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Why Do We Get Sugar Cravings?

Why Do We Get Sugar Cravings?

Greetings friends. Today I am going to be talking about sugar cravings. These are a symptom often seen and experienced by many of my clients. Most people will actually experience them at some point and I am often asked why and what do they mean? This is a significant question as sugar is still grossly over consumed in our daily diet either knowingly or through stealth as an additive in our processed foods. Despite the endless health campaigns to encourage us all to cut back, sugar still makes up a third of our calorie intake. This is deeply worrying, say experts, who are increasingly concerned that our bodies were not designed to take such a sugar overload and fear it is contributing to many modern ills, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. In fact anything that is remotely related to inflammation is made worse by high sugar intake. The problem is that sugar is highly addictive and this is something study after study has shown. Just recently researchers at Yale University revealed that dramatic falls in blood sugar, which occur after eating “bad” carbohydrates such as refined sugar found in sweets and biscuits, affect the part of the brain controlling impulse. This leads to a loss of self control and a subsequent craving for more unhealthy, high-calorie foods. The researchers remarked that this could help explain the burgeoning global obesity epidemic.

Meanwhile, Robert Lustig, a leading US obesity expert, has gone further – he believes sugar is an addictive toxin and should be regulated in the same way as cigarettes. But as well as causing health problems, could an addiction to sugar be a sign of an underlying health condition? That’s the suggestion being made by Dr Jacob Teitelbaum in his book, Beat Sugar Addiction Now! He describes sugar addiction as the “canary in the coal mine,” saying it often points to an undiagnosed problem such as failing adrenal glands (which sit above the kidneys and pump out hormones) or even too much “bad” bacteria in the gut. It has certainly been my personal clinical experience that people suffering from adrenal fatigue or hypocortisolism, suffer from sugar cravings and it has been well documented that the gut flora is paramount to optimal functioning of virtually every other system in the body including adrenal-cortex, immune, mental health and sugar in excessive amounts certainly harms this balance.

Dr Teitelbaum has identified four types of sugar addiction. He says they are triggered by different causes, from hormonal changes to infections. According to the type that best describes you, he suggests a specific action plan to tackle the problem. Here are the four types – which one is most like you?

Thyroid failure

The signs: You’re stressed, tired and craving sweet foods through the day are all possible signs that may indicate an under active thyroid gland, which leads to fatigue. Tension in the muscles, which are also not getting the energy they need to function, can cause frequent headaches.

The solution: Drink more water to help flush your system. Cut back from caffeine, until you are on one cup a day, then switch to herbal teas. Ban processed food and switch wholefoods such as brown bread, rice and pasta, which take longer for the body to digest, keeping blood sugar levels stable. Getting more sleep optimizes energy levels, reduces appetite and slashes sugar cravings. When you are tired, you are more likely to crave sugar to generate energy artificially.

Yeast infection

The signs: Cannot get through the day without bread or sugar. Have had more than your fair share of antibiotics or antacids? This could have triggered an overgrowth of bad bacteria. Antibiotics kill “good” bacteria in the gut, while antacids neutralize the stomach acid that normally tackles bad bacteria. Dr Teitelbaum claims the yeast over-population feeds on sugar. It triggers cravings for sugar and bread because the body quickly converts these to glucose. Eating sugar makes the yeast multiply, thus intensifying cravings and creating a vicious circle. Steroids and stress, which increase your body’s secretion of the hormone cortisol, can suppress your immune system, allowing yeast to run wild, making sugar cravings constant.

The solution: Cut back on all forms of sugar, as well as caffeine, and switch to a low-GI diet. Take a probiotic supplement to support a healthy gut.

Adrenaline Fatigue

The signs: Irritable when hungry, often feel stressed or dizzy when standing. Suffer frequently from a sore throat and may often be thirsty and have to urinate frequently.

The problem: You could be suffering from adrenal overload. Adrenal glands pump out the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol when we’re under pressure. When under constant pressure, these glands can become sluggish, so we often turn to sugar for a short burst of energy. See my articles on adrenal fatigue here and here.

The solution: Graze on small, high-protein meals throughout the day nuts, cheese or eggs). This should keep energy levels steady, making it easier to cut back on sugar. Try to reduce stress levels too. If you are still suffering then adaptogenic herbs and further supplementation may be required and it is best to see a professional natural health practitioner for this to ensure you are tested and have a tailored plan to suit your needs. Don’t leave it too long, if you’re not coming good within a month or so, then time to seek out help.

Menopause or PMT

The signs: Experience low mood and reduced sex drive, with irregular or changing periods. The week before it starts you experience insomnia, headaches, fatigue and hot flushes.

The problem: You may be experiencing menopause, perimenopause (the lead-up to the menopause) or PMT. As levels of estrogen and progesterone drop, women become more prone to insulin resistance. This can cause sugar cravings to soar, leaving you tired and irritable. As hormone levels change, the body attempts to raise levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin, and since sugar triggers a serotonin release, this can cause you to crave sweet things.

The solution: Cut down on sugar as much as possible. If you suffer from premenstrual tension, try taking B Complex vitamins, vitamin B6 in particular. This helps ease the deficiency of the “feel good” hormone prostaglandin E1 (when this hormone is low, irritability and sugar cravings can result). If mood swings are a problem, it could be from excess sugar that’s blocking your ability to turn a substance called GLA (gamma linoleic acid) into the DGLA (dihomo-gamma-linoleic acid) needed to produce prostaglandins that improve mood. Cutting out sugar allows your body to make prostaglandin more effectively. As always, if it persists, see your natural health professional.

The Chromium Link

Another reason for sugar cravings can be a deficiency of a mineral called Chromium. Eating enough chromium-rich foods is easy and essential. Picture this trace mineral as the shovel that gets the fuel into the furnace. Chromium works by working with insulin to help carry glucose (blood sugar) across cell membranes and into cells, where it’s burned for energy. Sounds vital, and it is but unfortunately, even balanced diets designed by dietitians can contain far less than the 120 micro grams of chromium daily recommendation. Due to the prevalence of processing in almost all of our foods, which depletes the chromium levels in foods, chromium deficiencies can be quite common in our modern diet. A lack of chromium is particularly problematic for people with blood sugar issues. People with very low chromium levels can develop “glucose intolerance,” a condition that can lead to type 2 diabetes. The good news? Blood sugar levels often do drop in these people when they get the chromium they need. But chromium seems to help those with mild glucose intolerance and mildly elevated blood sugar more than those with long-standing or severe diabetes.

Chromium also helps raise levels of HDL cholesterol, the good kind that helps shuttle bad LDL cholesterol out of the body. For those of you who are battling the bulge, there’s evidence that supplementation with the mineral may help build lean tissue and reduce fat in people who exercise. And there’s more good chromium news on the weight-control front: Food cravings, which can derail any good eating plan, are often generated by a lack of chromium. In a Cornell University study, chromium supplementation curbed appetite and cravings by 50 percent in people with depression. To easily and safely increase your chromium intake, get it from foods rich in the mineral, such as whole grains, wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, bran cereal, orange juice, romaine lettuce, raw onions, broccoli, potatoes, green beans, raw tomatoes, black pepper, grape juice, and ham. Since beer and wine can accumulate chromium during fermentation, they’re also good dietary sources of the mineral but of course, consume these in small to moderate amounts.

Well that’s about it from me. I hope this has helped you understand more about why you get sugar cravings.
Until next time, be well, naturally.

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Craig Hitchens – Natural Health Practitioner + Remedial Therapist.

Sources:

http://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/health/health+news/what+do+sugar+cravings+meanr,14443
http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/food/chromium-sources
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