Croll: Got pain? Break Up with Sugar

By Chris Croll

I’m having my left hip replaced this week because of a degenerative bone condition with which I was diagnosed 17 years ago. I was in enough pain last June to have my hip replaced then, but my stubborn “I’ll tough it out” attitude, a demanding home life and two pre-paid summer vacations resulted in me scheduling the surgery for mid-November when it would be less disruptive. At the time, five months didn’t seem like a long time to wait.

By August, however, the pain in my joint and legs was so severe that I had exhausted my prescriptions for oral steroids and my liver enzymes were dangerously elevated from a round-the-clock Tylenol habit. I met with a pain management doctor in the hopes of finding relief. He smiled and then proceeded to rule out every option on his list, including the last-resort-for-most-people steroid injections. I was left facing three months of bone-on-bone joint pain as I waited for my surgery date to arrive.

Because my hip joint was shot, I couldn’t tolerate even basic physical therapy or any form of exercise, including swimming. However, my fork-to-mouth muscles worked just fine and I started to pack on the pounds.

At eight weeks until surgery, I was in so much pain I had to use a cane to help me walk and I couldn’t sleep more than a few hours at a stretch. As I scoured the internet for suggestions, I read that every pound of weight that we carry on our frame equates to about 10 pounds of pressure on our hips. I reasoned that if I lost some weight, maybe I could get some relief.

A friend recommended a low-carb, low-sugar medical diet that had rave reviews online. It was an expensive program, but I was out of other options, so I plunked down my credit card and signed myself up. The diet involved consuming very few carbs, very low sugar and moderate levels of protein. Within three days of cutting carbs and sugar out of my diet, I noticed that my hip and leg pain levels had decreased. At my first weigh-in one week into the diet, I had lost 7 pounds of water weight, which suggested the inflammation was way down. By week 2 on this diet, my pain had subsided so much that I ditched the cane and I was able to sleep through the night again.

After seven weeks on the diet, I had lost 21 pounds and my pain was almost nil.

As my surgery date approached, doctors advised that I go back to a “regular diet.” So, for the past few days, I have been indulging in all of the foods I had worked hard to avoid—pasta, fruit, dessert and my favorite beverage … an extra hot Chai Latte from Shoes Cup and Cork in Leesburg. (If you haven’t tried that magical concoction, it tastes like heaven in a cup…if heaven were full of sugar.)

Since I’ve started consuming sugar and carbs again, the pain in my hip joint and legs has come raging back. I am not sleeping much at night and the Tylenol bottle is, once again, banging around in my purse.

There is no other explanation for the difference in my pain than the amount of sugar in my diet. I’m convinced sugar is toxic and could be responsible for so many of our ailments; joint pain, poor digestion, mental fog, lousy sleep…and maybe even diseases like cancer.

It’s not like we haven’t heard the ‘sugar is not good for you’ message before. But I am living proof of the difference a low sugar diet can make for people who suffer from chronic pain.

I’m sharing my story in the hopes it can help someone else out there. It only took a few days for me to feel the physical benefits. Perhaps it’s worth a try for you, too? Go a week with no sugar in your diet and see how you feel.

But before you do … go get yourself an extra hot Chai Latte because once you experience the benefits of eliminating sugar from your diet, you may never be able to enjoy a drink like that ever again!

[Chris Croll is a writer, community activist and member of the Loudoun County School Board (Catoctin District). She lives in Leesburg with her husband and two children.]

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