Is sugar an obstacle standing in the way of you and great health? Sugar can disrupt insulin levels, feed “bad” bacteria and fungus in the body, and if unused, be converted to body fat. So why is a sugar habit so hard to kick? Sugar cravings can be caused by multiple factors. Luckily, once you understand your sugar cravings, there are solutions.
Causes of sugar cravings:
- Dehydration/need for water
- Amino acid/hormone Imbalance
- Habits: Psychological and physical associations with food.
- Lack of “good” bacteria in the body and/or too much yeast or fungus in the body.
- Inflammation or disease that feeds off sugar.
- Body is agitated after ingesting food it can’t process well.
This may seem too simple, but sometimes when you’re hungry for sweets, you’re just thirsty! This is especially true between meals. If you’re hungry only an hour or so after eating, you probably just need water.
Solution: If the thought of eating something healthy, like a salad or apple, doesn’t sound good, but candy does, you’re probably thirsty! Also, think about the last time you had a drink. You shouldn’t go longer than ½ hour-1 hour without water.
Problem: Amino Acid/Hormone Imbalance
Many people lack certain nutrients and amino acids, or their hormone production/regulation is off. Lacking certain amino acids can cause sluggishness, depression, hyperactivity, or sleeplessness. A hormone imbalance can have similar effects. Lack of energy or low serotonin causes sugar cravings, since sugar gives a boost that gives temporary relief.
Solution: If you think you have a thyroid problem or an amino acid deficiency, get tested at a practitioner’s office. If you can’t afford a test, or you don’t have insurance, read The Mood Cure. The book offers self-diagnosis tools and a supplementation regimen that can be seriously helpful.
Problem: Habits-psychological and physical associations with food.
When we do something on a regular basis, our brain is carved with little neural pathways. This is a habit! Evolution has designed us to feel comfortable with habits. As long as the summer and rain came when it was supposed to, and winter was on schedule, our ancestors could predict food and migration patterns. Unfortunately, the cookie you eat after every meal is not beneficial to your survival. But our brain carves the neural pathway just the same, so every time you’re done eating, you will crave a cookie. The same goes for a drink after work, or chocolate every day at lunch break.
Solution: Catch yourself having “habitual” cravings! Break the habit by doing something different; change the association. Every time you get home from work, have strawberries instead of cheesecake. You will soon crave the strawberries! Habits can change.
Problem: Lack of Good Bacteria/Too Much Yeast/Fungus
This is a surprisingly common condition. The common diet today has almost NO fermented food, which our ancestors ate daily. Fermented food (i.e. raw sauerkraut, kimchi, nato, kombucha, and homemade ginger beer) contain beneficial bacteria that feed the “good” bacteria in our gut. This good bacteria helps digest food, fights off infections and supercharges our immune systems! Sugar can be harmful because it “feeds” the negative bacteria and yeast. This can cause digestive upset, low energy, and a sluggish immune systems. Sugar isn’t the only cause of a yeast imbalance (often referred to as “candida”), alcohol, over-consumption of starch, medications, and yeast also cause candida.
Symptoms: You may have a yeast imbalance if you have: Toe fungus, yeast infections, thrush (candida in the mouth and throat), digestive issues, bloating, low-functioning immune system, and constant sugar cravings.
Solutions: Take probiotic supplements. They come in the form of capsules, liquid, and concentrated yogurt. Eat fermented foods daily. Make they sure they are raw/unpasteurized and unsweetened. You can buy them at health food stores, or make your own! It can be cheap and fun. My favorite fermentation recipe book is called Wild Fermentation Stay away from refined sweets and starchy desserts for awhile. (Once your back in balance, you can give yourself a “treat day.”)
Many things in our body feed off sugar, and most of them are harmful. There are plenty of helpful organisms (like the beneficial bacteria mentioned earlier), but there are plenty of harmful ones that make their livelihood leaching nutrients, causing disease, and giving us weird cravings. For instance, sugar makes cancer cells grow and multiply. Parasites thrive off it. Even a fungus that grows during a sinus infection is fed by sugar. Sugar also causes inflammation, and inflammation is the cause of arthritis, Chrohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, and many other problems. Since sugar causes inflammation, eating less sweets can be a big step towards reducing it. (There are more lifestyle changes that reduce inflammation, and I will go into greater detail on this point in another post.)
Solution: Eat less sugar and reduce stress!
Problem: The body is agitated after ingesting food it can’t process well.
Even if you try to be healthy, it’s easy to slip off the wagon and grab a doughnut when you’re in a hurry. Don’t beat yourself up over small treats here and there, but there is more to that gas-station food than extra calories. When our body ingests something that it can’t process well (chemicals, hydrogenated oils, allergens, etc), it wants to push it out. There’s no use for it and it’s toxifying, so the body wants it gone! So it makes us crave sweets, since sugar is an intestinal irritant, and might “speed things along.” (In layman’s terms: You will poop the faster, before the toxic food has the chance to hang around in the intestines and cause more damage.) But as mentioned, this causes inflammation, which has its own problems.
Solution: Eat whole, chemical-free food that your body has use for. Cut down on processed food, and eat out less.
So pay careful attention to your sugar cravings! When are they happening? Why are they happening? Are you stressed, low on energy, or eating out of habit? Try keeping a food journal and chart your cravings! You can find unexpected links, and learn the ways of your mind and body. And hey, everyone once and awhile…it’s ok to have some ice cream.