Fall brings cooler weather, increased outdoor activities, and the upcoming holiday seasons create a lot of anticipation of joy.

With the approaching holiday season one thing I don't look forward to is all the temptation of sugary treats. Americans eat way too much sugar. On average, Americans eat 160 pounds of sugar and corn syrup every year. According to The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), sugar intake has increased 28 percent since 1983. In the mid- to late-1800s, sugar was scarce and prized when purchased. It was rationed out to save for special occasions. What was used regularly for thousands of years were natural sweeteners. Sweeteners like honey, maple syrup and fruit. There is a big difference to how these sweeteners process in our bodies in comparison to sugar.

Why be concerned about sugar?

When most people think of the trouble with sugar (the white stuff) they think of weight gain, or too much of it can give us diabetes. In reality, it contributes to so much more of our health issues.

The biggest thing that it does is break down the immune system. This is interesting because we associate the fall and winter as cold and flu season. We don't even think that our diets may contribute to this time period.

Sugar breaks down our immune system in several ways. First, it decreases white blood cells, which help to fight disease. In return, it feeds bad bacteria, parasites and cancer cells.

If that is not bad enough, it depletes the body of necessary vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, calcium and B vitamins. Because of these facts it can contribute problems to every disease out there. Those muscle aches that you are experiencing may be contributed to sugar.

Besides, it decreases vitamins and minerals that help muscle contraction and relaxation. It also causes overall inflammation in the body.

If you want to learn more about how sugar affects us, don't take my word for it, look up this research on the Internet and in the library. You will, hopefully, be surprised at how much research is out there on what a problem sugar is and how many don't know much about it.

The first thing to understand is that a healthy sweet tooth is normal, but an unhealthy craving for sweets shows an imbalance to the body. This imbalance must be addressed in order for the cravings to stop.

Just stopping sugar alone is not recommended, and would not be enough to address this deficiency. That would be like putting a child in a room with a bunch of toys and telling them they can play with all the toys except for one. We will naturally want to rebel and play with that "toy."

In Chinese medicine a craving for sweets would be associated with a diagnosis of Spleen Qi(Chee) deficiency. The spleen and pancreas are sister organs and work together to digest our foods. The spleen loves sweets in order to tonify its organ, although the types of sweets that are good for the spleen are the natural kind.

Foods like sweet potatoes, yams, fruit, and honey are all great for a healthy spleen or pancreas. Then there are foods that actually help reduce and regulate blood sugar, such as blueberries, nuts, avocados, cinnamon, bitter melon and cactus pads, just to name a few.

Want to start making changes in your sugar intake without it disrupting your life too much? Try The Sugar Busting Challenge.

First, start to substitute the white stuff, or high fructose, for the more natural sugar sources. Try things like stevia, agave nectar, pure maple syrup, sucanat and honey. Don't substitute for the chemical alternatives. They are even worse than sugar, and can harm your health even more.

Secondly, if you think you have an addiction to sugar, or overwhelming cravings, seek out a health care provider to prescribe you some herbs and supplements to help. I prescribe my patients a few things that consistently make a difference.

One of my favorite herbs for fighting the war against sugar is Gymnema Sylvestre. Not only does it help regulate blood sugar levels, it also works for reducing cravings. I also love to use bitter melon. This is the most highly recommended food therapy for blood sugar regulation in Chinese medicine. You can now take it in a tea or pill.

The third thing I may use for a patient is 5-HTP. This is used in cases where there is moodiness, PMS, emotional eating, and depression.

Lastly, it might be a good idea to add more Vitamin B, magnesium and calcium. These are the nutrients I mentioned before that are depleted due to sugar intake.

Increasing these nutrients will help the body to balance and feel more satisfied.

Each person is different in what prescription is given. Every patient that I have worked with has had success in reducing their cravings. If reducing sugar in your life could give you more energy, less pain, less sickness, and freedom from addiction, then I am on board. Hopefully you are going to make this holiday season a healthier and naturally sweet one.

• Dawn Krueger-Sherin is an oriental medical practitioner in Ahwatukee Foothills. For questions, reach her at

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