Sugar addiction is real and can threaten your health. Want to know how you became an addict and how to quit sugar today?
Sugar is sweet, tasty and often comforting. Remember the many times when you were young, living at home and you were rewarded with a sweet treat? Perhaps it was an incentive to complete your homework or chores. Or at birthday parties you could indulge in cake and ice-cream. As a child, sweet treats seemed synonymous with celebration. As you grew older you may have craved sugary foods when you were feeling sad, lonely, bored, or stressed out. Whatever the reason that you craved something sweet; it always made you feel good because of the surge of dopamine activated by sugar.
The reason why people use sugar as a bribe is because many of us are sugar addicts and we will do what we need to do to use sugar. Of course, the intent to encourage an addict is not one that we are aware of. Simply, we know that if we barter with children by promising candy when they finish their greens, you bet they will eat their broccoli. Sugar can be highly addictive. In fact, it is more addictive than cocaine by eight times according to a study on rats by Princeton’s Neuroscience Institute. Rats metabolize sugar in the same way as humans do. The experiment over years show how rats craved and binged on sugar and even experience withdrawal when taking the sugar away for a prolonged period.
You are probably thinking, “yes I get that sugar is addictive but what is sugar and why is it so bad for me if it is found in most foods, natural foods too”?
Let me start by explaining what sugar is.
Sugars are carbohydrates made up of three elements: carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. The three most common types of sugar are sucrose, fructose (found in fruit) and glucose. Sugar does have a place in foods. Way back when food was hunted and gathered, and not bought via Instacart or a trip the local grocery store, sweet foods indicated that they were safe to eat and easily digested.
Although we now know what foods are safer to eat than others, sugar still serves a purpose in cooking, baking and preserving foods. For example, sugar mixed with yeast helps it to rise or amplifies the moisture in baked goods. Sugar becomes a health issue when too much is consumed.
The American Heart Association recommends a daily allowance of sugar for women is 6 teaspoons of sugar (24g) and 9 teaspoons of sugar for men (36g).
Most Americans consume over 19 teaspoons of sugar a day which is equal to 76g.
So, what happens when we consume the American standard of 76g of sugar?
Once the body has used the sugar that it requires for energy, stored in the liver, it will convert the rest of the sugar to fat for long-term storage. In short, the recommended amount of sugar is used as energy and the rest is stored as fat.
Our bodies are incredibly clever. I always tell my clients and children that if you give your body a chance to heal, it will do so by itself. It knows exactly what to do but we must give it space and nutrients to do so. Sugar is not a nutrient and can impact your health in all sorts of ways.
Such as, it is important to understand blood sugar levels and how they impact our health. Blood sugar is just that, it is how much sugar (glucose) is circulating in our blood. If your blood sugar is over 180 mg/dl it is known as hyperglycemia and is a leading indicator of diabetes.
Naturally, blood sugar spikes after eating but it also remains elevated in times of stress and illness. Lowering blood sugar can be as simple as skipping a meal or adding a high impact workout into your day. Although we can self-regulate blood sugar to some extent, it is also regulated by two hormones called insulin and glucagon.
The job of insulin is to move the glucose from the blood into cells to be stored. Glucagon does the opposite job and is secreted by breaking down stored glucose from the cells when blood sugar is low.
How brilliant is that? Can we please take moment to appreciate how smart our bodies are? If our blood sugar is high, a hormone (insulin) is triggered to remove the sugar from our blood and it it’s too low, a different hormone (glucagon) is called into action to take stored sugar and push it back into the blood. GENIUS!
Despite our very righteous bodies, if we consume sugar in excess, we will weaken our health.
One in three people in the United States have high insulin resistance which means that they are prediabetic.
Insulin resistance occurs when there is too much glucose in the blood, which affects the cells ability to convert the glucose to energy. The job of the pancreas is to produce enough insulin to keep the blood sugar levels down. It is unable to do this if it is overwhelmed with sugar and eventually the prediabetic person will develop Type 2 diabetes.
Not all sugars are created equal but all have a similar affect on the body.
There are 250 different names for sugar which makes it hard for the consumer to know how much sugar a store-bought food includes. A good tip is to understand two things. One, most names for sugar end in “ose”. Two, there are two sources of sugar, natural and added.
Natural sugars are found in plant-based foods, think fruits and grains. These sugars will be converted to fat the same way added sugars are, if eaten in excess. Their saving grace is that those foods are also filled with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and other goodies that our bodies thrive on. They can also reduce the blood sugar spike when eaten in moderation.
Added sugars are unnatural sugars that have been added to a food product during processing. You may be familiar with high-fructose corn syrup, which is largely blamed for the obesity epidemic. Some processed foods with added sugars that you may find in your pantries are cereal, cookies, dairy desserts, sauces, sodas, fruit drinks and syrups. One reason these types of foods may be consumed in excess, unlike the natural sugary foods, is because of their lack of fiber which signals the brain that you are full. Thus, the lack of fiber can lead to overeating.
I challenge you to take out three pantry items that you eat daily and check the label to see how many grams of sugar are in a portion. This will help you begin a process of your own awareness regarding how much sugar you are consuming. You will be able to see how quickly and easily the amount of added sugar we eat adds up.
The risk to your health when consuming too much sugar, beyond the recommended daily allowance, is devastating. A diet high in added sugars has been found to cause a three-fold increase in risk of death due to heart disease.
We have also seen that it can cause insulin resistance leading to Type 2 diabetes. There are 105 million people in the US who have insulin resistance, which roughly translates to 1 in 3 Americans. The affects to do not end there. Added sugars are also linked to obesity. The addictive nature of consuming sugars impairs the gut microbiome further contributing to chronic inflammation. Alzheimer’s, mood disorders, dental issues, overeating, low thyroid function, hormonal imbalances, stress from raised cortisol levels are some other health issues related to eating too much sugar.
It’s not all bad and it’s never too late. Remember when I told you that our bodies can heal themselves? Change your diet, change your life. Think long-term and longevity. My goal with my clients is for them to live long and die slow. This means, live a long life free of disease so that they can really enjoy every day, even when we are old, and our bodies become a little creaky!
Quitting sugar is no easy feat. Even with the wealth of knowledge to explain that sugar equals chronic inflammation and chronic inflammation leads to chronic disease, it is still not easy to quit. That is because sugar is addictive!
Sugar addiction is real. Breaking the addiction should be a well thought out process, filled with love, support, accountability and free of judgment.
Here are four steps that you can take today to break your sugar addiction:
1. Eat plant-based foods filled with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients will leave you feeling fuller for longer so that you cannot indulge on those foods and you will naturally eat less.
2. Workout daily. The strenuous movement will lower your blood sugar levels and prevent the spikes and crashes. Often when we are experiencing a sugar crash, we crave more sugar to get our blood sugar level back up.
3. Dissect your cravings. Instead of treating any area of our life that you are dissatisfied with, with sugar; focus on what you are really feeling, so that we can heal the concern rather than filling the emptiness with sugary foods.
4. Detox from sugar. I have created the Queen of Sugar Detox with you in mind. Detoxing from sugar will give your body a chance to heal. You will begin to crowd out harmful foods with nutrient dense foods that feed the good bacteria in your gut. Your immune system will function better and often eliminate completely digestive issues. Aside from living longer, you will feel more energetic and less anxious. During this time in history, what more could you ask for?
We learn from a young age that sweets satisfy us, and they reward our behavior and as we mature, we continue to eat sweets to boost our mood. To give-up sugar, we need to find new methods to make us feel complete, understood and loved. I like to call the Queen of Sugar Detox, the ultimate act of selfcare.
Love and light,