Inflammation: Attack of the Sugar Zombies

by Michael Braunstein         2019.01.22

Mom loved jellybeans. She kept a candy dish on the coffee table long before Ronald Reagan boosted Jelly Bellies™ to fame by serving them in the Oval Office. Those little morsels of sugar and corn starch took up permanent residence in our living room. One day, about twenty-some years ago, I was sitting across the room from that bowl of temptation, casually watching television. With but a thoughtless glance toward the candy dish, I was crossing the room to grab a handful. My sugar urge felt sated… but only for a minute. Then I had to get up and collect another handful. Then another. And another. Even before the third dose, I knew that I didn’t want more but I had the distinct feeling that I wasn’t making the choice. I almost felt driven to keep digging in to that confectioner’s curse.

I already knew that biologically our bodies are not our own. We are host to a population of living things not entirely human, our bodies filled with a population of bacteria, yeast cells, fungi and other symbiotic fauna and flora greater in number than our human cells. It was clear to me: I wasn’t the one who wanted the jelly beans. I was outnumbered. The yeast and bacteria in my body that thrive on sugar were controlling the action. Though part of me was almost sick of the gluttony, they signaled for more. Sugar is so toxic the human part of the body would barf before the bugs gave up their sucrose orgy.

C’mon Baby Light My Fire Sugar is an extremely efficient form of fuel. If plants like sugar cane, beets, corn and fruits — common natural sources of raw sugar — are likened to crude oil coming out of the ground, then the refined sugar found in most processed foods (and candies) is like high-octane jet fuel. But if you put jet fuel in your car, you’ll burn the engine up. It’s too hot to handle. Same is true with sugar and the human body. Sugar does an intense burn on the body by causing chronic inflammation.

Inflammation is a good thing when it’s needed. It’s part of the immune system response to any stress, attack by injury, infection, toxins or viruses insulting the body. Acute inflammation when needed helps the body heal. But when the insult is ongoing the result is chronic inflammation which has nothing but bad outcomes every time. Heart disease, ulcerative colitis, diabetes, cancer and other diseases are strongly linked to chronic inflammation. With heart disease, one cardiologist likens the effect of sugar and the resulting chronic inflammation to “taking a stiff brush to the inside of the arteries and scrubbing until it bleeds then keeping that up day after day.”

Avoiding the “Craves” So which foods contribute to chronic inflammation? The list is long and nearly always highlights processed foods. Everyone knows what it means to crave. That day in my parents’ living room, a craving drove me to eat more jelly beans than I wanted. I didn’t want more sugar but the beasties in the body, the yeast, bacteria and aliens, did.

Now, if you think of some of the foods that cause a craving, you’ll have a good idea of what foods might be targeted by the bacteria in your gut. And that will in turn give you an idea of foods to avoid in order to lower incidence of chronic inflammation and therefore opportunities for heart disease, cancer, etc.

 Sugar is probably number one on the crave list. Alcohol is there, too. Alcohol is easily and rapidly turned into sugar. Then consider something like a cinnamon roll. That’s a double whammy. The sugar fires inflammation and the carbohydrates from the refined flour are again easily converted to our beasties’ favorite food.

Good fats, bad fats. Balancing omega-6 fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids in our diet is something industrial food is not very good at. For example, industrial eggs have an imbalance of too much omega-6 versus omega-3. That causes inflammation. A proper balance of omega-6 v. omega-3 will lower inflammation risk. Pastured, grass fed meats and true pastured eggs have a better balance. Good fats like olive oil and butter are better than corn or soybean oils. For example, butter has a balanced omega-6/omega-3 ratio of 1.5-to-1.0 while corn oil has an omega-6/omega-3 ratio of over 60-to-1. In fact, olive oil and butter are actually good for you. Corn oil, not so much!

Fire Down Below Chronic inflammation can present anywhere in the body: arteries, joints, fascia, intestines, nerves and muscles. It wears a body down and can erupt in acute symptoms. Adjusting the diet to eliminate processed foods, especially sugars and sugar-producing foods, while introducing a diet of whole foods can douse the flames. Pollution, stress, poor sleep habits, sedentary lifestyle, smoking and other behaviors also increase chronic inflammation. Now, if Jelly Belly™ would just stop making the Very Cherry flavor…

Be well.

(For a glimpse into the sordid past of Big Sugar, watch this video on YouTube)

Heartland Healing is a metaphysically based polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. Important to remember and pass on to others: for a weekly dose of Heartland Healing, visit

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