Next Time You Cut Yourself While Cooking, Here’s Why Doctors Say You Should Pour Sugar On The Wound

You grab a knife and start slicing – a quick dice to get dinner ready quickly. But as you hastily cut, you nick your finger and it starts bleeding. Rather than reaching straight for a band-aid, though, you have another option. Crack open the sugar jar and rely on the sweet stuff, as it has a surprising healing power.

It’s no secret that the United States has a sugar problem. Many experts have said that Americans should consume less of the stuff. As it stands, every age group apparently eats more than the amount recommended in the country’s dietary guidelines. And yet, sugar doesn’t necessarily deserve the bad reputation it has.

It turns out that sugar, when consumed as part of a healthy diet, can provide us with a handful of benefits. For starters, a sprinkle of the sweet stuff can boost your productivity. Your body uses glucose to power you through your daily activities, and it derives it from sugar.

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Specifically, table sugar comes from sucrose, a natural substance found in plants. Within sucrose are fructose and glucose molecules. The body can break up sucrose, mining it for glucose that’s turned into energy right away. So, when you eat a bit of sugar, you provide your body with an instant boost of power.

But your sugar-related energy doesn’t burn out in a flash. Although you do get an instant boost from ingesting the sweet stuff, your body will also engage in glycogenesis. This is an action which links glucose molecules into a long strand called a glycogen chain. Your body stores these sugary strips until it needs more energy.

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Glycogenesis is an excellent resource for when you go long stretches without eating. After all, it means that you’ll still have glucose to burn in the interim. On the other hand, too much stored sugar can be a bad thing. The glucose that doesn’t go toward future energy use will be turned into fat.

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That’s not to imply that all sugar comes from unhealthy sources. Plenty of fruits, vegetables and dairy produce contain it. And when you nosh on these foods, you give your body more than just the glucose it needs. You get the added benefit of fiber, vitamins, minerals and even boosted hydration.

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You might find that these and other sugar-infused foods make you feel a bit of a buzz. All of us have receptors that alight when we eat sugar. They signal to the brain, which releases dopamine into the system. And when dopamine floods the body, you have an instant, over-the-top feeling of bliss.

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On that note, your brain lights up because of sugar. And that’s not just because its presence triggers the organ to release dopamine into your system. In fact, as physician and brain health expert Drew Ramsey explained in a September 2017 piece for Well + Good, “Sugar is vital for your brain health.”

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Ramsey went on to explain just how vital sugar was to the brain’s daily functions. He said that the organ needed 400 glucose-based calories daily to keep cognitive function at its finest. Without it, things can go haywire, the doctor said. As he wrote, “Low blood sugar… is your brain freaking out.”

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The brain “hits the panic button” when you don’t get its required fill of glucose, Ramsey went on. So, as he put it, “Those 400 cals aren’t optional. What you do have a choice over is where you source the sweet stuff from.” The brain health expert went on to reiterate the value of natural sugars from whole foods as opposed to those found in processed foods such as fructose.

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Sugar has benefits inside of the body, but it can improve your exterior, too. Namely, the sweet stuff has long been a tool for skincare experts. For one thing, it can be a savior for dry skin – sugar serves as a humectant, which means it pulls moisture from the surrounding air. When a sugar-based product covers your skin, then, it quenches it with plenty of moisture.

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Slathering a sugar-inclusive skincare product betters your visage in more ways than one. The sweet stuff also contains glycolic acid, a key additive to anti-aging skincare products. That’s because glycolic acid – an alpha hydroxy acid – delves deep into the skin to break bonds between cells. This shake-up encourages cell turnover, and fresh cells make the skin’s surface look younger and brighter.

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Sugar can also be used as a topical remedy for rough patches of skin. This benefit can better nearly every area of the body. You can exfoliate the lips, hands, feet, legs and even facial skin with sugar. Just tailor the sweetener you use to the job at hand – brown sugar tends to be gentler than table sugar, which makes it better for sensitive skin.

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Nevertheless, some people have a fear of incorporating sugar into their lives, especially when it comes to their diets. In a 2017 piece from the U.S. World & News Report, dietician Brian St. Pierre weighed in on the increase in anti-sugar diets. Here, he pinpointed the many ways in which sugar can do you good.

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St. Pierre made the argument that some people use sugar to make healthy foods more palatable. Similarly, you might like to eat salad, but only if it has a sprinkle of toasted bread bits on top. As the dietician explained, “If a few croutons helps someone eat their vegetables, I’m okay with that tradeoff.”

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But most of all, St. Pierre said that sugar should be part of your diet because it’s a part of life. The dietician explained that special meals and indulgences are memories worth making. He went on, “Keep your life picture in mind. Nutrition is not the be-all, end-all – it’s to help you live a meaningful, joyful life.”

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And as it turns out, that’s not all sugar has to offer us. For years, it’s been used medically after people noticed that it helped them to heal more quickly. Moses Murandu grew up in Zimbabwe, and he told the BBC’s Future in 2018 that sugar was a go-to healing remedy from his childhood.

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Murandu recalled any wounds healing up faster when his father gave him sugar. Once he grew up, Murandu wanted to put this memory to the test – and he had found himself the perfect career path to do so. Specifically, Murandu became a professor in adult nursing at the University of Wolverhampton in England.

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This senior position allowed Murandu to helm some research, through which he could explore sugar’s healing properties. The nursing lecturer used simple granulated sugar, the type people spoon into their coffee cups every morning. As previously mentioned, the sweetener is a humectant, which means it draws moisture from the environment.

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So, when a person is wounded, sugar can draw moisture away from a cut or wound. Removing this dampness helps patients to heal more quickly because bacteria tends to multiply in a moist environment. Meanwhile, Murandu’s study found that even a little bit of sugar could stall the production of bacteria.

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Plus, Murandu’s pilot study showed that, with even more sugar applied to wounds, bacteria stopped growing entirely. But the University of Wolverhampton professor didn’t just use his own research as proof. He also kept track of cases in which sugar saved the day. The nursing pro uncovered medical studies from Zimbabwe, as well as Botswana and Lesotho.

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In one shocking story, Murandu found that a sugar treatment helped save a patient’s foot. He recalled, “The woman’s foot had been measured, ready to be amputated, when my nephew called me. She had had a terrible wound for five years, and the doctor wanted to amputate. I told her to wash the wound, apply sugar, leave it and repeat.”

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In the end, Murandu’s advice proved pivotal in the patient’s treatment plan. He revealed, “The woman still has her leg.” As such, he pointed to this and other case studies as proof that sugar works. And it makes a particularly potent antidote in places where patients can’t afford to pay top dollar for medications.

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The cost-effectiveness of sugar is why other medical professionals have picked up sugar as part of their healing regimens, too. Interestingly, one of them is veterinarian Maureen McMichael, who has relied on it – and also honey – as a means of treating pets since 2002. Each option provides sweet relief at a cost that animal owners can afford.

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On that note, honey does have similar healing qualities as sugar. Some research has found that the former can stall bacteria growth even more effectively than granulated sugar, although honey is typically more expensive. Either way, the veterinarian said of the sugar-centric healing method, “We have had some really great successes with this.”

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In one heart-wrenching example, McMichael told the story of a stray dog that had come into her veterinary clinic. The pooch had served as “pitbull bait,” meaning dogs training to fight had attacked it. So, by the time it came in for medical care, it had approximately 40 bites on each one of its legs.

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Because the bait dog had been a stray, McMichael said, “There was no money for her.” So, the veterinarian used the sweetener treatment to help heal the pup’s wounds. In the end, she said, “We treated her with both honey and sugar and she did fabulously. She’s all healed now.”

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For both humans and animals alike, the method for administering a sugar treatment is surprisingly simple, too. Murandu said that those with wounds to heal should apply the natural sweetener to the open skin. Then, they should cover the cut with a bandage. From there, the sugar will get to work.

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As of 2018, Murandu had performed clinical studies on just over 40 individuals. His research was promising, of course, but it did open up the nurse to some questions. For one thing, there were those that wondered if and how a sugar-based treatment could be used if a wounded patient was diabetic.

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Of course, diabetics have to carefully measure how much glucose enters their system. But the condition can also cause ulcers, which could potentially heal faster with a dose of sugar, too. From Murandu’s research, though, topically applied sugar wouldn’t harm a patient who had to keep their blood sugar levels in check.

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Murandu explained how it worked. He said, “Sugar is sucrose – you need the enzyme sucrase to convert that into glucose.” But sucrase is only present inside the body, meaning that ingested sugar will activate it and the sucrose’s conversion into glucose. An external application wouldn’t have the same effect, thus supposedly making it a safe treatment for those with diabetes.

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And that’s not the only pro-sugar argument that’s worth noting – the simple treatment seems to have hit the mainstream at just the right time. As doctors prescribe antibiotics to increasing numbers of patients, people have become resistant to them. So, when these traditional remedies prove ineffective, doctors could try sugaring wounds that need to heal.

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And wound healing is not the only way that medical professionals hope to use sugar in the future. Tissue engineering specialist Sheila MacNeil, for instance, has embarked on sweet-centric research from her post at the U.K.’s University of Sheffield. Specifically, she hopes that sugar can stoke blood vessels’ growth again.

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MacNeil’s previous research put her onto the idea that sugar could help with blood vessel production. She had spent time researching tumors, noting that a sugary by-product of the DNA breakdown process was often present. So, she began to apply the same DNA-based sugar to chick embryos. From there, she found that the sweet stuff served to double the blood vessels that would develop otherwise.

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Of course, MacNeil’s experiment differed greatly from Murandu’s. After all, she relied on the body’s naturally occurring sugars, while he used the kind we sprinkle into tea and over cereal. But the tissue specialist said she hoped they could find a sweetener that could do both. And she hoped future research would focus on doing just that.

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Still, Murandu’s focus remained on his initial idea – using sugar to heal wounds now, just as people have done for centuries. The professor said that he wanted to open a private care facility, through which he could treat patients with his simple, sweet remedy. And he dreamed of other medical institutions following suit.

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Although Murandu’s treatment plan is somewhat straightforward, his counsel remained in high demand. He told the BBC that people the world over have reached out for advice in healing their wounds with sugar. The proud medical pro said he often receives pictures from patients who have treated themselves with the sweet stuff.

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These types of interactions have led Murandu to realize just how big of a medical revolution he could be sitting on, even though sugar healing has been around for generations. Indeed, he believed that this method could unite people across the world. Sugaring wounds would combine old ideas and methods with the new.

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Indeed, Murandu grew up in Zimbabwe, where he learned about sugar’s healing properties. But life in the U.K. has given him the chance to research the sweetener properly. All of that combined could help him transform sugar into a medical must-have. He concluded, “Like sugar, the knowledge came raw from Zimbabwe, was refined here – and is now going back to help people in Africa.”

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