Addictions (sugar or refined carbohydrates)
By Steven Horne, RH (AHG) & Kimberly Balas, ND
Also read this page about the benefits of Xylitol
Grains contain a lot of starch, which is broken down into sugar by the digestive tract. Refined grains convert rapidly into simple sugars and have the same problems as refined sugars. Alcohol also rapidly converts to simple sugars and contributes to blood sugar imbalances.
Sugar becomes addictive for several reasons. First, the body needs other nutrients, including B-vitamins, vitamin C and many minerals such as chromium, vanadium and magnesium, to convert sugar into energy. In whole foods these nutrients are present along with the sugar, so the body is able to properly control and regulate sugar metabolism. When we eat refined sugar, however, we wind up still feeling hungry because the body didn't get all the nutrients it needed. This prompts us to eat more.
Sugar also upsets the body's hormonal balance. The pancreas keeps blood sugar levels stable by secreting two hormones, insulin and glucagon. When there is too much sugar in the blood (hyperglycemia), the pancreas secretes insulin to drive this sugar into storage. When the blood sugar level drops too low (hypoglycemia) the pancreas secretes glucagon to bring sugar out of storage.
Insulin depresses glucagon production and glucagon depresses insulin production. This relationship, which is much like a hormonal teeter-totter, is called a hormonal axis.
When large quantities of simple carbohydrates enter the blood stream, the pancreas secretes insulin to try to protect the brain from the excess sugar. This depresses glucagon production, so when the sugar in the blood has been used up, the body has a hard time mobilizing sugar from storage. The result is hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
This causes cravings for sugar, which jacks the sugar level up again. This is like a blood sugar roller coaster ride, and your mood goes up and down with it. Blood sugar levels have a powerful impact on the brain, so sugar contribute to hyperactivity, irritability, depression and nervousness. These high insulin levels cause fat stores to increase as the body tries to find ways to store the sugar. The hypoglycemic reactions from this can also cause stress on the adrenals, especially when someone is using caffeine to stimulate them. Stress hormones like cortisol are used to try to bring blood sugar levels up again. This contributes to adrenal fatigue.
High insulin levels also depress the production of prostaglandins that control inflammation. As the adrenals become exhausted from excess sugar and caffeine consumption, they lose their ability to control inflammation. Chronic inflammation sets in, which leads to heart disease, cancer and inflammation in the brain, which contributes to the destruction of brain cells.
You'll never kick the white sugar and carbohydrate habit by trying to avoid all sweets and starchy foods, so forget about it. We need carbohydrates to give us energy, and we crave sweets because our senses were designed to look for natural foods that contain the carbohydrates we need.
So, instead of just trying to avoid refined sugar and simple carbohydrates, start consciously consuming complex carbohydrates like fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains in place of products containing refined sugar, white flour and white rice. You can also use more natural sugars in place of refined Sugar, such as raw honey, real maple syrup, dried sugar cane and other natural sugars. These sugars contain nutrients the body needs, they are more satisfying and you'll eat less.
Eating a good breakfast will also help with overcoming sugar addiction because breakfast sets you for the day. Your blood sugar level is low in the morning because you have been fasting all night. This is why we call the first meal of the day, "break fast."
If you break your fast in the morning by eating simple carbohydrates, such as a pastry, donut, toast or breakfast cereal (even whole grain varieties), you trigger an insulin reaction that starts you on the blood sugar roller coaster ride all day. Conversely, when you break your fast with high protein foods, you stimulate the release of glucagon, which mobilizes stored reserves of sugar and lowers insulin production.
Eating protein for breakfast not only stabilizes your blood sugar level. It also helps you burn fat and lose weight. Eating some good quality fat for breakfast also helps this process. Consider eggs, whole milk yoghurt, organic meats, avocados or breakfast smoothies with protein powder. If you crave carbohydrates and sugar, avoid eating fruit, juice or whole grain cereal at breakfast until your metabolism stabilizes. Once you don't crave these simple sugars anymore, you can probably have some of these foods for breakfast too.
The final thing you can do to overcome sugar addiction is to use supplements that help balance your blood sugar. A good program is to use licorice root and Super Algae. For adults, the dose is two capsules of each at breakfast, two more of each at lunch and two more of each in the mid-afternoon. If you have high blood pressure, however, use licorice root.
You can also try HY-C or Nervous Fatigue Formula as they also tend to balance blood sugar levels. B-complex vitamins and chromium help the body utilize sugar properly and can be very helpful in overcoming sugar addiction. If you are diabetic, use one of NSP'S Blood Sugar Reducing Formulas to help control blood sugar levels.
Both good fats and fiber help to stabilize blood sugar levels. Good fats reduce sugar cravings and fiber slows the release of sugar into the blood stream resulting in a more stable blood level.
Sugar cravings can be a symptom of chronic infections or SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth). The bacteria or yeast feed on sugar and interfere with its digestion and absorption. See Fungal Infections or SIBO for ideas on dealing with this problem.
Excessive cravings for sweets or food in general can also
come from a lack of sweetness (joy) in life, which
causes one to excessively seek pleasure through food. Learning to find other ways to have joy and pleasure in one's life
can be helpful.
Below is a list of suggested products. Those in bold are key products for the health issue explained on this page.
Herbs: Bee Pollen, Licorice Root and Spirulina
Herbal Formulas: HY-C, Lymphatic Drainage, Nervous Fatigue and Super Algae
Nutrients: Alpha Lipoic Acid, L-Glutamine, Super Omega 3 and Probiotic Power
Nutritional Supplements: Multiple Vitamin & Mineral
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