Is sugar a problem for you too?
SUGAR! DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM? ADDICTED?
Stress, food sensitivities, loneliness, lack of fulfilment, a yeast overgrowth in the gut, blood sugar imbalances, and even hormone fluctuations can leave you searching for the sweet stuff.
Why do we love sugar so much?
When we consume sugar, our brains reward us with a release of feel-good neurotransmitters which act as natural painkillers, produces a sense of well-being, increasing self-esteem and settling anxiety. At least, temporarily.
This also happens when we consume other simple refined carbohydrates that are easily converted to glucose (sugar).
Unfortunately, sugar overkill can lead to some serious physical and mental health issues including heart disease, liver disease, hormonal irregularity, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and the obvious emotional instability, volatility, foggy thinking, depressed mood and anxiety. Not to mention, sugar is also rather addictive.
Everybody has heard some statement about sugar being as addictive as cocaine by now. An astonishing 94 percent of rats who were allowed to choose, mutually-exclusively, between sugar water and cocaine, chose sugar. Even rats that were addicted to cocaine quickly switched their preference to sugar, once it was offered as a choice. The rats were also more willing to work for sugar than for cocaine and rats can be real coke-fiends.
Biochemically, all addictions ultimately reduce to a dopamine addiction, which is our brain’s pleasure and reward molecule. So in a way it doesn’t matter if you’re addicted to relationships, chocolate, social media, praise, work, cigarettes or coffee – you’re addicted to a simple way of releasing dopamine in your brain.
So what about sugar?
The research is actually pretty unanimous over-all – sugar is a highly addictive substance and people’s brains on sugar do indeed behave a lot like people’s brain’s on cocaine. Not only that, but the more you use an external dopamine-hack like sugar the less your brain responds to normal pleasure and reward bursts leaving you uninspired, demotivated and ready for the next peak pleasure moment.
Excessive sugar consumption definitely increases the dopamine levels in a similar way to other drugs. Long-term consumption of sugar will also eventually cause a reduction in dopamine levels. That means people need to consume higher and higher levels of sugar in order to reach the same reward levels and avoid states of depression.
So what to do?
At the same time as considering herbs which reduce sugar cravings, (see below) it is crucial to find out why you were self-medicating in the first place. The answer is generally that your life is currently not as rewarding as it could be ; you are deficient in fulfilment and meaning, You do it because you are not prioritising deeply enough what matters most to you.
Herbs (and other healing modalities) can help with some tricks to get back on the wagon again, but ultimately you must find your own deep source of purpose. When our life is inherently meaningful and we are genuinely inspired, then our brains naturally produce dopamine.
Dopamine is the reward chemical in your brain, it takes you towards things that are rewarding. If your life is inherently rewarding then you have good dopamine levels, if it isn’t then you reach for an external dopamine-donor – whether that be cocaine, sugar or Instagram.
Framed like this, your detox or rehab becomes a process of self-nurture and self-enquiry. What is it that gives your life meaning and fulfilment? What is in the way of you living by highest priority and to live in your highest values? What are the benefits the sugar binges are bringing? What are some viable alternatives that bring these same benefits?
If there is an addiction the wise thing to do is to take command and be fully mindful of both the advantages and disadvantages so you are not hiding unconscious information from yourself. This is where the Demartini Method is so powerful as you go through a series of questions that make you fully conscious of both sides and neutralize the behavior.
If you are neutral, you are not likely to fear the loss of things you assume you are addicted to. If you are neutral, you are not likely to fear the gain of what you are trying to avoid – the subdiction.
The more you can neutralize those perceptions and stacked associations from your subconscious mind and bring them to the full consciousness, the more freedom you have to structure your life according to your priorities and become a master of your destiny.
On to the nitty gritty of the diet.
Unlike most dietary changes, where it is usually recommended that you make small, slow changes… when quitting sugar, it is better to go cold turkey. Otherwise, you could end up adding fuel to the sugar craving fire.
What to expect:
When quitting sugar you are more than likely to experience intense cravings, headaches and hate the world. It’s ok, withdrawal symptoms are normal and the best way to handle these sugar cravings is to have some effective strategies in place to cope and to help re-educate the brain.
Helpful tips on how to cope:
1. Focus on your overall diet and nutrition: You may be thinking ‘Yeah, yeah’… But it really does make sense! The body will be nourished by eating healthy, balanced meals that are also delicious. You will gain satisfaction from taste and less hunger and this will help stop cravings because your body will be getting all the nutrients it needs to function properly. It won’t stop cravings instantly, but it will help your body start to adapt and adjust more easily.
2. Drink water: Drink a full glass of water and then wait because the body can often mistake thirst for hunger.
3. Eat more protein or ‘good fat’ rich food: Low protein intake can trigger your longing for sugary foods. Protein and fats slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream. When you don’t consume enough protein, your blood sugar can rise and fall at an abnormal rate, and your body craves quick energy from sugar. Eat more of food that is rich in protein or fat like nuts, (e.g. almonds or walnuts), yoghurt, lean meat,
4. Eating nutritional meals and snacks will prevent you from becoming overly hungry, which may be contributing towards the sugar cravings
5. There are several herbs and nutrients available that can help balance blood-sugar levels and cravings. When blood sugar levels go unregulated, adaptive mechanisms increase the desire for glucose-rich foods. Anything that stabilises blood sugar levels decreases sugar cravings due to improved glucose control.
• Gymnema has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It is known as a “destroyer of sugar” for its ability to control blood sugar levels and suppress the cravings for sweets.
• Cinnamon also naturally helps to reduce sugar cravings by controlling blood glucose levels. This helps to minimize insulin spikes that result after an unbalanced meal which typically lead to more hunger and more sugar.
• Ginseng is also an effective blood sugar stabilizer
• White Mulberry Leaf also has been proven to be really helpful for those with a sweet tooth and for stabilising blood sugar levels
• fenugreek has been shown to regulate blood sugar and improve insulin levels. and decreases sugar cravings due to improved glucose control.
• L-glutamine helps to curb sugar cravings by regular blood sugar levels.
• Mineral imbalances in the body can cause sugar cravings also. Essential minerals help maintain our hydration status, so being deficient can cause you to reach for sweets when, in truth, you are just dehydrated.
• People who experience sugar cravings often have very low zinc, calcium, chromium, and magnesium levels. Zinc is needed for proper insulin and glucose utilization.
6. Don’t buy it! If it’s not in your pantry or fridge, you can't eat it. Sounds simple we know, but it is highly effective! Clean out your fridge, freezer, pantry, and office drawers for sugar temptations - if sugar is your comfort food, acknowledge it and try to find another alternative. After all, sugar is only comforting for a short time!
7. Try bitter-tasting foods: These foods can help balance sugar cravings because they bring your tastes back into balance. Bitter tasting foods include; arugula (rocket), radicchio, endive, chicory, broccoli, collard greens, kale, and mustard greens.
8. Get some sleep! Lack of sleep can lead to cravings for sugary foods. When you're tired and fatigued your body naturally craves help in the form of sugar and caffeine. What you really need is rest, healthy food or some gentle exercise such as a walk or yoga.
You can do it. The changes both physically and mentally are profound, and you will be thrilled with the clearer, less volatile and more vital version of yourself. What a sweet life.