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Ahhh, sugar cravings. This is something that almost every person alive today has experienced at some point in their life. While some people may be able to ignore their sugar cravings, other people may find themselves continually caving to their body’s demands for sugar.
In today’s episode, Lydia and I talk about sugar cravings and the three primary reasons that they happen. Giving into sugar cravings is not a willpower issue. It is a biological issue and until the root causes are addressed, it will be difficult to eliminate them completely.
In addition to the three main reasons why sugar cravings happen, Lydia and I also discuss what you can do to support your body and work through the cravings. Over time, with the right support, education, and focus on health, you will be able to break the vicious cycle.
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Links From This Week’s Episode:
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- Jessica’s 21-Day Sugar Detox Coaching
- Real Food 101 eBook
- Ditch It eBook
- The VH Podcast, Episode 8: Can We Please Stop with the Willy Nilly Supplementation?
- The VH Podcast, Episode 17: Magnesium 101
- Miraculous Magnesium and DIY Magnesium Oil
- The Missing Mineral You Need to Prevent Insulin Resistance
- Sugar: The Secret Killer – Part 1 – Addiction
- Sugar: The Secret Killer – Part 2 – Disease
- Sugar: The Secret Killer – Part 3 – Recovery
- Health Assessment with Lydia
- Hair Analysis with Lydia
- Information about HTMA and Minerals
- How to Create a Game Plan to Keep Your Whole Family Healthy
Listen to The Vibrant Health Podcast :: Episode 32
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Download The Vibrant Health Podcast :: Episode 32
Read The Vibrant Health Podcast Show Notes :: Episode 32
Sugar Craving Show Notes
Make sure you check out the Links from the Episode for lots more information on today’s topic.
Hormones and neurotransmitters are involved in appetite control by acting on the hypothalamus gland, the part of the brain that governs feelings of hunger and fullness. The hypothalamus acts as the master switch that tells us to eat more or put the fork down. It does this by collecting and processing information from the digestive system, the internal biological clock, fat cells, stress-controlling mechanisms, and other sources within the body.
Dysbiosis, or an imbalance of gut flora, can lead to sugar cravings. An imbalance in blood sugar can cause anxiety, irritability, and mood swings. The more sugar you eat, the worse cravings get. Sugar is addictive.
How Sugar Cravings Impact Our Mood and Vice Versa
Sugar cravings are an outrageously common problem today. The reasons for craving sugar can be many. The problem is: if you indulge those cravings, you will only put yourself into a downward spiral of more and more cravings. The more sugar you eat, the more sugar you will crave.
Though it’s important to keep in mind that there could be many different causes for your sugar cravings, here is what we’ve found to be the three main reasons.
3 Reasons Why You Crave Sugar
Reason #1: Imbalanced Blood Sugar/Adrenal Fatigue
If you have imbalanced blood sugar, you will reach for sugar as a quick source of fuel. The problem is that this becomes a vicious cycle. It is one that is not easy to break unless you force yourself to acknowledge it’s not a good idea to stay on this roller coaster ride. Once you know that sugar is not your friend you can take steps to eradicate those cravings.
Sugar also places an unnecessary burden on the adrenal glands, which happen to play a part in controlling blood sugar. If your adrenal function is depressed and you have imbalanced blood sugar (which most people do these days), sugar cravings will likely be a challenge for you. Instead of reaching for the sugar (remember: sugar = quick source of energy), reach for some protein or fat (or both) instead. A hardboiled egg, a handful of nuts, carrots dipped in full-fat homemade ranch, a spoonful of coconut oil or peanut butter, sliced meat or cheese. Better yet, pair that snack with something fermented.
Fats and protein rich snacks will help get your blood sugar balanced instead of sending it surging up and then crashing down. You may also want to consider having your adrenals tested.
Reason #2: Imbalanced Brain Chemistry
Are you seeking pleasure?
Sugar fills a need for pleasure that many people in modern America are not getting. Why? A million reasons…lack of sunshine and low vitamin D levels, lack of dietary protein or the ability to assimilate that protein.
Remember: We need protein for the amino acids building blocks that make neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters keep our pleasure centers full and satisfied.
“The regular use of candy, refined sugar and other sweets/ carbs can have a strong impact on your brain chemistry, as they interfere with the receptors in the brain for neurotransmitters. The brain identifies that the receptor for a certain neurotransmitter is already filled, so it reduces the amount of neurotransmitters it produces. As the levels of neurotransmitters drop, you begin to crave alcohol or sugar to fill the newly emptied receptors in the brain. At some point, you will no longer be able to fill the receptors with these ‘empty’ foods and substances. At this point, you will begin to experience mood swings and an even more intense craving for sugar. To correct these imbalances, you may require amino acid therapy.” (Signs & Symptoms Analysis from a Functional Perspective by Dicken Weatherby, N.D.)
A lack of adequate fat in the diet to satiate, nourish, help with cravings, and balance hormones exacerbates the problem. Too much refined food will also make your situation worse, as they strip away the critical nutrients that support brain function.
The list goes on. If you are finding you desire sugar when you are bored or apathetic, eat some fat and/or protein instead. I recommend reading The Mood Cure by Dr. Julia Ross to learn more about amino acids and their role in our mental health.
Reason #3: Gut Health
You also may crave sugar due to possible gut dysbiosis, digestive dysfunction, a need for hydrochloric acid and pancreatic enzymes, hidden food allergies, or a possible yeast overgrowth, such as candida.
Why? It could very likely be due to sugar in the first place. Anyone on a highly refined diet consuming a lot of sugars/carbs can expect to find some gut health issues.
A 21 Day Sugar Detox can be very helpful in reducing the sugar cravings. Or, an elimination diet, probiotics supplemental hydrochloric acid, digestive/pancreatic enzymes, or B vitamins could all be supportive as well. Getting the sugar out of the diet will be the first step on your road to recovery.
Working with a practitioner or someone trained in nutrition may be a very good idea to help you troubleshoot the aspect of gut health you should focus on and what testing you may need to get done.
We are all too aware of the many problems sugar cravings create for just about anyone. The earlier materials in this course that go over a properly prepared, nutrient dense diet will go a long way towards helping you to curb cravings. Also, check out this post for more sugar craving tips. Willpower alone is not enough.
Support through education, dietary shifts, and supplement regimes can really help to finally nix those cravings. Possible blood work and testing can also help root out any deeper reasons why you crave sugar.
Supplemental Support Options
Most of us in this modern day are deficient in nutrients, whether it’s vitamins, minerals, fats, or amino acids. Processed, lifeless food depletes us, too much sugar/starch depletes us, imbalanced blood sugar depletes us, chemicals/toxins/pesticides, heavy metals, parasites/fungus/yeast deplete us, and on and on.
We can’t always rely on our food sources alone to give us the adequate nutrients for optimal health, especially when we have so much lost time to make up for. Every single one of us alive today has already been depleted to some degree from even before we were born. We need supplemental support.
While diet is critically important and key to managing blood sugar, supplementation can really fill in the gaps. For one, not everyone has optimal digestion to utilize the nutrients they take in. Until digestive issues are worked through, supplementation really is necessary to support the foundation of overall health as the imbalanced are healed.
For example, we need B vitamins for energy production, carbohydrate metabolism, and much more. People who eat a lot of sugar/starches and refined foods tend to excrete minerals in their urine, which is on top of the fact that they are consuming very little minerals to begin with.
Fatty acids are needed to support healthy cell membranes; cells can become weakened by excess insulin (which is caused by too much sugar or lack of appropriate minerals). Fats are needed to provide satiation and to stave off cravings for more sugars/starches. Think of fats as our long burning fuel. However, don’t take this as a license to go hog wild on the fats. Some people do well with quite a bit of fat and some can’t process a lot (we talked about this a bit in a former podcast – folks with adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism are an example of who may need to be more judicious with their fat consumption).
It takes quite a synergy of vitamins for the body to function optimally.
When you add sugars/starches to your body burden, this need increases many fold. Most of us are already running on a deficit in this modern day. Supporting with a good broad multi-vitamin is pretty much necessary in order to dig one’s way out of imbalance.
We all could use some extra B’s: stress alone indicates that. When the body has imbalanced blood sugar, B’s play a huge role in recovery.
Sometimes, a supplement is needed as well, especially for those who live in constant stress. Imbalanced blood sugar leads to poor sleep, which leads to even more fatigue and stress. It becomes a vicious cycle of low energy and subjection to cravings, all of which B vitamins can help to balance. We cannot make broad supplement recommendations in this podcast (there are too many factors to consider). If you would like to get on a supplement protocol appropriate for you, contact your health care professional or do some research to make sure you are making good choices for your body’s needs.
Magnesium (Mg): You may have heard that it takes a lot of magnesium to actually process/deal with every gram of sugar that comes into the body. This means, if you’ve been eating lots of sugars/starches, you are likely deficient in Mg (not to mention our depleted soil levels of magnesium these days). So, it’s really critical to supplement with magnesium. While we do not recommend to supplement with any mineral by itself for the long-term, magnesium may be the one exception. It’s a good idea to take magnesium supplementally to rebuild one’s stores, then maintain by either low dose ionic forms, or transdermal approaches, such as a magnesium oil spray, magnesium gel or magnesium salts in a bath.
Chromium: Works with insulin in allowing our cells to absorb and utilize glucose. Deficiencies of chromium have been found to produce increased insulin requirements. (Yikes!) Anyone who is insulin resistant needs to really consider supplementing with chromium. Eating foods with high sugar content make it very difficult for the body to maintain adequate chromium levels. If you are a diabetic and struggle with high insulin levels, talk to your doctor about supplementing with chromium. Refer to my post on Chromium over at Delicious Obsessions.
Fish oil is high in EPA and DHA, which are essential for proper brain function. Balanced essential fatty acids, along with proteins, will have a profound impact on sugar cravings. When the enzymes and cofactors are available, and proper fuels are balanced with essential fatty acids, sugar cravings will diminish.
Gymnema Sylvestre helps inhibit the absorption of dietary carbs into sugar; therefore, it assists in keeping blood sugar levels within a healthy, normal range. It also possesses compounds that may support the restoration of insulin sensitivity.
The benefits of liquid extracts are that they work faster and more completely than other forms of supplementation. There are no pills to swallow, no herbs to press, or tea to steep. Another bonus is that liquid nutrients are absorbed quickly, so they get to work right away.
Taken in 4-gram (4,000 mg) increments, three times a day, can usually eliminate most, if not all, cravings for sweets. In extremely addicted individuals, twice this dose may be needed to successfully eliminate cravings. This is a great tool that can be likened to ‘bicycle training wheels’ while dietary changes are being made. After awhile, this will no longer be needed once healthier eating habits are adopted.
Sugar cravings may be the result of candida overgrowth in the body. Probiotics work to support against candida. Candida infections are often triggered by the overconsumption of sugar, which alter the gut flora and pH, causing one to crave even MORE sugar.
Probiotics also work to keep the blood sugar in check and actually can help bring it down. This goes a long way towards helping to reduce cravings, since you are helping fight off one of the first effects of hormonal imbalances by maintaining good blood sugar control. Again, hormonal imbalances make cravings worse.