Sugar addiction is a common problem among our patients. They know sugar is bad for their health but feel powerless to stay away from it because it tastes so good.
There is some debate among healthcare practitioners over whether sugar can actually be addictive or not but this is not going to be an academic article. If you feel like you cannot moderate your consumption of sugar, I’d like to give you strategies to help.
Research has shown that reducing or eliminating sugar consumption can significantly improve obesity, fatty liver and Type 2 diabetes in only two weeks. These findings come from a study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.
When consumed in excess, glucose and fructose can cause significant health problems. When you consume glucose, 20 percent is metabolised in your liver and 80 percent throughout the rest of your body. When it comes to fructose, 90 percent is metabolised in your liver and converts to fat 18.9 times faster than glucose. So unless you are extremely physically active, if you eat a lot of fructose your liver will be manufacturing a lot of fat.
According to Dr Tyree Winters, an osteopathic paediatrician specialising in childhood obesity: “Fructose provides no nutritional value and isn’t metabolised in the brain. Your body converts it to fat, but doesn’t recognise that you’ve eaten, so the hunger doesn’t go away. Many young patients tell me they’re always hungry, which makes sense because what they’re eating isn’t helping their bodies function.”
Fructose is the sugar naturally present in fruit but eating fruit doesn’t cause metabolic problems unless you really overdo it, or you are very insulin resistant and sensitive to sugar. The biggest problem with fructose is that it’s found in nearly all processed foods.
Fructose provides no nutritional value and isn’t metabolised in the brain. Your body converts it to fat, but doesn’t recognise that you’ve eaten, so the hunger doesn’t go away.
Ordinary sugar (called sucrose) is comprised of a glucose molecule joined to a fructose molecule. Therefore, any food that contains added sugar is bound to be high in fructose. Liquid fructose, such as found in soft drinks and fruit juic, is especially bad because it gets absorbed into the bloodstream so quickly; heads straight to the liver and gets converted into fat.
Sugar can feel addictive and you may feel dreadful in the first few days of quitting it, as your body detoxifies. However, it’s worth it, because your metabolism will heal and you should feel significantly better after the first week.
The following strategies should help reduce sugar cravings …
Eat 3 substantial meals a day
The meals should be comprised of adequate protein and healthy fats, as these are what help to keep you feeling satiated. Nibbling all day or skipping meals is not the route to losing weight. You will probably end up eating too much in the end and feel overly full by the evening.
You might need to add a little more fat than usual to your meals for a few days, as healthy fats are wonderful for reducing sugar cravings. Examples of healthy fats to include in your diet are olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, oily fish, ghee, nuts and seeds and the fat from grass-fed meat.
It is also important to eat adequate protein, as this will stabilise your blood sugar. Examples of good protein sources are seafood, poultry, eggs, red meat and the whey in Synd-X Slimming Protein Powder from .
Drink plenty of water
It’s very important to stay well hydrated. Sugar and carbohydrates increase the production of hunger hormones. Therefore, you are likely to feel more hungry than usual for a few days after reducing consumption. Drinking water helps to reduce hunger and squeezing a little lemon or lime juice into the water can help to fight sugar cravings. The acid isn’t brilliant for your tooth enamel, so you may want to drink through a straw to minimise contact of the acid with your teeth.
Keep healthy snacks on hand
If you are suddenly struck with strong cravings for something you know you shouldn’t be eating, it really helps to have a healthy alternative on hand. Having a healthy snack mid-afternoon may prevent you from eating the whole kitchen in the evening. Examples of healthy snacks include nuts and seeds, a protein powder smoothie, hummus or guacamole with vegetable sticks or a boiled egg.
Don’t skimp on sleep
Plenty of research has been done showing that people who don’t sleep enough have higher levels of hunger hormones in their body and are more likely to overeat or eat unhealthy foods. It is so much easier to prepare healthy meals, exercise regularly and generally look after yourself when you’ve had enough sleep and it has been good, refreshing sleep. If you struggle with being able to get to sleep or stay asleep, magnesium may help you because it relaxes your muscles and nervous system. Magnesium also helps your brain produce the neurotransmitter GABA, which quietens down internal chatter.
Bad gut bugs or candida could be the problem
Having too many bad bugs in your bowel can drive sugar cravings. Candida overgrowth in your intestines can make you feel tired, irritable and give you a foggy head and poor concentration. It can also cause intense carbohydrate cravings. It’s a Catch 22 – eating sugar promotes the growth of intestinal yeast and having too much yeast in your gut makes you crave sugar.
Candida is a type of yeast that is naturally present in everyone’s digestive tract. However, if your immune system is weak and your digestion is poor, Candida levels can get out of control. Because it is a yeast, it needs sugar in order to grow.
Treating candida overgrowth can be tough because many different foods we eat are digested into sugar eventually and can potentially feed this yeast. Symptoms of excess candida in the digestive tract include digestive discomfort (gas, bloating, diarrhea), fatigue, headache, muscle and joint pain, blocked sinuses, sugar cravings, recurrent vaginal yeast infections, recurrent urinary tract infections, depression, foggy head and poor concentration, food and chemical sensitivities and sleep problems. Diet modifications help to eradicate candida and bad bacteria. Supplements such as Cabot Health BactoClear capsules can help with abdominal bloating and medically diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome.
Cabot Health’s Nature Sweet Sugar Substitute is a natural alternative to sugar I also often recommend to patients. It contains sugar alcohols (known as polyols), which are naturally occurring in many fruits and vegetables. They are sweet like sugar but are different in the sense that they do not have the harmful health consequences of sugar and do not cause spikes in blood sugar levels, cravings or binge eating. They are suitable for those with diabetes, insulin resistance or those trying to lose weight as they do not promote excess insulin secretion and contain only a fraction of the calories of sugar. Unlike their name suggests, sugar alcohols don’t actually contain any alcohol (ethanol) and definitely cannot make you drunk. They are natural sweet substances derived from plant sources that can be added to food and beverages to make them sweeter.
About the Author
Margaret Jasinska ND is a naturopath with more than 20 years of clinical experience. She has has co-authored eight books with Dr Sandra Cabot (of The Liver Cleansing Diet and Cabot Health products renown) and divides her time between seeing patients at Dr Cabot’s clinic in Camden, NSW, and writing and researching new developments in health and medicine. Margaret’s main area of interest is in digestive and immune system disorders. She greatly enjoys empowering individuals to improve their health by giving them the tools and knowledge to lead healthier lives.