Sugar – Part 3
If you are reading this, chances are you already went through parts one and two of our sugar series. If not, I highly recommend you to do so, because you might have missed some important information about how sugar might be undermining your health. In this final section, we will talk about sugar addiction, the traps we fall into over and over, and finally, how to escape this dangerous spiral for good.
Sugar is highly addictive. In part one we mentioned that eating sugar usually makes us crave even more of it. Here is why: our bodies produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls feelings of pleasure and reward. It is a chemical messenger in our brain and it is released in response to the consumption of sugar, caffeine, or even narcotics, but also as a reaction to a human contact (hugging a loved one, being intimate with your partner). The dopamine reaction from eating sugar sends a signal to your brain that encourages you to eat more in order to get more of that pleasurable feeling. As a result of this biochemical process, you grab another cookie, or in a better case, another banana. When only naturally sweet foods were available, it was not as easy for us to overeat and overstimulate our bodies. Today, we are flooded with sugar packed foods everywhere we go, and they are carefully CREATED for us to crave and buy more of them.
The processed foods available in our grocery stores are packed with hidden sugar. It is in nearly every item on the shelf, even foods you would never expect it to be in, like bread, pasta sauces, ketchup, or salad dressings. Even if you avoid obvious sources of sugar like candy, chocolate, and sweet pastries, you might be consuming more sugar than you think. How is that possible? Why do manufacturers add so much sugar into everything? People who manufacture your food are well aware of the effect sugar has on the human brain. Scientists are constantly working on more ways to trigger our cravings and make us come back for more. For example, notice that there is sodium (as in salt) present in soda. Sodium is known for increasing thirst, making you drink more and more. Eating salted potato chips or nuts always makes you drink more, right? That is sodium doing its job, and people who create our food know this. Adding sodium to a drink that is also very high in sugar makes you not just want more, but also NEED more. One can of soda contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar, and as for sodium, you can get anywhere from 12 milligrams per can (regular coke) to 50 milligrams (orange soda) in just 12 ounces,which is way too much for the body to handle at once!
When our bodies are depleted of nutrients due to overconsumption of bad (processed) carbohydrates, it leads to chronic stress in the body which deprives us of the vitality and health we want to be living in. Constantly high or low blood glucose also creates a lot of stress for the body. As a response to stress, our body starts producing cortisol, known as the stress hormone. Some cortisol in the body during the day is perfectly normal. The highest levels of cortisol are in the morning, when we wake up; it makes us take action. Cortisol production slows down near the end of the day, so we are ready to relax and slowly prepare ourselves for a good nights sleep. When we are constantly stressed, cortisol production gets out of balance. Our body knows something is not in order and this loss of balance brings on a cascade of health problems. Hormonal imbalances are connected to each other, so having one hormone out of balance usually leads to another problem somewhere else in the body. These issues might not seem connected at first (what do fertility problems have to do with eating sweet breakfast cereal?), but it is a vicious cycle of blood glucose levels and hormonal responses. It is more than obvious that if we want to take back control, we need to break free from sugar addiction and excess consumption.
If you don’t feel like quitting sugar cold turkey, try baby steps. Stop putting sugar in your coffee first, or at least decrease the amount. Break up with refined sugar in the morning by swapping your bowl of cereal for a spinach omelette, some protein pancakes, or one of these great recipes. If you love ice cream, try switching to just frozen berries with whipped coconut cream it is delicious and free of both refined sugar and lactose. For those of you who need the support of like minded people, I recommend two online programs 21 Day Sugar Detox and I Quit Sugar. Both programs include books you can buy and read (optional of course) and free membership, including access to Facebook groups, free e-mail newsletters and tons of recipes and resource materials. Having an online community like this is amazing, especially if you don’t have that support system with your family and friends.
For those of you who like to further educate themselves by reading, there is an excellent book by William L. Wolcott called The Metabolic Typing Diet and its under-title speaks for itself Customize your diet to free yourself from food cravings, achieve your ideal weight, enjoy high energy and robust health, prevent and reverse disease. Metabolic Typing helps us understand who we are metabolically and what the individual needs of our bodies are. Some people crave sweet foods more than others and different peoples cravings are triggered with different types of food, and in different phases of hormonal cycles. Metabolic Typing tests are an easy way to find where each of us stands within the wide spectrum of nutritional needs, and with that knowledge it is easier to address our specific nutrient needs rather than just by rough guessing or borrowing someone elses diet plan. If you prefer getting your information from motion picture and audio, get your hands (eyes and ears) on documentary movies like Fed up or That Sugar Film or download a book of your choice in an audiobook format!
Escaping the Sugar Demon might be a difficult battle for some of us. I fight my own battle with it as I really like sweet foods a lot, but I already know that even one little bite of sweet cookie triggers my addiction and I binge and overeat and every time this leads to regret, self loathing, depression, and more sugar consumption as a result of this behavior. From my personal experience, quitting sugar for a period of time and then very slowly and carefully re-introducing some natural unrefined sweet foods usually makes me appreciate the natural sweetness of them and I no longer need to overstimulate my body with refined sugar. Coconut milk tastes so much sweeter after just a few days off of sugar. You will no longer feel the need to sweeten your bowl of berries with honey, and you might even enjoy drinking your herbal tea unsweetened!
If you free yourself from sugar addiction, you will be rewarded with stabilized mood, hormonal balance, better sleep, easier body weight regulation, a stronger immune system, and many more health benefits. Once the Sugar Demon is gone, you are free to make good dietary and lifestyle choices; you are no longer a slave of refined sugar, you are in control! That is very empowering. We cant allow a tiny sugar cube to enslave and manipulate us. We all deserve to be empowered, and in control of our own health! Lets take control!