• Dr. Caroline Ricker

Don't Get Tricked By Treats

Ahhh yes. It’s finally time for Halloween! A month where kids and adults alike partake in all sorts of fun activities and events, most of them usually involving a copious amount of delicious sweet treats.

Candy, cider, donuts, caramel apples, pumpkin everything….mmmmm.

Trust me, I don’t want to be the Grinch of Halloween, but I’m here to say that if you suffer from stomach problems then there’s probably more trick than treat in store for you this festive season if you over indulge.

When most people think of stomach issues and problem foods, they typically think of spicy foods, dairy (lactose intolerance anyone?), cruciferous veggies like broccoli, beans, and alcohol. What is frequently missed but just might be the worst offender in tummy woes is sugar. Yep, sugar.

A bummer, I know, but sugar has it out for your poor gut. There are two main ways that sugar will start messing with your tummy, by feeding bad bugs and by causing inflammation.

Feeding bad bugs.

If you aren’t familiar with your fabulous microbiome then you might not have a clue what I’m talking about when I say that sugar feeds bad bugs. In a nutshell, your digestive tract has millions of bacteria, viruses and fungi within it, and it’s supposed to be that way. These organisms live together in a Kumbaya type of harmony, or so they should.

When things go awry is when these organisms get out of balance. Certain types start to take up much more real estate in your intestines than they should and then they start vandalizing.

Sugar is like fuel to the fire. These “bad” bugs need that sugar in order to keep up their high numbers and carry on their nasty habits. As long as you keep dumping in the sugar you can expect gas, bloating, slow digestion, belching, fatigue and a host of other digestive symptoms. The fungus candida is a classic example, and in fact my Candida Protocol essentially calls for elimination of all sugars for a short period in order to starve the buggers out.

Bacterial imbalance high up in the digestive tract, often known as SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), and in the stomach can lead to acid reflux.

Causing Inflammation

Sugar is an inflammatory food. In studies it has been shown to raise inflammatory markers in the blood, and regular consumption leads to chronic low grade inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked to: depression, anxiety, body pain, chronic fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, weight gain, diabetes, dementia and frequent infections.

You’ll notice that at least half those symptoms revolve around the gut, more than half if you’re familiar with the linkage of the gut to mood disorders. When the lining of the gut becomes inflamed, it stops being able to regulate what goes in and out as efficiently. This situation, known as leaky gut, is theorized to lead to autoimmunity which can play a role in problems such as IBS, Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis.

So how do we enjoy Halloween without compromising our digestive health? Here are our top tips!

1. Plan your events on a calendar – If you map out what days you know there will be plenty of sweet treats and make a commitment to only eating sugary foods on those few days, your body will not be so overloaded. It’s way too easy to keep stopping by the break room, the treat dish at your doctors waiting room, etc. if you don’t set up some rules for yourself.

2. BYOT – bring your own treats! If you’ve got lots of Halloween parties and such, bring a few things that don’t contain as much sugar. There are plenty of candies that are now lower in sugar or sweetened with things like Stevia (an all-natural sweetener). If you make your own baked goods vs. buying them you can often cut out tons of sugar without anyone ever knowing. Choosing dark chocolate over milk chocolate will cut a bit out as well. Note: please don’t replace sugar with artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame,

3. Freeze it! Can’t stay out of the candy? Stick it in the freezer! It’s a lot harder to smash through a bunch of frozen candy then it is to take a few pieces out here and there and enjoy them slowly!

We hope these help you be a little bit nicer to your tummy and stave off inflammation (and maybe a pound or two) this holiday season. And don’t just use these tips for Halloween, we all know that October is just a teaser of the sugary delights in November and December!

Dr. Caroline Ricker has been passionately helping people avoid unnecessary medications and surgeries since 2009. She combines a very logical functional medicine approach to digestive disorders and more using a more alternative holistic approach, utilizing standard lab tests and in-office evaluations as well as nutrition, acupuncture and homeopathy.

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