What is Sugar Addiction?

Most people are a sugar addict and don’t realize it. And if they do see it, they don’t realize how harmful it can be. Let’s break this down and see how serious of an addiction and harmful to your health sugar can be.

Sugar addiction is something that acts like a drug addiction. The body craves more and more sugar until it gets to a euphoria type state, resulting in high amounts of sugar consumption. True, your brain, nervous system, and all other cells in your body require glucose (one of the most simple forms of sugar) to function. It is your cell’s number one energy source. It’s actually what plants make during photosynthesis for energy. Your body runs off of this simple sugar, but too much of anything can be bad. I read an article from Sugar Defeat about sugar addiction that I found very informative and interesting. I wanted to first share some of the highlights I enjoyed. Also if you or someone you know is addicted to sugar and is looking for a way to reverse the addiction, I wanted to share a few tips to think about.

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Highlights from the Article
  1. Sugar Releases Dopamine
    • Sugar consumption causes a hormone reaction and releases dopamine into your blood system. Dopamine gives you a happy, satisfied and euphoric feeling, which is why sugar can be addictive.
  2. Sugar is Addictive
    • One of the reasons why sugar is addictive is because of the release of dopamine, your brain wants more. Your body gets used to day-to-day consumption of certain things. The more you eat sugar, the more your body will crave sugar and the more it will need to reach the higher level of dopamine, and thus the euphoric reaction, much like illicit drugs.
  3. Sugar Consumption – Hormone Release – Euphoria
    • This euphoria cycle can play a major role in how the brain reacts, and therefore can have an effect on behavior in major ways.

The post also goes on to talk about sugar withdrawal symptoms and the different stages of symptoms. Symptoms like headaches, cravings, low sleep quality, depression, and more, are normal with sugar addiction. Like the above mentioned, sugar affects hormones that the brain uses, and thus can effect mood and many of the other symptoms related to sugar withdrawal. This is useful to know if you or someone you are close to is going to be going through a withdrawal.

Educate Yourself

Part of the “defeat” is educating yourself about what contains sugar, and what contains added sugar. Sugar Defeat also has a list of items and how much sugar they contain to get you started. I had mentioned that every cell in our body runs off of glucose (sugar), but there are many healthy foods that contain sugar like whole fruits, vegetables, and grains. Remember, plants naturally use glucose for energy too. When you eat more processed foods (basically any foods with a label), and drinking your sugar, it can get addictive and wreck havoc on your digestive system. Foods naturally with sugar that your body uses comes with a good amount of fiber which allows the sugar to slowly enter the blood stream and allows your body time to absorb and use it. When you eat processed foods, and especially sugary drinks (even sports drinks), your body gets overloaded with sugar and it can cause adverse affects, and start the “Consumption-Hormone Release-Euphoria” cycle.

New Food Label

I will be having a more in-depth post on the new food label soon. I have already seen the new label on some items already, but it will officially be printed on all major manufactured products by 2020, and those who manufacture lesser amounts, by 2021. Here is a picture of the new food label and the differences. One of the major differences is it showing “Added Sugars“.

From FDA Website: https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm

The recommended “Added Sugar” amount is 5% of your total caloric intake. For a 2,000 calorie diet that would be 25 grams for the whole day. The new label will make it easier for us to be more informative about how much added sugar is in the foods we eat.

Are You Defeating Sugar?

My husband went through many of the symptoms mentioned earlier when he decided to cut out added sugar. He would have soda multiple times a day. When he was stressed in particular, he would have a soda and candy for lunch. Then have another soda (or 4) with dinner. His system was constantly dosed in sugar. He had headaches immediately if he missed a meal without added sugar. He had trouble sleeping. Had bouts of depression that worsened with the withdrawal, and cravings were sometimes unbearable, especially when he knew a small amount of sugar would take away his headaches.

What are some things that can help and to consider if you are trying to cut out unnecessary sugar? Think about and plan for these tips before cutting off sugar or changing the amount of sugar you have every day. This will help get you thinking about what’s to come and to be prepared for moments that might happen.

  1. Lapses Happen!
    • If you are trying to change anything in your behavior, food related or not, lapses happen. They are something that we learn from. For instance, there was a time when James had a very stressful day and he reached for the bag of his favorite candy. He then knew and understood that stress affected his cravings, especially emotional stress. If he woke up already feeling low, he already accounted for increased cravings and knew they would be there. Sometimes he would make sure to pack extra fruit like a banana or clementines in his lunch to eat those instead of going down to the vending machine.
    • There are lapses and relapses. Lapses are a one-time, one-day moment, and relapses are when you completely abandon the new behavior and not wanting to go back to changing. Many times when we have a single lapse, we think we’re never going to come back from it, but it’s part of the process. Learn from the lapse, and continue on your healthy change.
  2. Talk To Your Family
    • You need those closest to you, whether at home, at work, etc. to understand the struggle you are going through. It might seem silly that it’s just because of sugar, but if you are truly addicted, support is a big deal. They can prepare for new foods, or not having certain foods when you are around.
    • Talk to them about possible behavior changes. You might be more irritable, be dealing with headaches, muscle pain, etc. The more understanding your support group is, the better they can support you.
  3. Find Alternatives
    • Many people think of turning to sugar alternatives to add to their food or drink, but your body reacts to those very similarly and some can be hazardous to your health. If you are going to find alternatives, make sure they are whole food alternatives. 
    • Keep fresh fruit around. If you are used to having something sweet with every meal, find your favorite fruit (banana, apple, pear, berries, etc.) and have that as part of your breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The more you are away from added sugar, the more you will enjoy fruit and the sweeter it will become.
      • Banana, Peanut Butter Toast for Breakfast
      • Clementines are easy to throw in your lunch bag and carry with you
      • Apple slices, pear slices, etc. are a great snack after dinner if you are craving something sweet.
    • Unsweetened flavored teas. There are many out there, and it is hard to find unsweetened versions already made. If you make tea at home, buy the fruit flavored tea bags like peach, raspberry, orange, etc. You can even have them cooled so that it’s flavored iced tea. They have a slightly sweet taste without sugar.
    • Flavored coffee. If you are a choco-holic, try making chocolate coffee. You can add some cream. You’ll get a rich chocolate flavor, but without the sugar.
Photo by Julia D’Alkmin on Unsplash
Bottom Line

Sugar can be addictive. Acknowledge that what you are going through is not easy and will be a challenge. This is something you can get past, something you can conquer and have control of. Any lifestyle change comes with challenges, but changing an addiction is that much harder. Stay positive, keep your support team close, and if you have a lapse – remember it’s not the end and you have not failed. Continue with your goal of being a healthier you!

How to Keep Your Bloat Down in Colder Months

I don’t know about you, but I love how fall and winter food taste more than what it does to me. The starch and sugary heavy foods takes it’s toll not just outwardly but internally. Not only do I usually gain a little, but my skin gets worse, and my digestion just isn’t the same as it is in the spring and summer. More gas and bloating. I wanted to share with you a few things I like to keep in mind to help with the unwanted bloat and digestive upsets fall and winter can bring on.

Fun fact: Feeling sick to your stomach is also known as being “bilious”. I’ve also heard it in reference to gas whether belching or flatulence. As you can guess the word is related to bile. But the word bilious also means “bad tempered”. So anything that makes you bilious I like to think is causing your digestive system to become “bad tempered” and it’s having a fit. 

I like to refer to fall and winter eating and habits as my “hibernation mode”. You sleep more. The colder weather makes us eat more quantity and more calorie dense foods because your body is working harder and needing to add more “wood to the fire” to keep you warm. Those foods usually tend to be high in bad fat, processed sugar, and a lot of starch which turns into sugar. That combination is bad for your digestive system and your gut when in excess. So how can you keep your gut healthy and happy until spring?

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Start Your Day with Apple Cider Vinegar (with Mother)

I started doing this first thing in the morning when I would have my water when I was getting ready. Add a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar (ACV) with mother, to your glass of water and get going! I started this because my allergies are the worst in the fall and winter. (The benefits of ACV and allergies are found here on an earlier post.) Because of this, I started taking ACV in the morning. It helped with my allergies, but I also noticed it helped with the gas I would get after having a heavy starchy meal the night before. So I kept at it.

ACV helps your digestive system more than just adding some probiotics. It also increases stomach acid which can be decreased with excess starch, sugar, stress, and alcohol. Sounds like fall and winter to me! If you don’t have enough stomach acid the digestive enzyme pepsin is reduced because it can only thrive in an acid environment, then your food (specifically proteins) are incompletely digested from the beginning and the rest of your system can have a hard time breaking it down – which could be the cause of gas and bloating.

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Make Sure To Get Your Probiotics

Whether it’s yogurts, kombucha, or a pill, make sure to keep up with your probiotics. This adds good bacteria that breaks down your food in your small intestine and thus helps the whole process. It helps keep you regular as well as helping you digest things you have trouble digesting. James is lactose intolerant and by eating yogurt in the morning as part of his breakfast he can more easily digest milk.

Probiotics also create enzymes that destroy harmful bacteria increasing your immune system. Something that is definitely needed during the colder months. It’s been said that the majority of our immune defense is in our gut. Make sure to keep your gut healthy and functioning as best as you can!

 

Now onto some tips and tricks I’ve found to be helpful for me.

One of the biggest things I’ve come to realize is that most of my bloat comes from eating my starch/sugar with high amounts of fat. So although I can eat my weight in buttery mashed potatoes, I keep my portions appropriate and make sure it’s on the plate with vegetables, whether a salad or roasted carrots, to help.

  • Processed sugar kills the good bacteria in your gut.
  • Starches can cause gas when being broken down. Starches in excessive quantity, you can well imagine.
  • Fat slows down the digestion process and slows down the functioning of the intestines, and by default slows down any relief.

So if you are eating the trifecta – sugary foods, excessive starch, and it’s high in fat – you can be in for some discomfort and bloat. Keep in mind it is not just with one dish. It’s in combination of what you eat throughout the day.

Here are some ideas to cut down on the regular foods and drinks colder months bring to us.

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Fattening Hot Drinks

Nothing is better than getting something warm to sip on a cold rainy winter day. I love coffee. So warm lattes of all flavors call to me. And then there’s the classic hot cocoa on a below freezing night. Perfect! But like I said before, sugar and cream together can be just the combination to kick start my bloat and gas. Keeping the portions appropriate is also key. Although you CAN drink a 24 ounce pumpkin spice latte it’s better if, on the regular, you didn’t douse your system with fat and sugar in a liquid state. So instead of doing that, try some of these options.

  • Hot Teas
    • Herbal teas are always one of my options when I want something hot to keep me warm and to keep my hydration up. Some are naturally sweet like hibiscus that doesn’t have any sugar.
    • Try your favorite tea with a low-fat milk if you’re craving something creamy
  • Hot Apple Cider
    • Hot apple cider can be good in small portions. However, this can still give your system an overload of sugar so make sure to keep it to an 8 oz. serving. Adding cinnamon can help to keep your blood sugar regulated when you sip on it, and make sure not to drink it after a heavy meal since it is high in sugar.
  • Coffee
    • If you don’t like straight up black coffee, then I suggest having either cream OR a sweetener in it, but not both together
    • Chocolate lover? Try chocolate coffee. Add a scoop of ground cocoa to your coffee when brewing. You’ll have a mocha without the sugar or the added fat. And like with the other suggestion, you can add cream OR a sweetener but not both.
  • Lattes
    • Having a regular cafe’ latte without any added flavors or sugar and using low fat, almond, or soy milk is a better option
    • Chai tea lattes can be made at home with a low fat milk and using a small amount of honey or agave to add just enough sweet to compliment the spice.
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Trim Down Your Sides

Cold months usually come with some delicious side dishes, but most have a lot of butter and a lot of starch or sugar added to it. Here are some suggestions on what we make to lessen the blow to your gut. Most are roasted veggies. They are my favorite way to cook vegetables! I’m sure at some point I’ll be sharing my version of these recipes with you. *Bread stuffing I haven’t figured out yet… you’re on your own with that one for right now.

  • Green Bean Casserole made with Cream and Fried Onions
    • Roasted Green Beans with Sliced Almonds, Sprinkled with Parmesan
  • Sweet Potato Casserole with Brown Sugar, Marshmallows, & Butter
    • Roasted Chopped Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and a Drizzle of Honey & Cinnamon
  • Mashed Potatoes made with Cream and Butter (oh man…)
    • 1/2 it with Mashed Cauliflower and use a Low-Fat Creamer
    • Roasted Rosemary Potatoes with a small amount of Olive Oil
  • Yeast Rolls
    • Whole Wheat Yeast Rolls without Excessive Butter or Olive Oil (One of the best moments of my life is when I saw these in the frozen department… whole wheat and I don’t have to make them!)
Some other healthy side ideas to keep in mind:
  • Roasted Carrots with Dill and Paprika
  • Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Grapes
  • Apple & Fennel Salad
  • Roasted Beets
  • Sauteed Kale with Lemon Juice and Garlic
In Conclusion
  1. There is a time for everything including your starchy fattening dishes. Just not with every meal or every week.
  2. Balance is needed, so choose your starchy, sugary, fattening meals sparingly.
  3. Increase your stomach acid to help break down your food better with apple cider vinegar with mother.
  4. Increase your probiotics and keep a good routine of having them in your diet.
  5. Reduce the amount of fat and sugar eaten during the fall and winter, and try not to have them together.
  6. Turn your “bad tempered” gut into a happy gut!