We’ve all had those intense cravings; usually in the mid-afternoon, or late at night, for something sweet. It usually begins with a craving, to a desperate need, and next thing we know we’re indulging in our sugary treat, only to feel like garbage (mentally and physically) minutes later. This is a constant cycle for many of us, but why? What is it about sugar that keeps us coming back again and again?
Physical connection to sugar
When you eat excess amounts of sugar your body over produces the hormone; insulin. Insulin’s job is to remove sugar from the blood, but because there is an excess amount of insulin, too much sugar is removed which then causes our blood sugar to drop. When your blood sugar drops, you crave more sugar. This is the cycle of sugar addiction.
Psychological connection to sugar
Sweets trigger an increase in the mood-elevating hormone, serotonin. The body and brain get used to this higher level of serotonin and begin to depend on it for a sense of well-being. So, when the serotonin level dips, the body looks for sugar to “correct” the situation. The cycle continues, and in time the sweet-eater makes the association between food and mood and believes that sweets in the diet create and support their well-being.
In 2008, the average Canadian consumed 51lbs of sugar per year* or 5 tablespoon a day! While this amount is less than our American neighbors, it’s still too high. At 5 tablespoon a day, not only will your sugar consumption make you hyper, sluggish, and everything in between, it will also suppress your body’s immune responses. Your body is the weakest 2 hours after eating sugar, slowly recovering 5-7 hours after ingestion. That is a long time to go somewhat unprotected from the multiple pathogens you encounter on a daily basis.
Not only will sugar weaken your immune, it also plays a key role in:
- Causing headaches
- Causing toxemia during pregnancy
- Weight gain and obesity
- Increasing bacteria fermentation in the colon
Steps you can take to eliminate your cravings
The good news is that you can kick that sugar craving to the curb! Here are a couple of ways to begin your path towards a sugar free lifestyle:
- Out of sight, out of mind. If it’s in the house you will eat it, or at least be tempted to. Eliminate the temptation and remove sugary treats from your home
- Enjoy the foods you eat. Of course you’re thinking “how can I remove sugar from our home and enjoy what I eat? Everyone in the family depends on it!” Try snacks like: home-made trail mix (add a couple of dark chocolate chips at first to relieve your craving for sweetness), cut and wash veggie sticks in advance for quick snacking, pick up some coconut chips for late night munchy cravings.
- Exercise! The endorphins released during exercise give you a boost of natural narcotics and will increase your feelings of well-being
- Avoid blood sugar crashes by eating regularly
- Nutrients like l-glutamine and chromium may help to reduce the cravings
- Self observation: when you’re craving sugar, sit with that feeling. Begin to observe what set off the craving. Was it something you ate previously, a feeling you had? Sit with that emotion for awhile; try to determine why that feeling gave you the urge for sugar and replace it with something other than food. Example: If the reason you’re reaching for sugar is out of boredom, go out for a walk, do something to stimulate your mind.
- Bringing snacks with you while you’re out and about. When you start to get hungry you’ll have something healthy to snack on instead of running to the nearest convenience store
- Eat a healthy breakfast with a combination of complex carbohydrates and protein like whole grain toast, coconut oil and a fried egg or granola and yogurt
- Give into your sweet craving with fruit! Fruit is a great alternative to sugary treats and can satisfy your cravings and increase your fiber intake. Be sure not to eat too much of it though.
- Nourish yourself. The closer you are to an ideal diet (structured specifically for you) the easier it will become to rid yourself of old habits