Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Sugar Addiction And How To Break It

Sugar Addiction And How To Break It by Dominique Allmon©2017

Sugar consumption is on the rise all over the world. This fact has horrendous implications since the metabolic syndrome, obesity, Type 2 diabetes in adults, and alarmingly early onset of Type 2 diabetes in children, are only few consequences of sugar consumption.

Scientists have demonstrated that refined sugar is a highly addictive substance. One study found that the extremely sweet taste can surpass the cocaine reward even in people who are addicted to heavy drugs. In another study scientists demonstrated that quitting sugar can be as difficult for some people as quitting nicotine or alcohol.

Are you addicted to sugar?

Addicts seldom admit that they have a problem and often find justification for their behavior.
  • Do you always eat dessert? 
  • Do you always have to have something sweet in your house?
  • Do you make excuses to take just one more piece of that delicious cake?
  • Do you struggle to say no when you are offered something sweet? 
  • Do you have sugar "attacks" where you feel you must have something sweet or you will not make it? 

If you eat sweets on regular basis try to give them up for a day or two and see what happens. If you develop headaches and mood swings the chances are that you are addicted.

A few years ago one of my favorite nutritionists, Patrick Holford, devised clever nutritional strategies for people who wished to quit their addictions. 

Quitting any kind of addiction is not an easy process. The withdrawal symptoms are often unbearable and can make it difficult for anyone to give up the stuff he or she is addicted to - be it nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, heavy drugs or even sugar. While drugs or alcohol are considered harmful to our health, sugar addiction is often trivialized, neglected or not even recognized as such. Worse, many people do not even know that sugar is harmful to health. Many do not know that they are addicted.

What is sugar?

Sugar is the generalized term used for sweet, short-chain, soluble carbohydrates, many of which are used in food to sweeten and improve the taste. They are composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Together with starches and fiber, sugars belong to the class of carbohydrates that are necessary to provide energy and regulate protein and fat metabolism, among others.

All sugars are either monosaccharides (simple sugars) or disaccharides. Simple sugars are easily and quickly digested and utilized by the human body, but there is a difference in the way liver processes glucose and fructose. (This is a vast subject that requires another article.) Disaccharides such as sucrose or the common white table sugar, on the other hand, require enzymes in order to be converted into simple sugars that are then utilized by the body.

Sucrose, which is composed of the monosaccharides fructose and glucose, is found in sugar beets, sugar cane, sorghum, maple syrup, molasses, and pineapple. It is composed of one molecule of fructose and one molecule of glucose and can be metabolized in a healthy body.

Sucrose is used extensively to sweeten food and beverages, but even people who do not add sugar to their diet may be consuming large amounts of so called "hidden" sugar that is added by the food industry into ever growing amount of foods. Salad dressings, mayonnaise, ketchup, peanut butter, baby formula, bread, sausage, luncheon meat, etc. all have sugar added to them.

Addiction to sugar begins very early in life and is constantly reinforced by millions of dollars spent on advertising all over the world by the food industry. Average person living in America consumes more than one hundred fifty pound of sugar per year! It is estimated that only thirty pounds come from sugar that people are consciously adding to their food. The remaining amount comes from industrially produced foods and drinks.

Why should you quit sugar:
  • Sugar can make you fat! Sweets and foods with added sugar deliver incredible amount of empty calories and no fiber or nutrients to keep you nourished and satiated. As soon as you had your sweet fix you normally crave for more. You not only eat more calories than you can burn, but sugar promotes belly fat that once there is probably the most difficult to lose.
  • Excess sugar consumption has the same toxic effect on liver as does alcohol. In fact, increased sugar consumption had the same detrimental effect on health as the consumption of alcohol and could be responsible for hypertension, myocardial infarction, insulin resistance, obesity, malnutrition, liver disease, and pancreatitis.
  • Sugar suppresses the release of  the human growth hormone or HGH. Consumption of sugar, especially within two hours after workout, causes hypothalamus to release the inhibitory hormone somatostatin. Somatostatin from the hypothalamus inhibits the pituitary gland’s secretion of the HGH and the thyroid stimulating hormone. 
  • Sugar disrupts the immune system. In the 1970s the Noble Prize winner Dr. Linus Pauling discovered that the vitamin C increases the body's ability to fight infections. He also found that sugar inhibits this ability. In order to be able to fight bacteria and viruses, our white blood cells must accumulate vitamin C at the 50-fold concentration all the time. Vitamin C is constantly being moved through the cell membranes into the white blood cells all over your body. Dr. Pauling discovered that glucose, which has similar chemical structure as the vitamin C, can replace vitamin C concentration in the white cells. In fact, when blood sugar rises to 120 after a consumption of cakes, candies or sodas, the ability of white cells to fight infections decreases by about 75%! Moreover, it can take up to six hours to restore optimal levels of vitamin C in the white blood after consumption of sugar. 
  • Sugar depletes vital nutrients or interferes with their absorption. Levels of vitamin D, calcium, chromium, and magnesium in the body are affected the the high intake of sugar.
  • Sugar can increase risk of cancer. Researchers have found that sugar in the intestine triggers the formation of a hormone called GIP. GIP is controlled by a protein called β-catenin that depends entirely on sugar levels in the body. This in turn, increases insulin released by the pancreas. Researchers found that there is a strong correlation between β-catenin and the cell's susceptibility to cancer formation. Moreover, research also shows that high sugar consumption lowers the survival chance of breast cancer and colon cancer patients.
  • Sugar can damage your heart and shorten your life. In 2013 the Journal of American Heart Association has published a study confirming that sugar affects pumping mechanism of the heart and can potentially increase the risk of heart failure. Researchers found that a glucose metabolite called glucose 6-phosphate (G6P) that is derived from sugar and from starch was responsible for the changes in the muscle protein of the heart. These changes could eventually lead to heart failure. 
  • Sugar contributes to premature aging. When sugar enters your system it has the tendency to bind to fats and protein molecules in your body. This process is know as glycation. It results in the production of advanced glycation end products known as AGEs. These molecules cause damage to connective tissues and are responsible for chronic inflammation. But AGEs are not only responsible for processes that are "hidden" deep inside our bodies. They also are the cause or visible aging. Collagen and elastin are the proteins in skin that are responsible for the health and youthful appearance. These proteins are also most susceptible to the glycation process. 

It is probably much easier to enumerate reasons for quitting sugar than to quit this sweet addiction. Like many people I have a very sweet tooth and cannot imagine a festive dinner menu without dessert, but I also know too well that sugar is not good for me. It is enough for me to look into a mirror the next day after I satisfied my sugar cravings the night before. The skin looks inflamed and the joints feel stiff. I know that if I continued eating sweets for another day or two things would get even worse. So I quit for a week or two only to get tempted again.

Young people can recover from the sugar binge much faster and may not even gain weight, but with age the damage done by sugar becomes more obvious and almost irreversible. So, how do we quit sugar cravings?

Sugar craving exist on two levels:
  • physiological, where it manifests itself as an addiction to sugar, the chemical substance that affect entire body chemistry
  • emotional, where it manifests itself either as craving for comfort and happiness, or as a reward for a particular type of behavior.

To successfully quit sugar we must understand and address both, the physiological and the emotional  dependence on sugar.

If you are addicted to sugar you must understand that there is no one-fits-all solution to addiction. Every human being is unique and will power and self-motivation are not always enough. However, everyone can implement a few simple steps that would gradually re-set the addicted brain and re-program body chemistry.

The Break-Sugar-Addiction Program

The plan involves two aspects of our physiology: brain chemistry and blood sugar balance. Deficiency in certain neurotransmitters, especially serotonin, often leads to sugar craving. Fluctuation in blood sugar leads to cravings and energy crashes.

  • The very first step to recovery from sugar addiction is a gradual change of diet. Begin your personal program by conscious reduction of sweets and desserts you consume. Sweets and desserts are the obvious, identifiable sugar sources. This would mean that you have to remove sugar and sweet foods from your pantry and change your shopping habits. Stay clear of cookies, candy, cakes and ice cream, and less sugar to your coffee and tea. Going a cold turkey does not work for everybody so you may need to replace your desserts with sweet fruit that at least has vitamins and minerals, and has a form of sugar that can be digested by the body. Try to replace fast food with high quality protein and add fresh vegetable to your menu. At the same time you should supplement your diet with high quality multivitamin and mineral formula. Vitamins and minerals will help you nourish your body and may help reduce  cravings. In addition you should take a high quality Omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics to restore flora in the intestines.
  • Removal of sugar from the diet may cause mood swings, low energy, or headaches. To balance the brain chemistry supplement with L-tryptophan and 5-HTP. These two supplements will help the brain to produce the mood enhancing serotonin. To support blood sugar balance take a chromium supplement. Also, add sugar-balancing cinnamon to your diet.
  • To control sugar cravings supplement with saffron extracts and amino acid L-glutamine. The suggested dose of L-glutamine supplement is 500mg, 3-4 times a day, best taken on empty stomach about 30 minutes before a meal, or when you feel your blood sugar is very low and you feel like having something sweet. The sugar craving may vanish within minutes and you will not even feel jittery or stressed. 50-100 mg standardized saffron extract will help boost dopamine levels in your brain and decrease carbohydrate cravings.

Many nutritionist suggest that we should consume foods that have low glycemic load, or the GL. The GL tells us how a particular food will affect the blood sugar balance. Foods with high GL will cause sugar spikes and cravings. Foods with low GL convert slowly into glucose and encourage body to burn fat. A low glycemic diet will keep you nourished and satiated and will not only help you break your sugar addiction, but also lose weight.

Depending on your current situation you may need to consult a certified health practitioner who will help you break the sugar addiction. A certified nutritionist will help you create a healthy nutrition plan. He or she will also help you clear candida that may also be the cause of your sugar cravings.

If your craving for sugar is mostly emotional you will need to address the underlying emotional issues. Yoga, relaxation and meditation in combination with supplemental magnesium, L-tryptophan and 5-HTP may help a lot, but you may have to see a therapist to understand why your emotional problems are causing addiction. And if you reward yourself with a large piece of cake, you should probably change your strategy. Try a large bowl of fresh strawberries the next time you feel that you need a reward.

By Dominique Allmon

Dominique Allmon©2017

P.S. Many people who wish to break the sugar addiction resort to artificial sweeteners to satisfy their love and craving for the sweet taste. The only artificial sweetener that I would take is stevia. Stevia is made from the leaves of South American plant Stevia rebaudiana. Studies demonstrated that stevia may actually lower blood sugar levels and improve the function of insulin.  

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