By The ROLLIN RN, Patty Kunze, RNC, BSN
When I strive to come up with articles of interest to the folks with limited mobility population, I obtain my inspiration from various sources…..magazines, TV, friends, family. When I research and write these articles, I learn new ideas as well, along with you all that read them. And this one is no different. SUGAR, I love it as much as the next but how much is too much and what are the consequences of this precious sweetener on our bodies?
The first site I investigated stated ‘sugar has no nutritional value. In fact, the sweetener provides extra calories but none of the vital nutrients your body needs to stay healthy’. Duh…..we all know this but here are the hard facts, and yes, I have my listening ears on too. The average American consumes 3 pounds of sugar a week and 130 pounds a year. This is equal to about 3,550 pounds of sugar in a lifetime. The consumption of added sugar accounts for an intake of 500 calories per day, which can cause a weight gain of 1 pound per week. Oh my goodness!! But how much sugar should be consumed per day? According to the American Heart Association, 30 grams of sugar is recommended per day…..MAX. Let me put that into perspective: A 12 ounce soda with sugar contains about 40 grams of sugar or 1 medium order of French Fries equal 1 hour and 12 minutes of swimming.
Take a gander in your pantry, like I did. Look at the sweet contents of the food you have already bought. Start there and once you feel comfortable reading labels at home then transfer that habit to your grocery shopping. You will be amazed at the sugar content you are already ingesting. I can bet most of you are consuming more than the recommended daily allowances.
You may wonder “why am I chatting about sugar?” There are so many, many effects of sugar on our body, weight gain, decrease in healing of wounds, risk of diabetes, UTIs……the list is endless. An elevated blood sugar level stiffens the arteries and causes narrowing of the blood vessels. The effects of this are far-reaching and include the origin of wounds as well as risk factors to proper wound healing. We already have decreased circulation from limited mobility but now narrowed blood vessels lead to decreased blood flow and decreased oxygen to a wound. An elevated blood sugar level decreases the function of red blood cells that carry the nutrients to the tissue. This lowers the efficiency of the white blood cells that fight infection. Without sufficient nutrients and oxygen, a wound heals slowly.
Let’s take a minute to absorb this statement……narrowed blood vessels → decreased blood flow → decreased oxygen to promote wound healing. Mmmm, interesting, isn’t it!! Sounds like the idea of a simple precious sweetener leads to many other problems. Remember, sugars are also referred to as sucrose, fructose, dextrose, lactose, and many other names.
Urinary tract infections can be an additional concern with increased sugar consumption. Higher blood sugars may cause a spilling of sugar into the urine which acts as food for bacteria and makes it much easier for bacteria to grow and replicate thus leading to urinary tract infection. Sugar or glucose allows the bacteria in the urine to reproduce much easier. We are already trying to remedy the urinary system of issues associated with limited mobility. Ingesting increased amounts of sugar is a cumulative, evolving issue.
The last issue being addressed in this article is weight gain due to increased sugar consumption. I am not spending much time on the subject because we all understand that increased sugar leads to weight gain. A statement from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center booklet reads, “extra pounds cause risk to the skin: As people gain weight, the skin traps moisture, greatly increasing the risk of skin sores. Inactivity can also result in loss of trunk control, shortening or weakness of muscles, decreased bone density, and inefficient breathing.” Inactivity – huge word for us in wheelchairs or with limited mobility. I read that for every 30 minutes of pushing a wheelchair 272 calories are burned. Not bad but what about us in electric power chairs? We don’t even burn the 272 calories quoted for pushing a wheelchair for 30 minutes.
Helpful hints for decreasing sugar consumption:
ü Read the labels.
ü Choose fruits and vegetables for snacks or desserts.
ü Do not add extra sugar to coffee, tea, cereal, or other foods.
ü Add protein to each meal – protein helps stabilize blood sugar.
ü One other suggestion was to choose sugar-free or low sugar sodas but I’m torn about supporting that for various reasons. I suggest substituting sugar-free sodas for water. All of us limited mobility individuals need increased water for many reasons.
This article is merely providing fact information in the consumption of sugar and the folks with limited mobility issues. As a nurse I have always provided facts to increase the learning process and this article is only providing the realities of sugar consumption. I have vowed to decrease my daily consumption of sugar. Raise your hand or nod if you take the vow with me. Sugar addiction has been proven by science to be a real addiction and changes are difficult to maintain. Stopping cold-turkey is one way or just decreasing your sugar intake on a gradual basis. The choice is yours.
Reprinted with permission from PushLiving.com
Diet containing too much sugar can quickly cause weight gain. Obtained September 27, 2014 from http://www.womenfitness.net/deit_sugar.htm.
How diabetes affects wound healing. Obtained September 23, 2014 from http://www.woundcarecenters.org/article/living-with-wounds/how-diabetes-affects-wound-healing.
Maddox, S. (2nd Ed.) (2009) Health management and wellness. Paralysis Resource Guide. Short Hills, NJ. 110.
Recommended grams of sugar per day. Obtained September 26, 2014 from http://www.livestrong.com/article/474832-recommended-grams-of-sugar-per-day/.
Urinary tract infection. Obtained September 26, 2014 from http://www.urologyteam.com/node/359.
PATTY KUNZE is a Registered Nurse with more than 30 years of experience in clinical nursing. She graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Nursing from Old Dominion University and began working in the Spinal Cord Injury Unit of a V.A. hospital immediately after graduation. Later she trained to become a neonatal transport nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and progressed in that field for over 15 years. Following that, she was a Labor and Delivery manager for 8 years, and a successful nursing instructor prior to her accident.
In 2009, Patty and her husband moved to a new home and while relocating they were involved in an auto accident in which she sustained a complete T3-4 spinal cord injury. She experienced life as a patient instead of a nurse during her hospitalization and rehab, which proved challenging for a seasoned nurse with experience in spinal cord injury.
Patty has been married to her husband for more than 26 years and they are proud parents of two sons, ages 24 and 20. She works a part-time job as a nurse for her local hospital, as a nurse paralegal for local legal firms, and fulfills her need to help others by writing helpful medical articles for individuals with limited mobility and spinal cord injuries as The RollinRN. She enjoys being the family supervisor, gardening, reading, research, travel, and spending time with their two dogs.