Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sweet Poison

Our family has taken sugar completely out of our household.  We have been sugar free for 9 days....all 5 of us. I believe that prior to removing sugar from my house, that I was poisoning my family with sugar.  I know.  It sounds extreme. I debated about whether or not to even share this blog.  I feared that people would read it and get all judgemental saying that I am one of those Moms who deprives her kids of sweet treats, who is the downer at a birthday party and who is just weird and overboard about nutrition.  But, then I remembered that I didn't really care what everyone else thought so much.  I realized that it is my job as a Mom to do what is best for my family and I wanted this big change in our life documented.
   So there you go.  I'm really not wacko. Continue reading if you wish. 

The ultimate decision to remove sugar from our home just came within the last few weeks, but the reasoning behind it started almost 8 years ago.  I know.  I act fast.
   My middle son, Sawyer, who is now almost 10 has battled what we refer to as "episodes" almost all his life.  It first began when he was two years old.  He started having spells of claminess and dizziness.  He would be playing and suddenly get sweaty and dizzy. He literally fell over on more than one occasion from being dizzy. I carried him to a pediatrician who suggested that he must be drinking too much caffeine, since we occasionally gave him sweet tea.  We immediately cut out all caffeinated beverages.  His spells improved some, so we felt we must have found the cure.  Looking back, the episodes probably had gotten better because of the sugary drinks we had removed from his diet, and not the removal of caffeine.
   Over time, his spells began to return. It was later concluded that since he is considered hypermuscular (a very high muscle to fat ratio), that it just took more calories and protein to fuel his body than a typical child.  When he burns what he has consumed...that's it.  He doesn't have the typical fat stores that most people do.  But even though he eats and eats.....he continued to have episodes.  A "bad spell" might mean any combination of nausea, sweating, crying or major emotional meltdown, fatigue, paleness, dizziness, leg aches, and most frightening is disorientation and confusion.

(This photo was taken while sitting at a restaurant wating for food to be served on vacation.  There was no event that spurred these tears.)

  To make a very long story of his medical history shorter, I will just say that the child has been tested and prodded for every childhood disease known to doctors.  (That might be exaggerating a bit, but you get the gist.)

 Sawyer was finally diagnosed with hypoglycemia a year and a half ago, but even that wasn't really conclusive on his blood work.  His pediatrician was confident about the diagnosis, despite the inconclusive bloodwork.  We were given a Medical Care Plan that instructed us to feed him a high protein snack every two hours. There was no other nutrition advice given. Although we have amped up his protein intake to every two hours, he has continued to have problems.  He is on a constant emotional roller coaster.  Mornings have been absolutely dreadful over the past two years.  He is like waking a monster from hibernation until he eats something and then he calms right down.  He gets upset and cries in the mornings and get frustrated about everything.  He snaps at his brothers and gets emotional over very trivial things.  After school is a major melt down time.  He is usually upset and grumpy until he gets something to eat and often wants to just lie on the couch for a while after school.  I know what you are thinking....This woman just has a brat for a son. But it's really not like that. Really, it's not. He has a perfect 100 conduct grade from Kindergarten to 4th grade.  He is polite to adults and is a perfectionist in sports.  He has a God given talent in all things athletic and attends gifted classes.  He really is a great kid.

   His "episodes" are always tied either not eating or they come immediately following when he begins to eat.  I have always thought that he couldn't help it when he exploded and that there had to be a physical reason behind his episodes.  A little peanut butter or cheese always fixed him right up, but I still felt that there must be something more I could be doing to keep him more balanced and less likely to have a meltdown or an episode.
    I came across some research when I was reading one night online about sugar.  It really piqued my interest, so I read more.  Over the last month, I have read several books, articles, medical reviews and all sorts of research about the negative effects of sugar.  I was truly baffled by what I had read.  All sorts of bad things.....like how addictive it is, how it weakens your immune system for hours after you eat it, how it makes your glucose levels in your body fluctuate, how your liver has to process the alchohol in sugar very similarly to the way it processes drinking alchohol, it causes kidney damage, it causes eczema, it's the top cause of diabetes, it causes hypogycemia, it leads to certain cancers, causes crankiness in children, it causes mood swings and fatigue.... the list literally goes on and on and on.  The medical professionals all agree that sugar has these negative effects on people. 
   In the mean time, while I was reseaching about all of this and realizing that I needed to consider at least cutting out some sugar from our diet, my sister-in-law was diagnosed as hypoglycemic.  She was telling me one day at work that since her diagnosis, she had removed sugar from her diet and felt so much better!  She told me that she tried to just cut back on sugar and balance it with high protein, but she noticed that eating something with sugar in it made her feel bad. She was proclaiming that it had really improved her mood most of all. 
   That sealed the deal.  I had to at least try it.  It was worth a try to see if removing all sugar would help Sawyer's moods and episodes stabalize.  And after reading all about how bad it was for everyone....not just hypoglycemics, I decided that I didn't really want any of us eating it anymore. We were planning to go out of town for a weekend camping trip last weekend for my marathon, so I decided to not make any changes until we got back home from that trip.  I wanted to be able to clean out the pantry and replace the sugary stuff before I eliminated it all.  But during that weekend on the Friday we left, Sawyer had two episodes.....one of them was very scary.  The first one was somewhat typical for him. It was the same thing we saw all.....the ....time. He ate pancakes loaded with sugar.  I warned him that he might not feel good if he ate them, but he retorted that he would eat some bacon with them so that he wouldn't feel bad. He would "balance" it with protein. Within half an hour, he was an emotional basketcase.  He went from being on cloud nine because he was heading to the campground on a school day, to crying and grouching at everyone.  He was upset and he felt terrible. His stomach hurt and he felt sick and dizzy. We pulled out the emergency stash of food, and he leveled out within half an hour or so.  He was back to his regular old self.
     The next episode happened the same night at the campground.  We decided to have a campfire and roast marshmallows.....which are actually nothing more than a glorified puff of sugar.  Sawyer ate six of them.

Within a half hour or so, Sawyer fell apart.  His face got white. Scary white. He walked into the camper with a panicked look on his face.  He was patting his arms. Then patting his face. The he reached to the back of his neck and patted.  He rubbed his checks and then his arms again.
He said,
"I don't feel good.  I think I need something to eat."
I took one look at him and knew something was wrong.  I asked,
"What feels bad on you.  What's wrong?"
He replied with,
 "I feel fake. My skin feels fake."
After explaining it to us, he meant that his skin felt numb and he began to cry.  His voice sounded so little when he said,
"I'm scared."
We got a spoonful of peanut butter for him to eat and gave him a cheese stick.  As he ate it, tears rolled down his pale cheeks.  He continued to pat different parts of his body.  He told us that he was checking to see if his nerves were still working.  The whole ordeal was very unnerving for both him and the rest of us.
That was the last time any of us had sugar.

We came home and I cleaned the sugar out of the pantry.  I checked labels and bagged up anything that had more than a couple of grams of sugar. 

I replaced the sugar stuff with peanut butter, beef jerky, lots of fruit (which has natural sugar, but the body breaks it down differently...so it is perfectly healthy), popcorn, crackers, almonds and peanuts.  I began researching looking for recipes and "sugar-free" alternatives to replace what I was taking away.  I expected the transition to be very difficult for us.  I was so wrong.
We kicked sugar out and haven't looked back.

Sugar isn't good for any of us, so we all are benefitting from the change.  Carter, who was complaining of a tummy ache almost every day at school, has stopped having stomach pain.  I am less hungry.  I don't crave sugar stuff and dream about it all day like I use to.  I haven't missed it so far.  But, the biggest change has been for Sawyer. 
I honestly wouldn've have believed it could have made such a difference except that I see it with my own eyes.
After exactly one week off sugar, I asked him how he felt and if he could tell a difference.  He smiled and said...
"My skin hasn't felt fake one single time this week.  I also haven't been dizzy or light headed at all." 
He was very pleased with this change in his physical health.  I also pointed out that he seemed happier, to which he agreed wholeheartedly.  In a full week, we didn't experience one single meltdown before school or after school.  Not one.  None.
I couldn't even believe it.
Sawyer looked at me and said,
"I think you and daddy finally figured out what was wrong with me.  I know you've tried everything, but I think you've figured it out."

So long, sweet poison.


1 comment:

Brian Jacobs said...

You have described my childhood exactly and I am still like this, despite cutting out all refined sugar for over twenty years. It's great that you are cutting it out sooner than I did. Just about a week ago, I explained my condition to my doctor and he completely dismissed it. I use diet and vitamins and eat often to help. Good luck. It's real.