I overdid it the week of Thanksgiving. Not only did I indulge in an apple pie on the day (fruit-sweetened, of course, and with soy ice cream on top), but also in the days leading up to and after Thanksgiving (had to finish off the container of ice cream :). I was on a bender, with sugar-full things I don’t normally eat regularly like chocolate. I’m not quite sure what got into me (my partner likes to remind me that I’m human), but I just went with it, without condemnation. After about a week of it, I was ready to put it behind me and get back on track.
I’ve been back on the No-Added-Sugar wagon for over 2 ½ weeks now, and my system still isn’t back to normal. I’ve been experiencing a slower metabolism (things taking longer to pass through my system), some bloating, and a couple of pounds on the scale that won’t budge, even though I haven’t had added sugar in weeks.
So I thought I’d spend a little time here talking about what it takes to heal your gut, because that’s where I’m feeling the most discomfort.
When it comes to quitting sugar, or any behavior change for that matter, people often ask “How long will it take until I see a difference?” This may be especially true with starting an exercise regime, because it is so tangible. People want to see results to stay motivated, to know that their efforts are paying off, and to know that they are on a path to attain their goals.
In my experience, and those of my clients, when you quit sugar and flour some changes happen within hours, some within days, and others within weeks and months.
First, I’ll use the example of exercise so you can get a sense of the timing from something you likely have experienced.
Within hours of starting an exercise program: circulation increases, metabolism increases (from 15 minutes up to 48 hours afterwards depending on intensity and duration) systems revving, feeling energized and then calm.
Within days: Muscles sore as they repair, may experience resistance to resuming.
Within weeks: May see improvements in muscle tone, strength, stamina, and appetite.
Within months: Noticeable changes in muscle tone and/or cardio stamina, motivation from seeing and feeling differences, new habits settling in.
With sugar, it can similarly take a while to feel the systemic changes.
Within hours of quitting sugar: Blood sugar and insulin fluctuate and regain balance.
Within days: Detox symptoms (lethargy, headaches, brain fog all possible); body struggles to find other sources of energy, until it starts drawing on fat reserves; pull of habits emerge; brain feigns confusion, questions value of quitting; cravings.
Within weeks: Cravings subside; energy more consistent; inflammation begins to subside.
Within months: Within about 6-7 weeks, there can be a noticeable weakening of all the previous pulls (pleasure + reward, energy, gut bacteria, emotional and habitual). Subtle recalibration and efficiency of metabolic processes. Good bacteria in gut start outnumbering the bad bacteria. Inflammation starts to decrease.
So while I’ve started to feel better after my splurge, it still feels like I have a ways to go. During this time I am paying particular attention to eating lots of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc.), probiotics (raw sauerkraut and kim chi, kombucha), and not over taxing my system with a lot of different ingredients at once. I’ll be adding bone broth to this regimen too.
What is most important as you transition to new habits is consistency: your brain and body need time to recalibrate. Just stick with it, even though you may not see noticeable gains right away. They will come.