Research has shown that sugar is addictive … in fact, eight times addictive as cocaine. In 1821, each person consumed approximately 10 pounds of sugar annually. Today, that number is an astounding 160-190 pounds of sugar per person annually. On top of that about 55 percent of the sugar produced in the U.S. comes from sugar beets, 95 percent of which have been genetically engineered.
The most common sources of sugar are sugar-sweetened beverages and fruit juice drinks, grain-based desserts, candy and dairy desserts. Don’t be fooled by other hidden sources of sugar. Sugar is hidden in more foods than you can imagine including cereal, granola bars, yogurt, tomato sauce, chewing gum, bread and bagels, juice, milk, salad dressings, sports drinks, low-fat and non-fat items, flavored coffee creamers, canned fruits and soups, spaghetti sauce, peanut butter, infant formula, ketchup, and off-the-shelf vitamins. These processed foods quickly break down to sugar in your body.
When you consume sugary foods (corn, rice, wheat, candy, pasta, bagels, breads, muffins, soda, fruit juice and grains) that quickly convert to sugar, a hormonal message is sent to your body that says, “I’m going to store more fat.” Excess sugar and carbs that aren’t used by the body accumulate in the liver, leading to excess weight gain, stubborn belly fat, fatty liver, elevated triglycerides and diabetes.
Sugar is often disguised in processed and packaged foods, such as evaporated cane juice, corn syrup, barley malt, maltodextrin, fructose, sucrose, sucralose, agave, brown rice syrup and any item that ends with –ose. Other forms of sugar include sugar alcohols such as sorbitol, manitol or xytlitol that often cause digestive distress for many individuals.
Excess sugar intake is directly linked to an increased risk of heart disease, hormone dysfunction, kidney and gallstones, diabetes, inflammation, leaky gut, fatty liver, memory loss and cognitive decline, increased appetite and cravings, damaged skin collagen, and is a fuel source for Candida and parasites. According to Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist sugar is making us obese and sick. The immune system is suppressed for 8-12 hours after consuming sugar. Sugar consumption amplifies pain and inflammation, and also triggers mood disorders and depression. A 2013 study by the University of Copenhagen found that sugar actually aids the growth of malignant cancer cells.
Diets high in sugar cause low energy and fatigue, brain atrophy and memory problems, wrinkling of the skin, acne and premature aging, low libido, elevated blood sugar, and rob your body of important nutrients. Eating sugar blocks absorption of essential minerals like zinc and magnesium. When you’re deficient in these important minerals, there’s a tendency to crave even more sugar.
Stop sugar cravings
Realize that it’s not uncommon to experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and mood swings when you give up sugar. These symptoms subside in a few days.
• Consume protein at every meal. Eat a protein-rich breakfast within 30 minutes of waking, which has a stabilizing effect on blood sugar throughout the day. Protein-rich meals send signals that travel between your gut and brain generating feelings of satiety.
• Eat real food. Sugar, grains, fake and processed foods are making us and our kids fat and sick. Get back to the basics like our grandparents ate.
• Don’t skip meals. Long periods without food trigger and intensify cravings for sugar. Grabbing an energy bar is not considered a meal. Nip this in the bud by eating real food at breakfast, lunch and dinner that includes protein, fat, and fiber from veggies and leafy greens to increase satiety, prevent cravings and fluctuations in blood sugar.
• Plan ahead so when you’re hungry there are healthy options readily available to choose from.
• Opt for a healthier alternative sweetener such as Sweetleaf Stevia that will not disrupt blood sugar.
• Spice it up. Cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom help reduce cravings and stabilize blood sugar.
• Include more fat in your diet. Pastured egg yolks, grass-fed and pastured meat, coconut oil, avocado, pastured butter, nuts and seeds provide fullness and satiety.
• Remove all processed, sugary treats, artificial sweeteners, sodas and sugary beverages, any item with wheat and gluten, and all processed foods from your home and office to avoid the ease of accessibility and the temptation for these foods. Artificial sweeteners and processed, fake foods can actually cause addiction and intensify cravings.
• Include more fiber-rich foods in your diet from a variety of fresh dark green vegetables and dark leafy greens, which help prevent cravings, increase satiety and control blood sugar.
• Be a label detective. Make it a habit to read the list of ingredients on every item to avoid hidden sugars and artificial sweeteners.
• Drink plenty of clean water. Dehydration can trigger sugar cravings.
Sugar is nutritionally-void and a poison for health, vitality, longevity and fat loss. When you consume sugar, glucose levels rise. Shortly after, glucose levels plummet and crash causing low blood sugar, which triggers intense and increased cravings for more sugar so glucose levels rise back up. This vicious cycle continues. The end result is low energy, moodiness, fatigue, hormonal imbalances, weight gain, insulin resistance and an increased risk of diabetes.
Sugar stimulates pleasure centers in the brain. Cravings provide insight into your unique metabolism and are a sign of imbalances often in conjunction to specific nutrient deficiencies and neurotransmitter imbalances.
If you find yourself craving sugar, it’s important to determine the root cause and understand why you crave sugar to break the cycle of addiction. Reasons for sugar cravings:
• You’re not properly nourished with a balance of nutrient-rich food.
• Candida, intestinal yeast and parasites.
• Hormone fluctuations and imbalances.
• Neurotransmitter imbalances.
• Insufficient sleep.
• Insulin resistance, blood sugar fluctuations and imbalances.
• Unmanaged stress and adrenal dysfunction. High or low cortisol, or a problem with the cortisol rhythm.
• Nutrient deficiencies.
• Digestive problems, bacterial imbalances and hypochlorhydria.
• Recovering alcoholic. Former alcoholics often replace alcohol with sweets and sugary beverages without realizing that sugar disrupts nutrient balance and intestinal flora, promoting Candida and other fungi. Under certain conditions these pathogenic yeasts actually convert sugars in the gut to alcohol. Walk into any AA meeting and you’ll find a spread of candy, cakes and cookies. Some recovering alcoholics will even convert the sugar to alcohol metabolically and maintain their alcohol addiction in this way. There are well-documented cases of inebriation caused by sugar consumption and Candida overgrowth in persons who abstain from alcohol.
Kick sugar cravings
to the curb with these crave-busters
• Simply taking a teaspoon of coconut oil will reduce sugar cravings.
• Two tablespoons apple cider vinegar in a glass of water help eliminate or reduce a sugar craving.
• Ten grams of L-glutamine powder in a small amount of water has blood sugar-stabilizing effects, which helps to eliminate sugar cravings.
• Protein smoothie: 25-40 grams of your favorite protein powder, 10 grams BCAA powder, 5 grams L-glutamine powder, 1 tablespoon ground flax or chia seeds, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon blended with carrageenan-free coconut or almond milk and ice.
Satisfy your sweet
tooth with healthier sweet treat alternatives
• Chia pods.
• Homemade cocoa. Mix one tablespoon of organic cocoa powder with a cup of hot water. One tablespoon organic heavy cream. Sweeten with SweetLeaf Stevia.
• One half cup nuts with real maple syrup sprinkled with cinnamon.
• One cup of organic frozen berries and organic heavy cream sprinkled with raw cacao nibs.
• Cocoa Berry Smoothie: Chocolate Vital Whey Protein Powder or Thorne Mediclear SGS Chocolate blended with 1/2 cup carrageenan-free coconut milk, 1/2 cup frozen organic raspberries, one tablespoon raw, organic cacao nibs and ice.
• Sliced banana, dipped in coconut oil, rolled in coconut flakes and cocoa nibs. Refrigerate.
• Energizing Green Smoothie. Visit Paula’s blog for the entire recipe.
Determine the root cause of your cravings and do what works for you specifically. We are each unique biochemically, physically and emotionally. As always, go slow and be patient and loving with yourself.
• Investigate food sensitivities, which among other things can be the direct cause of intense cravings.
• Don’t under estimate the importance of sleep. The amount and quality of sleep you get every night has a direct influence on cravings. Strive for seven to nine hours of restful sleep every night. When you’re sleep deprived or don’t sleep soundly, appetite increases especially for sugar, carbohydrates and junk food.
• Be mindful of emotions, events and situations that trigger cravings for sugar and carbs.
• Move your body to boost neurotransmitters naturally. Walk every day preferably outdoors.
• Balance hormones, specifically insulin (what you choose to eat) and cortisol.
• Avoid medications, stimulants and excess alcohol consumption that not only deplete vital nutrients from your body, but also stimulate appetite, intensify cravings and encourage excessive eating.
• Honor and listen to your body’s request for R&R. It’s more challenging for an exhausted body to make healthy choices. Schedule quiet moments for restoration, relaxation and deep breathing. Practice mindfulness and parasympathetic activities.
• Re-direct your mind. When you experience an intense craving, shift your mind and focus your energy on healthier, more pleasurable activities. Call a friend. Go for a walk. Light some candles and take a warm bath. Write in your journal about gratifying moments in your life or things, people and places that you love. Read a favorite novel or something spiritually uplifting.
• Commit to a seven-day sugar fast. Although this can be quite challenging, the outcome and benefits are tremendous.
• Investigate and rule out gut pathogens including Candida and parasites, which thrive on sugar.
Nutrient support that help reduce sugar cravings and support sugar withdrawal.
Note: Nutrient selection and dosing is different for each individual based on their unique biochemistry, nutrient needs and deficiencies. Schedule a consultation to determine your specific nutrient deficiencies and needs.
• Omega-3 fatty acids.
• Minerals, specifically zinc, magnesium, and chromium.
• High-quality multi-vitamin/mineral.
• High-potency B vitamins.
• L-glutamine powder.
• Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs).
• Gymenna sylvestre.
• Alpha lipoic acid (R-ALA).
• Optimize vitamin D levels. Leptin, which tells your body you’re full does not work without optimal vitamin D levels. Vitamin D from the sun nourishes the pineal gland in your brain and stimulates the production of serotonin. When serotonin level are low, tendencies to feel depressed, tired and hungry increase. You may just need more sunlight or could be suffering from a low vitamin D status.
• Paula Owens, M.S., is the author of “The Power of 4” and “Fat Loss Revolution.” An Ahwatukee resident for 22 years, she is a leading expert in nutrition, functional health, fitness and fat loss with more than 20 years of experience. For more information, visit www.PaulaOwens.com.