As a way to learn more about our local professionals and community builders, we decided to start an interview series. We had the great privilege of chatting with holistic health coach Julie Doan of Julie Doan Health Inc. about how sugar affects our bodies and our skin health.

Julie started as a pharmacist specialized in Type 2 diabetes and kidney failure. After closely working with patients requiring over 20 pills a day to survive, she came to understand that true health doesn’t come from pills but from the lifestyle choices you make. From this, a curiosity for preventative medicine grew, and eventually became a desire to study holistic nutrition and become a health coach. Combining her knowledge in pharmacy and holistic nutrition, she now helps people regain their health naturally so that they can reduce their need for medication, feel good in their body and have the energy to thrive in their lives. Her areas of focus include acne, eczema, reproductive health issues, emotional eating, diabetes, and hypertension. Continue reading for the interview:

Can you give us a simple breakdown of how sugar affects the skin on a cellular level? Where does the sugar go and why do we get breakouts when we consume too much?

When we eat foods containing carbohydrates (i.e. bread, pasta, potatoes, fruits, quinoa, oats, cookies, etc.), our digestive system will break them down into sugar molecules that will be released into your bloodstream to be distributed to your cells for fuel. While we need carbohydrates in order to function, we tend to eat more than what our body actually needs. We then find ourselves with an excess amount of sugar in our bloodstream.

Here’s what that means for your skin:

Premature aging: excess sugar molecules that our body doesn’t require for fuel can attach themselves to collagen and elastin. These are protein structures involved in keeping your skin strong, supple and youthful. However, when sugar attaches itself to collagen and elastin, it prevents them from functioning correctly which can ultimately lead to premature wrinkles and sagging.

Acne: Constant high levels of sugar in your blood promotes a high level of insulin hormone in your body, which then increases your production of testosterone and androgen (the so-called “male” hormones).

Not only does this hormonal imbalance affect your female reproductive health, but it only sends a signal to your skin to produce more oil. As you may know, oilier skin can lead to clogged pores and breakouts. And to make matters worse, excess sugar can increase inflammation in your body, which can also worsen acne.

Do you suggest cutting out sugar altogether?

Not at all! I believe occasional sweets can be part of a balanced diet. It’s the EXCESS sugar I’m advocating against. That being said, you want to be conscious of the sources of sugar and carbohydrates you eat and choose the least processed option.

I recommend to cut down on refined sugar such as white sugar, fructose, corn syrups, and high fructose corn syrup that are added to many pre-packaged foods. You also want to limit your intake of processed carbohydrates like bread, pasta, pizza, and cookies.

Instead, favor “whole-food” carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, quinoa, beans, and fruits (Nature’s candy!) as your main source of sugar.

Why are you passionate about educating people on all aspects of living a healthy lifestyle, and why specifically on reducing sugar?

I started my career working with severe Type 2 diabetes and got to see firsthand how devasting this condition can be if you let it progress. While genetics do play a role in the development of Type 2 diabetes, science has shown that lifestyle habits like nutrition and exercise play a big role in the evolution of the condition.

Knowing that I can help prevent illness and suffering by teaching people the tools to live a healthy lifestyle is what fuels me. Because excess sugar intake is associated with so many diseases, it’s the one I tend to tackle first when helping my patients and clients.

On a more personal level, I’ve dealt with acne and eczema for almost 15 years. I’ve tried many birth control pills, antibiotics, and harsh medicated creams. While they all helped to a certain extent, it was changing my diet (cutting out refined sugar and increased whole foods) and managing my high levels of stress that actually healed my skin and allowed me to get off my medication.

Sugar has many different forms and is a true master of disguise. Can you list the most common synonyms for sugar people should look out for on ingredient labels?

If you Google “hidden names of sugar”, you’ll see that added sugar has at least 40 different names! Some common names are white sugar, fructose, corn syrups, high fructose corn syrup, rice syrup, barley malt, glucose, sucrose, maltose, lactose, dextrose, and cane sugar.

Can you give us a breakdown of what to expect during your Naturally Sweet challenge?

It’s a 5-day challenge that will help you manage your sugar cravings and stabilize your energy levels by teaching you how to reduce your sugar intake.

Each day, I will send you actionable tips so you know exactly what to focus on. I give you guidance on how to manage your cravings and prevent the dreaded 3 pm energy crash. I also send you a meal plan with recipe ideas so that you know what to eat during these 5 days.

If ever you feel intimidated by the idea of going “zero added sugar” for 5 days, feel free to adapt the recommendations and reduce your sugar intake to 50% instead of fully cutting it out. Progress is the real goal of this challenge, not perfection!

I want you to be able to experience what it’s like to no longer have to deal with the brain fog, the constant fatigue, and the bloating caused by excess sugar. Let me show you how good you can feel with a Naturally Sweet lifestyle!

Where can people sign up?

You can sign up for free at bit.ly/naturally_sweet. As soon as you sign up, you’ll receive your meal plan and recipe ideas to get you started.

Times are a little crazy and things are uncertain, is there anything you want to share with your community here to help stay healthy and positive?

Focus on the things you can change and can DO right now. During these uncertain times, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and feel anxious by all the things we can’t control. And these feelings are normal! Feel and accept the anxiety, but just don’t get stuck in that place.

The number one thing I always tell my clients when they feel stuck is to take one 5-minute action to get down out of inertia and into momentum. Depending on your health goal, it might be: Taking a walk outside to clear your thoughts, journaling, calling a friend, doing a 5-minute workout video to get moving, making a grocery list so your pantry is full of healthy options when you get a craving, preparing your overnight oats so that you have breakfast in the morning.

There are so many things we can’t control right now. However, I want to invite you to focus on the things you can do right now to stay healthy and stay safe. And luckily, these are things you can control. So keep your focus on that.

How can people find you for online health consults?

People can find me on Instagram @juliedoanhealth and at juliedoanhealth.com

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