Trick or Treat: What Sugar Really Does to Your Body

For many of us, Halloween is the first time of the year we convince ourselves it is okay to have an extra piece of candy. Or two. Or three. Then, by Christmas time, we are left wondering how we so easily gained those few extra pounds, or why we feel so tired all of the time. Throughout this blog, I will:

  • Share some tips and tricks to avoiding the extra indulgences this Halloween,
  • Help you to understand what really happens to your body when you ingest too much sugar, and
  • Explain how your Board Certified Massage Therapist can help overcome “Sugar Overload.”

What Really Happens When You Consume Too Much Sugar

Most experts will tell you that consuming too much sugar is a reason for your stubborn belly fat—and they are right! Many consider sugary foods to be a special treat or a daily delight, but in the physiological (body function) sense, we could call sugar the enemy—a toxic material that is addictive in nature, and can accelerate the nation’s growth in obesity to over 34% of the population (and rising).

  • Scary Sugar Fact #1: Obesity, stress, and a sedentary lifestyle are becoming key risk factors in a host of conditions, such as Hypertension, Hyperlipidemia, Diabetes, and Kidney Disease. Furthermore, sugar has been implicated in the growth of cancer cells and a factor in Alzheimer’s, too. Scary!
  • Scary Sugar Fact #2: As a general rule, the average person can metabolize six teaspoons of added sugar per day; however, generally Americans consume over three times that amount! Consequently, the majority of the excess sugar consumed becomes metabolized into body fat, leading to many of the chronic metabolic diseases mentioned above.
  • Scary Sugar Fact #3: Most consume excessive sugar in the form of fructose or high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). This highly processed form of sugar is 20 percent sweeter than regular table sugar, and much cheaper—which is why many food and beverage manufacturers today use it in products.

Of course, these are just a few of the scariest “side effects” of consuming too much sugar—but there are many other side effects, some of which cannot be seen with the naked eye. 

The Frightening Long-Term Effects of Too Much Sugar

  • Trick not Treat: Sugar tricks your body into gaining weight and affects your insulin. The fructose fools your metabolism by turning off your body's appetite control system. By failing to stimulate insulin, your body suppresses "the hunger hormone," which then fails to stimulate "the satiety hormone." This causes you to eat more and develop insulin resistance.
  • Liver Damage:  The effects of too much sugar or fructose can be likened to the effects of alcohol, as the fructose you eat gets shuttled to the liver. This creates hepatic overload, leading to potential liver damage.
  • Metabolic Dysfunction: Eating too much sugar causes a barrage of symptoms, known as Classic Metabolic Syndrome. These include weight gain, abdominal obesity, decreased HDL (High Density Lipids; the good cholesterol) and increased LDL (the bad cholesterol; Little Devil Lipids), elevated blood sugar, elevated triglycerides, and Hypertension (High Blood Pressure).
  • Increased Uric Acid Levels: High uric acid not only is a key factor in Gout, but also a risk factor for heart and kidney disease. In fact, the connection between fructose, metabolic syndrome, and your uric acid is now so clear, that uric acid levels are now used as a marker for fructose toxicity.

Tips and Tricks to Avoiding “Sugar Overload”

The key to enjoying Halloween (and the many exciting holidays that follow) is to practice moderation. This is often much easier said than done, which is why my family and I have incorporated a few fun (but purposeful) guidelines when we have an extra something sweet around the house.

Help you and your family avoid “Sugar Overload” with these simple tips:

  • Buy candy you don’t like. You will be less tempted to eat it yourself, and more motivated to give it away to eager Trick or Treaters.
  • Allow yourself one piece of candy per day. You do not have to give up everything you enjoy to stay on a healthy path—just eat in moderation!
  • Hide candy in a high cabinet or unexpected place (i.e. the coat or linen closet). If you don’t trust yourself to keep from sneaking extra candy, ask another family member to do it for you.
  • Keep a food diary. This way, you can track when you enjoy something sweet and know how to properly balance your diet for the following days/weeks.
  • Talk to your Board Certified Massage Therapist about your stress levels, and any other major changes to your diet or exercise plan. This will ensure you get the most out of your weekly sessions, especially if these may merit changes to your current treatment plan.
  • Replace the candy bowl with a bowl of colorful veggies or fruits.
  • If you cannot seem to shake a craving, try chewing on a piece of gum or going for a brief walk to focus your mind elsewhere.
  • Indulge in flavored water—a hint of strawberry, lemon, or raspberry may be all you need to curb your sugar craving (and stay hydrated!).

Massage Therapy and Sugar: What to Do If You/Your Child Overindulges this Halloween

Massage therapy can be quite helpful for those suffering with hypo- and hyperglycemia (whether self-induced or not!) to improve blood circulation and decrease stress. Halloween is often the kick-off of the holiday season—we begin planning for and attending holiday parties and work gatherings, begin holiday shopping, securing travel arrangements, etc. In turn, our stress levels increase, directly impacting our blood sugar levels. The more stress we have, the more blood sugar our body will think we need to get through whatever “crisis” is happening, thus our extra sweet cravings that seem to begin at Halloween and trickle into the New Year.

For those with high blood sugar and stressful holiday schedules, join thousands of others seeking out a Board Certified Massage Therapist to help:

  • Decrease stress levels
  • Decrease headache pain
  • Improve blood circulation
  • Increase range of motion in joints/muscles
  • Increase flexibility
  • Increase body awareness
  • Increase sense of well-being

Scary Good Massage Facts

When you find yourself tempted to overindulge in a little excess sugar this Halloween, or perhaps preparing for that stressful holiday party, remember that massage therapy and your Board Certified Massage Therapist can help treat a wide range of symptoms and medical conditions. In fact, the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) conducted a study with consumers to determine how massage therapy impacts lives beyond the benefits we already know. Here is what they found:

  • 91% of consumers view massage as being beneficial to overall health and wellness.
  • 92% of consumers believe massage can be effective in reducing pain; 30% stated they have used massage therapy for pain relief.
  • The overall mean (excluding none) was 4.3 massages for those receiving massage in past 12 months. Those whose primary reason for getting massage was medical got a mean of 4 massages.
  • Overall mean (excluding none) was 10.1 massages for those receiving massage in past 5 years. Those whose primary reason for getting massage was medical got a mean of 10.9 massages.

With the above in mind, when we decide to have that extra piece of candy this Halloween, it’s important to ask ourselves why we want it. We may be asking much more of our bodies than we realize! For that reason alone, it is more important than ever this time of year to maintain a regular schedule with your Board Certified Massage Therapist—whether that be to help with a medical reason in conjunction with other healthcare professionals, or simply for a greater sense of health and well-being to combat the Holiday Grind. Together, you and your therapist will devise a treatment plan and schedule that works for you, taking into account all of your holiday stressors and sweet temptations.

If you are seeking to connect with a Board Certified Massage Therapist near you, click here.

Tell us! Which Halloween candy is your biggest temptation?


This blog was written by:

Board Chair
Dr. Leena S. Guptha
D.O., MBA, BCTMB

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