Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sugar Addiction

I began researching sugar addiction about a year ago.  My son, who is 13, is a bright, loving, outgoing child.  I noticed when he turned 11 his behavior began to change.  He would have a hard time focusing, sleeping and his behavior was becoming more and more aggressive.  Everyone said it was just his hormones.  That did not sit right with me.  Of course the next thing was that he had ADD/ADHD.  That did not make sense either because this behavior came on all of a sudden.

At the time I was attending school for holistic nutrition and we began looking at sugar and the effects it has on your body.  So I did some further research on my own and discovered that sugar addiction is a real problem.  I then began to look at my son’s eating habits.  As I traced back his eating habits I realized that the problem started when I lost control of his breakfast, lunch and snacking.  In the sixth grade he began eating school lunch and breakfast which consisted of sugary cereals, refined carbohydrates and processed foods.  After school he would hit the store for candy, soda and juices.  So the only balanced meal he would get would be dinner.

All of the sugar in his diet was causing a lack of focus, making him hyper and causing very bad, sometimes violent, mood swings.  I sat him down and explained what I believed what was going on with him.  I honestly told him that he was addicted to sugar just has a drug addicts were addicted to their drug of choice.  He did not like that and jumped on board with the new program.  I took him completely off of sugar.  I made sure he had whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and got plenty of protein.  He replaced soda with flavored seltzer, and I must say he stuck with it.  Within two weeks time he was a completely different child.

After a few months I allowed him minimal products with sugar substitutes, but his main diet remained the same.  Now almost a year later I allow him some sugar products, as close to whole foods as possible.  I still keep him very limited on highly refined sugary products.  He is still maintaining to this day.

Sugar addiction is not a joke or a fad.   Most people chalk sugar addiction up to lack of willpower or discipline. Sugar addiction is actually about biochemistry, you were born with a body that is sugar-sensitive.  If you are sugar-sensitive your body responds to sugar, alcohol and refined carbohydrates differently than other people. When you are sugar sensitive, sugar acts like a drug in your body. In fact, it affects the very same brain chemicals that morphine, heroin and amphetamines do.  When you have a sugar-sensitive body, you are prone to be addicted to sugar. You can’t not eat it.  Because you are sugar sensitive, the “high” you get from eating sugar is actually heightened.   Life circumstances can also make you reach for sugar to make you feel better.  Depression and high level of stress will make you reach for that feel good “fix”.

Being sugar sensitive means you have unstable blood sugar, low serotonin and low endorphin levels, all three are out of balance.  If you are sugar sensitive, what and when you eat has a huge impact on how you feel. Eating a diet high in sugar, refined flour, alcohol and junk foods affects your moods giving you a “high” and then an extreme low until your next “fix”.

Some people develop candida, which is an overgrowth of yeast in their gut, because of the sugar in their diet.  Candida revs up the body's craving for more sugar.  This condition again is treated with cutting out the sugar in your diet and strong probiotics.

Because your sugar sensitivity is part of your biochemistry I do not believe there is an actual cure.  However, there are ways to control your addiction.  The best way to control this addiction is to control your blood sugar levels.

Eating regularly plays a huge part in blood sugar levels.  Eat three meals and two snacks or five small meals a day. Also, include protein and healthy fats at every meal.  This will keep you satiated and keep your blood levels from dropping.  When you don’t eat regularly, your blood sugar levels drop, you feel hungry and are more likely to crave sweet sugary snacks.
Whole foods are key.  Choosing foods closer to its original form means it contains less processed sugar. Whole natural foods: fruits, vegetables, some whole grains and meat from animals that are fed grass (not grains and antibiotics).   Include lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Begin to include a good quality multivitamin/mineral supplement and omega 3 fatty acids. Nutrient deficiencies can make cravings worse.  Vitamin B3 and magnesium seem to improve blood sugar control.  Replace sodas with club soda, seltzer and sparkling water or try tea.
Very important begin to read your labels looking for hidden and added sugar content.  Below is a list of types of “sugar” used in a variety of products.  Try to avoid products with any of the sugars listed below especially if that sugar shows up within the first five ingredients.  Remember that most of the “complex” carbohydrates we consume like bread, bagels and pasta are highly refined and have the same affect as sugar in the body and should be avoided. 
Agave nectar
Agave syrup
Barley malt
Beet sugar
Brown rice syrup
Brown sugar
Buttered syrup
Cane sugar
Cane juice
Cane juice crystals
Carob syrup
Confectioner’s sugar
Corn syrup
High fructose corn syrup
Corn sugar
Corn sweetener
Corn syrup solids
Crystalized fructose
Date sugar
Diastatic malt
Evaporated cane juice
Fruit juice
Fruit juice concentrate
Glucose solids
Golden sugar
Golden syrup
Grape sugar
Grape juice concentrate
Invert sugar
Maple syrup
Raw sugar
Refiner's syrup
Sorghum syrup
Turbinado sugar
Yellow sugar

Clean out your kitchen throw out all of the products that contain hidden or added sugars, including any juice, soda, candy, sweets and seemingly healthy snacks like granola bars, fruit and grain bars, instant oatmeal and sports drinks.

I know that trying to avoid sugar can be a daunting task.  It is very important remove all sugar in the beginning so that your blood sugar levels can be controlled.  You will notice that after a few weeks your taste for sugary treats will diminish drastically.  Once you believe you are ready, you can begin to use “sugar substitutes” to replace regular sugar.  I don’t recommend the chemical sugar substitutes, but you can use sweeteners with a low glycemic index, my favorite is agave nectar.  A lot of people love stevia, which is an all-natural sweetener, but I find it very bitter.

Begin to look at what effect sugar is having in your body.  If you believe that you are a sugar sensitive individual start taking some of the sugar out of your diet.  Remember as you are taking out the sugar replace it with whole natural foods.

Let me know what you learn from your body.

Healthy eating…


1 comment:

  1. That cupcake looks good, I guess that's why it's on the sugar list! LOL!