1 in 4 adults have fatty liver disease due to dietary habits.

And I’m starting to see more fatty pancreas conditions showing up too!

Is it all sugar or is it highly processed flours, fake sugars, chemicals, genetic mutations?

Can you have an allergy or sensitivity to sugar or is it the fermentation of the sugar in your gut by your microbiome?

I’ve seen a rise in clients with small intestine fungal overgrowth (SIFO) like candida or mold (SIFO) and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) infections struggle with sugar sensitivities.

Is it all diet or is there gut function problem going on?

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A recent conversation with a fellow doc friend of mine posed an interesting perspective on sugar.

Does sugar in the raw or sugar cane sticks cause inflammation when consumed on their own with a liquid such as in the case of adding it to coffee, tea or lemonade?

And are there more negative reactions to sugar when it’s combined with another refined ingredient like flour?

Are sugar cane sticks, yes actual pieces of sugar cane, a better option when you’d like to sweeten a drink?

The proponents of coconut sugar tout that it’s sugar straight from the coconut so it’s less inflammatory. 

Same goes for raw honey, legit maple syrup and dates. 

So why couldn’t straight up sugar cane sticks be the way to go for a little flavoring without the inflammation?

It’s the rawest form of sugar. 

My argument for the case is – why not?

It seems that when sugar or even closest to nature sweeteners are paired with refined flours they cause more inflammation in the body than when sweeteners are used in liquids on their own as a flavoring agent.

Having sugar, honey, maple syrup or dates will increase your blood sugar, there’s no way around that.

But does a little increase in blood sugar always cause inflammation?

Not necessarily.

Eating an apple, sweet potato or even a piece of chicken all have the potential to increase blood sugar but are not touted to be inflammation increasing foods. 

You can stabilize your blood sugar within a few hours, inflammation can take days to weeks.

Sugar breaks down quickly and is not known to irritate the gut lining.

If there is irritation it’s often due to fermentation of the sugars by the gut microbiome. 

Why then did sugar get hated on and zero calorie sweeteners took over?


Same goes for all the gluten free highly processed snacks and breads…

…and the keto and low carb breads too.

What did all those Snackwells and low fat snacks do to us in the 90’s?

And why are they not around now?

Marketing hype!

The issue with sugar and health boils down to the quantity consumed.

Are you better off with sugar cane sticks, raw honey or maple syrup for a few calories vs the refined or zero calorie chemical stuff?

In my experience of helping patients go from being overweight and not feeling great to thriving – the answer is a firm YES!

But doc, what about sugar addictions aren’t you fueling this fire?

The healthier you feel the less you’ll want to over do anything in the food department.

It’s more about creating a healthier relationship with food than restricting. 

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And if you’re using all the fake sweeteners – are you really doing yourself a favor when it comes to sweet addictions anyway?

Is the zero calories in one indulgence being offset by another?

Mind games are real when it comes to food, I’ve been there!

As you head into the holiday season I encourage you to think about the quality of the sugar or sweeteners you’re using and the quantity. 

Know that sugar, refined flours and seed oil seem to be a bigger source of inflammation and contributor to fatty liver conditions than sugar alone.

How do you get around all of this?

Make your own indulgences!

I love taking raw nuts and seeds and toasting them up with cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg plus a little raw honey or even maple syrup this time of year. (my recipe at the end of the email)

Consider avoiding the refined flours and make nut crusts with dates instead. 

Explore whole ingredients recipes for better versions of your favorite treats and ditch the refined ingredients as much as you can. 

Check out – the following websites I love for inspiration…

I believe that sugar in moderation has less impact on inflammation than refined flour, sugar and seed oils all together. 

What does moderation mean to me?

3-4 times a month.

You may be different than me.

How do you know how much is right for you?

See how you feel and what your body does (ex: weight gain, puffiness, aches) based on certain amounts. 

You can get ahold of sugar cane sticks and compressed sugar cane from specialty South American and Caribbean stores as well as online. 

A quick search of organic sugar cane sticks will get you quite a few options such as Hula Girl’s from Hawaii.

Click HERE for a comprehensive guide.

What if you have some treat you really love over the holidays?

Eat the dang thing and savor every bite.

Don’t label it a “bad food” and share it with friends and family. 

Make it a point to be active that day and go for a walk afterwards plus drink plenty of water.

Moderation is key! 

So, with the holidays approaching – what can you do to maintain your moderation?

Have a plan, work with it and if it all goes to crap one day – forgive yourself and work on it the next day. 

Life is too short to deny yourself an indulgence here and there. 

Sugar isn’t the enemy, portions and highly refined chemically processed versions are (like high fructose corn syrup).

Find whole ingredients recipes, make better versions of your treats and your body will thank you!

Here’s a fave of mine! 


  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon Redmond’s sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground all spice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4 cups raw unsalted mixed nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, pistachios or almonds
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup
  • Mix spices and reserve.

Heat the nuts in a dry skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to toast, about 4 minutes. Add the butter, maple syrup and cook, stirring, until the nuts begin to darken, about 1 minute. Add the spices, 1 tablespoon water, and the salt and cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens and the nuts are glazed, about 5 minutes.

Remove the nuts from the heat and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, separating them with a fork. Let the nuts stand until cooled.

Here’s to sweetening up your world a little bit,

Dr. J

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