Battle of the Sweets
As monumental a feat as quitting tobacco is, giving up sugar can be even harder. The biggest problem is that most people are sugar-addicted and there is no strong aroma that causes others to chase sugar eaters outdoors, as happens with smokers. This makes eating sweets easy, clean and socially feasible in the home and in public places. Further, the social isolation of smokers has forced them to acknowledge their addiction and the difficulties that tobacco creates in a smoker's life. This acknowledgement is a crucial threshold to cross in their healing journey.
But the showering of sugar on our children and almost universal addiction to sugar allows a comfortable blanket of denial to settle over our minds and lifestyles. This denial blinds us to the growing problems accumulating in our arteries, heart, nervous system, kidneys and other internal organs. Sugar is not seen as a public health problem, although it is the most entrenched, widespread and relentless one.
What makes giving up sugar even harder is the many different methods proposed by the various experts.
Diets That Attempt to Break the Sugar Addiction
Most famously, Dr. Robert Atkins advised to simply give up sugar and other high-carbohydrate foods altogether, while consoling oneself for the loss with unlimited high-fat and high-protein foods. This diet has worked miraculously for many people, in both weight loss and improved well-being. Yet for many others, large quantities of proteins and fats are not at all digestible or appropriate for their metabolic type.
Dr. Barry Sears' The Zone offers some simple sugars in the diet along with mostly healthier foods, but this just keeps the addiction going and does not heal the main problem of sugar cravings.
Dr. Arthur Agatston's The South Beach Diet urges minimizing sweets, but also includes such items as ice cream and bread, which contribute to the long-term torture of a frequently teased addiction.
A similar problem occurs with The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet by Drs. Rachael and Richard Heller, in which a "reward meal" is available in the evening to those who have denied their sugar cravings during the day. This also keeps a sugar addiction regularly fueled and stoked, ultimately resulting in frustration for the trusting dieter. These diets are as defeating in the long run for the sugar consumer as one cigarette a day - for years - is for the smoker.
Writers such as William Duffy (Sugar Blues) and Nancy Appleton (Lick the Sugar Habit) have dealt with the problem of sugar addiction by warning of the medical horrors of long-term sugar consumption and by advocating complete avoidance. The diets exclude sugars and Dr. Appleton advocates chromium and glutamine supplements to replenish the sugar-ravaged body and to stabilize sugar cravings.
Another workable diet, which is less well-known than most of the preceding works, is The Sugar Addict's Total Recovery Program, by Kathleen DesMaisons, Ph.D., in which the dieter works in stages, going "slow carb" first before "low carb." Slow carbs are those that are accompanied by a lot of fiber or protein, which slow down the entry of sugar to the bloodstream.
Quitting Sugar in Three Steps
- Substituting whole grain bread for white bread, steel-cut oats for other cereals, sweets with protein for sweets alone and similar substitutions makes the important first step of taking the sugar addict from the volatile glucose-insulin roller coaster of extreme highs and lows to a more moderate fluctuation of biochemicals and hence moods, cravings and sensations.
- After these transitional foods, and once in the more moderate rhythm of blood analytes, the dieter is in a much stronger position to handle a reduction, then elimination of simple sugars. In Des Maisons' book, the last cold-turkey withdrawal is still a bit of a cliff jump, but she certainly strengthens the dieter toward that end more effectively than most other writers in this area.
- The final step of giving up sugar with the help of chromium supplementation has been established as beneficial.1 It is also useful for the dieter to understand which other nutrients are affected by high sugar states and low sugar states (both of which are visited by the sugar addict on a daily basis), and to know how to substitute healthier foods that contain those same needed nutrients.
For example, sugar cravings and sugar rebound involve deficiencies of the following nutrients:
- Chromium, which may be found in broccoli, cheese, dried beans, calf liver and chicken
- Carbon, which may be found in fresh fruits
- Phosphorus, which may be found in chicken, beef, liver, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts and legumes
- Sulphur, which may be found in onions, cranberries, horseradish and cruciferous vegetables
- And tryptophan, which may be found in cheese, liver, lamb and spinach
In the case of chocolate cravings, magnesium is also deficient, and may be found in raw nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits.2,3
The Final Answer
Ultimately, the way to win the eating game is to choose the healthiest foods possible in the widest variety available, with respect to your metabolic type. However, for the sugarholic, some extra care with the above substitutions will be a necessary component of breaking the chains of sugar addiction.
The Nagging Sweet Tooth
If you've got a sweet tooth, you know that it doesn't let you ignore it for very long. At least once every day or two, the boss lets you know who's in charge. You rummage around the kitchen for sweets, check the back of the refrigerator and dart out to the store if necessary.
A sense of sugar/chocolate deprivation sets in, and demands that you do something about it. In a perfect world, a sweet tooth would be satisfied for weeks at a time by an especially large dessert or other massive binge. Wouldn't that be convenient!
Why does this happen? How does a person who regularly indulges their sweet tooth end up feeling more deprived than those insufferably serene types who don't eat sweets?
It has to do with a process called homeostasis. When you eat a lot of sugar, your body notes that your blood glucose level is higher than normal. As a result, the pancreas secretes insulin, which packs this sugar away into cells that process it, in order to bring your blood sugar back to normal. When a lot of sugar is ingested, a lot of insulin comes out and packs it all away, which overcompensates and swings your blood sugar too low for a while.
This accounts for the afternoon brain fog (transient hypoglycemia) often experienced after a high-carbohydrate lunch. And this is when the sweet tooth (really, just a euphemism for a sugar habit plus a fluctuating blood glucose) wakes up and reminds you who's really the boss.
Quieting the Sugar Addict in you
Of course it doesn't have to be this way. Sugar cravings, like all others, can be overcome by substituting equally satisfactory foods of better quality. You just have to know exactly what kinds of good foods can satisfy which kinds of urges.
Cravings are actually the manifestation of a mild malnutrition, certainly not with severe overt consequences, as say scurvy or rickets. Rather, a great many people on the Standard American Diet (SAD in more ways than one) suffer from a milder malnutrition from eating only depleted, processed foods and not enough whole, nutrient-rich foods.
As a result, we end up craving the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that we lack. But while your body may know that you are missing say for example magnesium, your conscious mind is not aware of the flavor of magnesium.
Instead, because of familiarity, you can reminisce and feel hungry for the flavor of chocolate, which is high in magnesium. It also has its appeal partly rooted in its magnesium. The chocolate that your conscious mind desires has the greatest ability to quench those cravings due to chocolate\'s high magnesium content.
Of course, the sugar in commercially prepared chocolate is another desperate desire after you have ridden the sugar-insulin roller coaster long enough to plummet to the abyss of hypoglycemia.
Fruit: Not Just Another Sweetener
People often ask, "Isn't fruit just as bad for you as desserts with its refined carbohydrates and concentrated sweeteners?" The answer: Definitely not! Refined carbohydrates, such as sugar and flour are only fragments from original whole foods that contain all of the molecules necessary for their optimal digestion.
What's left by the time it's packaged and sold to you as a dessert is something quite different, an artery-slathering, fibreless, nutrient-robbed shadow of its former self.
Fruit, on the other hand, has the fiber necessary to slow down the entry of natural sugars to the bloodstream, which keeps your insulin at moderate levels. Insulin is what is particularly important not to let spike too high.
Some fruits are better at this than others. For example, mangos and papayas tend to spike blood sugar and insulin, more than apples, because apples contain the natural sugars that are slowed down by the accompanying fiber. Another advantage of fruit is that it has not been stripped of its inherent vitamins, minerals and enzymes, many of which are necessary for its complete digestion.
Candida's Fuel of Choice: Sugar
Yeasts, such as candida, feed on sugar. Women with recurrent vaginal yeast infections may begin to feel as if candida is a permanent fixture of their bodies, and indeed it can carry with us all our lives. That does not mean, however, that candida has to be in control of your life. John Parks Trowbridge, MD and Morton Walker, authors of The Yeast Syndrome, are medical mavericks in their diagnosis and treatment of yeast complications. These are the same complications that their conventional medical colleagues insisted could not exist because they had never been taught about them in medical school.
Yet, time has shown that Trowbridge, Walker and other health professionals who have worked with candida patients have accurately identified a relentless and ubiquitous pathogen in the common Candida albicans, along with the many havoc-wreaking antibodies that it generates.
Trowbridge and Walker found that patients for the most part showed complete improvement in about 10 days. But very tenacious cases may require up to three years before displaying a complete recovery of symptoms. Naturopathic physicians at the Southwest Naturopathic Medical Center in Scottsdale, Ariz., have developed an eating plan that deprives candida of its fuel of choice: sugar. Melons, mushrooms and other foods are also limited for a time.
The duration of this diet corresponds to the severity of the symptoms, varies somewhat according to individual needs and is generally followed for as long as the patient continues to have symptoms.
Resisting the Sugar Urges
The hard part of this diet for someone with a heavy candida load is eliminating sugar, since the candida in the body is screaming for sugar.
Since eliminating sugar is a huge step in your life, it merits advance planning and preparation. The first step should be modulating your blood sugar by switching some sweets to complex carbohydrates, including whole vegetables. Supplements such as glutamine (an amino acid), fenugreek, chromium and other nutrients are used by naturopathic physicians to help their patients eliminate sugar cravings.
It is best to use these while in the care of a naturopathic physician, in order to choose the most appropriate of the available forms, correct dosing and combinations.
Not all of these need be used. It is important remember when quitting sugar that your body is fighting as hard to overcome these cravings as a heroin addict feels during withdrawal or a smoker trying to quit. (Nicotine is the most addictive of the three.) This also means that the worst part will be the first 48 hours of abstinence. After that, it definitely gets better.
The first two weeks will be a little less comfortable than afterward, but the reward for persisting is that after two weeks you will feel healthier in every way than you have ever felt.
Positive Affirmations And Sugar-Free Cabinets
Those who quit extremely addictive substances say that it is more effective to affirm, "I will not eat sugar today," rather than say, "I will never eat sugar again," which is too daunting. Just affirm each day that you will not have sugar that day. This will help break up your job into manageable pieces.
Also, henceforth, you are not allowed to own, borrow, taste or have in your possession any sugar or sweets. Feel free to inform any sugar-offering person that this is your contractual agreement.
To get through moment-to-moment cravings, you can massage all of both ears, in order to cover the acupuncture points for addiction. Also, take a few slow deep breaths. Greater success is likely if you convince your entire household to take a sugar-free plunge with you. That way you can keep temptation out of your house, which is 90 percent of the battle.
Finally, get involved in a new hobby or activity, preferably one that involves the hands, such as art, music or gardening. These activities will help you get through the first two days successfully.
Eating Our Way In And Out of Our Symptoms
Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food. - Hippocrates
We truly live at a strange crossroads in human history.
Over the last few decades, the human species has been hypnotized by the temptations offered by the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. The 1950s ushered in the "better living through chemicals" age. And we believed, and we bought and swallowed and injected and are still consuming them in massive amounts, and, most recklessly, injecting such chemicals as ethyl mercury, ethylene glycol (antifreeze), aluminum and formaldehyde into our babies as part of vaccines, without any prior safety testing.
But now with massive chronic disease plaguing our most industrialized populations, autism closely following children's shots, and more pathology coincident with concentrated chemicals, we are beginning to wake up from our long post-World War II slumber. Now begins the next era when synthetic chemicals are starting to be seen as, however useful in many applications, best kept at a distance from our bodies, homes, public spaces and wilderness.
The old era of unthinking reliance on a synthetic existence is showing severe disadvantages, just as the urgency to forge new relationships with nature is becoming apparent. Plants and other whole foods are coming into their own new era as naturopathic physicians and other well-informed health practitioners rely on them for their central role in healing.
Within our lifetimes, whole food will eclipse pharmaceuticals in medical practice, as the general public awakens to its far superior healing capacity. But the allopathic profession will be the slowest to catch on, just as most physicians of the early 20th century refused to believe that absence of certain nutrients could bring on such horrible diseases as scurvy, pellagra and beriberi.
Then as now, allopaths were eager to lay blame for these diseases on microbes, until - surprise, surprise - limes cured the "limey" British sailors of their scurvy, and we saw that Vitamin B3 prevented pellagra, while Vitamin B1 prevented beriberi and Vitamin D prevented rickets.
As usual, allopathy corrects itself long after the natural physicians are already healing patients. In fact, evidence now shows that even bubonic plague, which allopathy still attributes to bacteria known as Yersinia pestis, was more likely to strike those with low Vitamin C intakes.
But what would possess a person to think that food could possibly be medicine?
The first clue is the structure of our intestines. Whatever comes into the mouth later travels through more than 20 feet of efficient tubing that extracts certain molecules from the food we eat, then converts them to one common molecule, Acetyl Co-A, from which the building blocks of the body are then made:
- Healthy fats
The intestines are great little machines, but not omnipotent. That is, they can convert food molecules to Acetyl Co-A, because food has familiar and malleable combinations of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. But it cannot do that with bizarre substances of which the body is unfamiliar, such as petrochemical products and synthetic substances used in pharmaceuticals.
The body has no experience with many of these substances, has little clue what to do with them, and often excretes them, which may explain why placebos so often equal or surpass drugs in clinical trials. More often, though, as the body tries to either detoxify or wall off the offending invader drug, it creates new metabolites, which have multiple pharmaceutical effects, some of which may be quite harmful.
The Efficient Eating Machine
Food, on the other hand, is right at home in the body, since our species has always processed it, and we have become quite efficient eating machines as a result. Therefore, we easily break down ingested protein to its component amino acids.
In turn, these get rearranged into the proteins that our genes tell us to make, all of the busy construction that takes place in the womb, and for the rest of us: Replacement of lost skin and membrane cells, Slightly longer fingernails, Hair, scabs over wounds, etc.
Carbohydrates and dietary fat get broken down to Acetyl Co-A and rearranged to form the molecules our body needs to function, because this is how our bodies have been handling things for all of our existence as a species. How would the body be able to do that from a pharmaceutical?
It can't. It's like trying to make your car run on orange juice.
Except for the last century, in our industrialized society, both humans and animals have almost exclusively relied on plants for their medicine. In fact, it's noticeable that wild animals still seek plants that are appropriate treatments for whatever illness may be present. Even without access to our pharmaceuticals, animals observed in the wild are still free of chronic disease, even when living all the way to their maximum lifespan.
Our veterinary and zoo populations, on the other hand, present a very different picture: Cancers, heart disease and epilepsy are seen quite commonly among people's well-loved pets who are subject to a highly processed diet as well as synthetic pharmaceuticals by their well-intentioned owners - that's us - and the pet food industry.
Whether we were created or evolved, we have been so intimately connected to plants for all of our existence as a species that we cannot live without them. We connect with plants and exchange with plants down to our very cells and our smallest molecules.
That is why they heal us like nothing else can. Our historical reliance on plants has been an integral part of every human society. Plants and humans resonate on levels that are still beyond our comprehension, including biochemical and physiological levels, and some would say aesthetic and emotional as well.
How could humans and plants so closely have shared this Earth, one with the other, and not had complementary, multi-faceted relationships with each other? Hippocrates said, "Let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food." Medicine is what you get when the most appropriate plant is given to an ill person. The plant kingdom does play the major role of all foods in this wonderfully beneficial relationship for us.
Quality Whole Foods: The Currency of Life
Whether you believe in creation, or evolution or are undecided, most of us would agree that our bodies (that is our anatomy and biochemistry, our metabolism of food) is substantially the same as that of our recent ancestors. What happens when we substitute factory chemicals such as synthetic food and pharmaceuticals for water and the many different nutrients that our cells and our children's cells and internal organs need simply to function well?
In fact, the very sad consequences of the latest generations' food and medication choices is becoming more apparent everyday as we are now seeing chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease become epidemic in our society.
The United States has the worst health status (life expectancy and infant mortality) of any industrialized nation, yet we spend the most money on healthcare and take the most pharmaceuticals. Why are Americans getting sicker and sicker while medicating ourselves more and more?
Forget what you ate until today. What you eat from now on is vitally important to your continued well-being.
Until just a few generations ago, our ancestors were wonderfully fit and healthy compared with present-day generations. The majority lived good, active, healthy lives and ultimately died peacefully in their sleep.
Today, that is a rarity. Whereas chronic disease, chronic pain and prolonged end-of-life care were practically unheard of for our ancestors, such results are becoming much more the expected outcome for us.
What single difference between these two centuries affects our bodies the strongest?
The overwhelmingly different factor in our lives is the refined, processed, chemical products that we eat, that our ancestors simply did not eat. If our species, for better or worse, whether created, evolved or in-between, performs best on whole foods (vegetables, fruits, meats, etc.), then we can understand that putting synthetic liquid or solid wastes in the body will simply trash our most valuable possession: our own good health.
Colleen Huber, 46, is a wife, mother and student at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Ariz., where she is training to be a naturopathic physician. Her original research on the mechanism of migraines has appeared in Lancet and Headache Quarterly, and was reported in The Washington Post.
Her double blind placebo controlled research in homeopathy has appeared in Journal of the American Institute of Homeopathy, European Journal of Classical Homeopathy, and Homeopathy Today. Her website Naturopathy Works introduces naturopathic medicine to the layperson and provides references to the abundant medical literature demonstrating that natural medicine does work.