Oh no, he’s back. After four days away at a Blogher conference, I’ve rekindled my relationship sugar. I wasn’t looking for him but he slipped back in my diet like a long lost boyfriend hoping he could restart that love affair.
It just that sugar makes us feel so good—at first. In fact, we are hard wired from birth to want sugar and sweets in our diet. It’s in part of our DNA. It all begins with our first sip of sweet breast milk. And we all know the relationship with sweets don’t end there.
But here is why we need to break up…
A diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates make all our menopausal problems WORSE because of the adverse effect on… drum roll please…hormone balance. When we eat sugar, our insulin levels rise (which is normal) but too much sugar makes too much insulin and this fat storage hormone makes us quickly gain more weight around our middles. Over time we can develop a resistance to insulin. Which means our body needs to release even more of it to work. More insulin—more weight gain.
PMS, heavy bleeding, cramps, overeating, bloating—all are affected by a diet that keeps your blood sugar and insulin levels stable. We keep blood sugar and insulin stable by eating less sugar (and other refined carbohydrates).
The problem isn’t a sweet treat now and then, but when we need to eat it every day or if we can’t go a few hours without it….
Here are the signs that you might have an addiction to sugar…
1. Do you find comfort in dessert or reach for pasta or cookies when you’re feeling down?
2. Do you always crave something sweet or caffeinated at that 3pm crash during the workday?
3. Do you ever feel guilty about the amount of sugar or starchy carbs you eat?
4. Do you need to eat something sweet after a meal?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, there is a good chance you are addicted to sugar. In fact, recent research has shown similarities between the over consumption of sugars and drug addiction. One study found that sugar cravings were even more addictive than cocaine cravings.
So what can you do? If you’re craving sugar, remember it is not a moral failing or lack of willpower.There are things you can do.
Here are some ways to break the addiction.
1. Balance your blood sugar: Research studies show that low blood sugar levels are associated with LOWER overall blood flow to the brain, which means we will crave more sugar and make more BAD decisions. To keep blood sugar stable:
- Eat a healthy breakfast with some protein like eggs, protein shakes, or nut butters.
- Then have smaller meals throughout the day. Eat every 3-4 hours and have some protein with each snack or meal (lean animal protein, nuts, seeds, beans). The importance of eating regularly cannot be understated. Don’t leave home without protein packed snacks. Plan ahead.
2. Eliminate sugar and artificial sweeteners cold turkey. If you are addicted to narcotics or alcohol you can’t simply just cut down. You have to stop for your brain to reset. Research shows it generally takes about 72 hours to feel the effects. Eliminate refined sugars, sodas, fruit juices, and artificial sweeteners from your diet. These are all drugs that will fuel cravings.
3. Get 7-8 hours of sleep. Research shows that lack of sleep increases cravings because of hormone changes in the brain. More on this next week.
4. Try taking supplements that may help reduce the cravings. As with all supplements please check with your medical provider before taking.
- Vitamin D: According to one study, when Vitamin D levels are low, the hormone that helps turn off your appetite doesn’t work and people feel hungry all the time, no matter how much they eat.
- Omega 3: Low levels of omega three fatty acids are involved in normal brain cell function, insulin control and inflammation. Shoot for 1 – 2 grams per day.
- Consider taking natural supplements for cravings control. Glutamine and tyrosine are amino acids that help reduce cravings. Stress reducing herbs such as Rhodiola may help, too. Chromium balances blood sugar and can help take the edge off cravings. Glucomannan fiber is very helpful to reduce the spikes in sugar and insulin that drive cravings and hunger.