The word ‘toxic’ is so confusing it needs to be divided into two categories.
Category 1: There are things that we know are toxic and that will kill you quickly, like ingesting rat poison or inhaling caustic chemicals. These things have an immediate and perhaps irreparable impact on your body simply because your body can’t process them, can’t clear them fast enough, so it overwhelms the system. It takes its toll and kills you.
Category 2: The word ‘toxic’ is applied to all kinds of other things in our world from indoor air, to relationships to pesticide sprayed broccoli. These things won’t take your legs out from under you and make you turn blue; instead, they make their impact over time. Much depends upon how effectively you/your body deal with them or eliminate them. This category is HUGE and but humans are designed to handle little baby assaults that would have the capacity to kill us… slowly. The trick is to mitigate risk all day, every day by making wise choices and having healthy habits.
There is one insidious thing that does exist in our daily lives that heretofore has been believed to be in category 2 (not that bad) that turns out to be a category 1 (really bad).
That’s right. Sugar.
(sometimes known as juice. Even pure, ‘freshly squeezed’ fruit juice, also known as brown sugar, no better than High Fructose Corn Sugar.)
There is a YouTube video lecture called Sugar: The Bitter Truth given by a specialist on paediatric hormone disorders (like diabetes) and the leading expert in childhood obesity, Dr. Lustig, that has become a bit of a legendary sensation normally reserved for pop artists. This lecture makes a persuasive argument about sugar and its toxic impact on your body. He makes it clear that we can no longer just think of sugar as ‘empty calories’ that can be ‘worked off’ as long as you are otherwise healthy. The impact of sugar goes way beyond that to actually become toxic. He walks through the biochemical reasons why a glass of juice or soda is no different than a shot of bourbon. The impact on the liver is the same either way and it is killing us…sweetly. Worth switching categories for, right?
Knowing this begs the question: is it ALL sugar? Certainly all white sugar/brown sugar/corn sugar that is consumed in liquid form. There is no doubt that we need to reduce the estimated 40+ pounds of that stuff that we swallow in our snacks and pour into our cups each year. Then, you want to find alternatives to them as often as you can.
It usually comes as a shock to people that most liver disease in Canada and the US is caused by food abuse and obesity and not by alcohol abuse. The liver of a 10-year-old overweight child who is fed junk all his years can be just as damaged as that of a 60-year-old alcoholic. Both conditions lead to cirrhosis and potentially cancer.
In fact, liver cancer is one of the very few cancers still on the increase. Why? Because people don’t know about the problem. One in ten Canadian has liver disease. Many, if not most, don’t even know about it until the condition is very advanced—perhaps irreversibly.
Your liver performs over 500 jobs and does so silently and judiciously. Among those jobs are the master tasks of managing your cholesterol, hormones and filtering your blood. You can’t survive without any one of those processes. The liver is the largest organ in the body—and it is the only organ that can regenerate itself.
The Canadian Liver Foundation is sounding the alarm that we can no longer marginalize liver disease as one caused by alcohol abuse alone. Diet plays a much bigger role as does the very preventable, treatable Hepatitis A, B and C. Many carry and transmit this virus without knowing it and yet simple, cost effective screening is available.
So, here is what you can do:
Image of cirrhosis from Shutterstock.