in running to people, cleaing up the dmage (silt,floods) and the mere fright is our street goign to open up again and whats going to fall. I think if you can find a support group who can recommend doctors it is the best help. One lady who went to ours the other day gets blood transfusions from her anemia with M.E I didnt even know people needed that, so it pays to as you said help your self by talking to people. M.E help is by word of mouth and what people have learnt. I found the gupta to be god in explaining his views of M.E but I found the process to be “Positive thinking”. I am trying to do this in all things as I find I over react to stress to. So positiveity is key, as he says just stop. Many doctors have told me to meditate also.Many of us here find the idea cure will come soon as a positive not an disempowering message, its what keeps us fighting known that so many are in trials and one will come. It doesnt mean were not trying to help ourselves but it is alot more uplifting to know so many scientists are at work on this. Guptas program will definitely bring positive change as its positive thinking. for those of you reading this who cant afford these programs, read “the secret” or “laws of attraction ” books and try to mediate. Again goodluck on your journey and all the best

    • Good luck with the Doc Carey! The earthquakes must be such a hard thing to take, so much fear and emotion and hard work! I can totally understand that bringing out the worse in peoples health. During the floods last year I was pretty shocked at how shaky I was, crying at the drop of a hat and running on nervous adrenalin….not great. LOL.

      Just wanted to add re the Gupta prog, I think yes its about positive thinking, but the real kicker for me has been the last step – Visualising how I felt when I was full of energy, running along the beach, surfing, swimming….how my body felt, how my head felt etc etc. I think that is the real difference for me as I’d tried to think positive prior, but while trying to ‘think’ positive my body wasn’t really feeling it. The visualisation changes that. Thanks again. Keep in touch, love to hear how you are going. xx

  7. Steven Blake says:

    Hi Mel, Many thanks for an excellent ebook. Well written and presented, best of all straight from the heart. Would love to chat sometime to get some input from you about a theory I have to see if it fits in with your thinking, would really welcome your feedback. Steven

  8. It’s nearly impossible to find knowledgeable people about this topic, however, you seem like you know what you’re talking about!
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