Sugar. We add it to our morning cup of coffee or tea. We bake it into pastries, cakes, and cookies. We even sprinkle it all over our breakfast cereal or our oatmeal for added flavor. But that’s not all. Sugar is also hidden in some beloved “treats” that people consume on a daily basis, such as soda, fruit juices, candies and ice cream. It also lurks in almost all processed foods, including breads, meats, and even your favorite condiments like ketchup, salad dressings, spaghetti sauce, barbecue sauce and Worcestershire sauce.
Most people view sugary foods as tasty, satisfying and irresistible treats. But studies show that there are three words that can more accurately describe sugar: toxic, addictive and deadly if we consume too much of it. Our bodies crave sugar, and in Joseph Mercola DO’s opinion, “sugar is one of the most damaging substances that you can ingest — and what’s terrifying about it is that it’s very abundant in our everyday diet. This intense addiction to sugar is becoming rampant, not just among adults, but in children as well.” But how exactly does sugar work in our body, and what side effects can excess sugar have on our health?
The human body is not made to consume excessive amounts of sugar, especially fructose. It is actually a liver toxin and is metabolized directly into fat – a factor that can cause a whole host of problems that can have far reaching effects on our health. As a general recommendation, keep your total fructose consumption below 25 grams per day, including that from whole fruit.
Today, the average person consumes 77 lbs of sugar a year, plus over 20 pounds of corn syrup. Refined sugar contains no fiber, no minerals, no proteins, no fats, no enzymes, only empty calories.
Your body must borrow vital nutrients from healthy cells to metabolize this incomplete food. Calcium, sodium, potassium, and magnesium are taken from various parts of the body to make use of the sugar.
Sugar actually speeds up cellular death and Osteoporosis, due to the withdrawn calcium. Likewise, the teeth are affected and they lose their components until decay occurs and hastens their loss.
Diabetes is another commonly known disease caused by sugar as well as a high fat diet. Diabetes is caused by the failure of the pancreas to produce adequate insulin when the blood sugar rises. Refined sugar may be one of the major dietary risk factors in gallstone disease. One out of ten Americans has gallstones. This risk increases to one out of every five after age 40.
Low insulin production means a high sugar (glucose) level in the bloodstream, which can lead to a confused mental state or unsound mind, and has also been linked with juvenile criminal behavior.
Since our craving for sugar is addictive, it can be uncomfortable to eliminate sugar from our diets at first. Common sugar withdrawal symptoms include headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea, anxiety, cravings, and diarrhea. The good news is that these symptoms significantly reduce after a few weeks of quitting sugar. In fact, within a month of quitting sugar, you may experience benefits such as clearer skin, fewer cravings, and weight loss. Some people say the symptoms dissipate within days of stopping sugar. Once you have kicked the habit, it is much easier to avoid sugar because it usually tastes too sweet.
Ways to reduce sugar withdrawal symptoms:
Stay Hydrated: Sometimes sugar cravings can disguise themselves as thirst or hunger. Drinking water is one way of quieting or stalling those strong urges that may come because of sugar cravings. Use a water bottle to have water readily available. Aim to drink at least 1.5-2 liters of water per day.
Eat healthy Fats: Healthy fats found in foods like avocados, cheese, whole nuts, eggs, and fatty fish are highly nutritious. Your body digests fats slowly which helps ward off sugar cravings. In fact, fats like coconut oil have short fatty acids that help suppress cravings. If you usually cook with vegetable oil, replace it with coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil.
Take Probiotics: What is it about Probiotics that makes them so important? Probiotics add gut flora that’s important in the digestion and metabolism of food. Sugar intake tends to interfere with the gut flora, leading to the overgrowth of other organisms like candida. Candida is a yeast organism that feeds on sugar. It may cause conditions like oral thrush or vaginal thrush. The overgrowth of these organisms may spike your sugar cravings. Luckily, probiotics like kefir, kimchi, and miso help increase the good gut bacteria. In addition to eating probiotic-rich foods, take probiotic supplements.
Eat lots of Protein: Eating high protein foods can help curb cravings and control hunger. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the effect of a high-carb diet and a high-protein diet, and it showed that a high-protein breakfast decreased the hormone ghrelin (hunger) which is responsible for increasing appetite and satiety levels.
Exercise regularly: Rather than thinking about how hungry or how much you want to eat, keep your mind occupied by doing exercises. Why not try taking a walk or weight training? Working out may ease the fatigue and anxiety triggered by sugar withdrawal, thanks to the endorphins your body releases when you work out.
Eat more fruits: If you still want a sugar kick without worrying about calories, try a fruit. It’s a quick fix to a sugar craving. Fruits have natural sugars and are loaded with minerals, vitamins, and nutrients. Fruits like pineapples or bananas are so sweet and high in fiber giving you a momentary feeling of satiety and happiness. Remember to eat fruits in moderation. Eating too many can spike your blood sugar levels. Eat a maximum of 3 fruits a day.
Eliminate all processed foods high in sugar: There is no way you will curb sugar cravings if your food cabinets are packed with processed foods. Studies show that even seeing junk food increases cravings. Make sure you completely empty your cabinets, give away that food if you have to. Take the necessary measures to ensure you remove any temptation. Don’t impede on your efforts of cutting sugar by making it hard on yourself.
Get Adequate Sleep: Lack of sleep can worsen your sugar withdrawal symptoms. It can worsen your headaches, cravings, and anxiety. Therefore, make sure you sleep for at least 7-8 hours a night. Maintaining a regular sleep routine will help you sleep better.
Get a support system: When willpower fails you, what’s the next best option? Talk to your family or friends. Tell them about your goal of cutting down sugar and how the withdrawal symptoms are affecting you. They are likely to be more sensitive when they are around you. Even talking about your cravings out loud may help you reduce your sugar withdrawal symptoms. You can acknowledge the feeling without having to do anything about it.
Deal with Stress: Stress makes your sugar withdrawal symptoms worse. According to Anxiety Center, stress uses up a lot of your energy. This dips your energy levels such that your body craves sugar. Stress is something we go through in life, but there are many ways of overcoming it. Do something fun like playing sports, taking a walk, or talking to a loved one. When you deal with stress, sugar cravings will subside with time. Next month we will give you some good substitutions for sugar and we don’t recommend artificial sweeteners. Stay tuned.