Sweet Poison: Breaking the Sugar Addiction
Sweet tastes are one of life’s little pleasures. Our desire for sweetness has gone from vine ripened fruits at harvest time to grocery stores, mini marts, and vending machines ready to feed our sugar cravings 24 hours a day.
Not only do we eat way too much sugar, we drink way too much sugar. Diet and regular sodas, sports drinks, commercially flavored waters, fruit juices, ice teas, energy drinks, and vitamin waters are loaded with sugars that contribute to blood sugar spikes. Drinking a sugary beverage causes glucose to get absobed much more rapidly by the body, thus calling in insulin, the hormone responsible for fat storage that increases belly fat.
We have not evolved to consume the massive amounts of sugar that are readily available to us and hidden in our foods by manufacturers and restaurants. Over the past 150 years the average American has gone from consuming 1-2 lbs. of sugar per year to eating over 100lbs. of sugar and 40lbs. of fake sugar (Splenda, Equal, Aspertame, NutraSweet, Saccharin, etc.) per year. Is it any wonder that we, as a nation, keep getting fatter and sicker? Seventy percent of Americans are over-weight and 35 percent are classified as obese.
Regular sugar consumption can cause a host of physical maladies such as pain, inflammation, bone loss, increased carbohydrate and alcohol addiction, blood sugar imbalances, adrenal fatigue, diabetes and tooth decay. It causes premature aging by interrupting collagen production and it feeds cancer cells. Emotionally, it contributes to depression, learning disabilities and mood disorders.
Just one teaspoon of sugar can depress the immune system for approximately five hours. Considering that there are 12 teaspoons of sugar in one can of soda, consuming one soda equals 60 hours of immune depression. If you have a daily sugar fix, your immune system never gets a chance to protect you at its full capacity, creating a perfect foundation for chronic lifestyle diseases.
Sugar is also highly addictive. Functional medicine pioneer Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution, believes the FDA should regulate sugar as a drug because it can be as addictive as heroin, cocaine, and nicotine addictions. Some experts believe sugar is nine times as addictive as heroin.
In addition to sugar being highly addictive, it has no nutritional value. In fact, it is depleting, robbing the body of precious nutrients. Detoxification organs such as the kidney, liver, and bowels need to work overtime to counteract the damaging effects of this toxin.
All sugars - real, fake, or natural, such as honey or molasses - can be problematic. Whatever the sweet drug of choice may be, eaten on a regular basis it fuels addiction, expands waistlines and deteriorates health. Per FDA labeling laws, only table sugar (sucrose) has to be calculated and recorded in sugar grams. All other sugars won’t show up in grams, so read labels, especially looking for words ending in “ose” and “ol” (sugar alcohols). Some common terms to look for: sucrose, fructose, maltose, pure cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, lactose, xylitol, manitol, corn syrup, honey, barley malt, maple sugar, succanat, malt syrup, corn starch, disaccharides, turbinado, molasses, Florida Crystals, rapadura, artificial sweeteners, Truvia, Splenda, NutraSweet and Stevia in the refined form.
Ayurveda, the science of self-healing, reminds us that the use of natural sweetness is an essential taste and an important element for certain mind/body types, or doshas. So to naturally satiate your sweet tooth cook and bake with local raw honey, maple syrup, molasses, or dates and consume whole foods such as fruit, dairy, root vegetables and some grains.
To break sugar’s addictive grip, go cold turkey for 28 days. Help the dopamine regulators in the brain to reset: get plenty of sleep, eat a nutrient-rich, clean, whole food diet and include 30% in good fats, consume complete proteins, let the sunshine hit the skin, manage stress, and determine any underlying food intolerance or sensitivities.
Some people experience withdrawal symptoms like headaches, cravings, mood swings, body aches, stiffness, etc. for a few days, but once on the other side of it, sugar won’t have the stronghold that it once did. Eating meals with protein and fiber help to regulate blood sugar, therefore making sweet treats less tempting. Staying hydrated also helps to resist poor choices.
Once in charge of a sugar addiction, one will be able to regulate and enjoy natural sweeteners and the occasional celebratory confection. Michael Pollen, author of Food Rules and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, suggests eating sugar only four times a year, holidays, birthdays and special occasions.
Sugar is meant to be a treat, not an everyday staple, and life can be so much sweeter without it.
Tracey Whitstone Fox, NC is a nutrition consultant with Integra Rehab Physicians and Neurology Wellness in Charlotte, NC. She is also part of the content development team at BlueOceanBrain.com and co-founder of the popular five-week Holistic Reboot series. Her recipes and tips can be found on GreatHolisticHealth.com.