01.06.2011

Beating Sugar Addiction

Fresh food and regular grazing can kick the sugar cravings
That afternoon craving for something sweet, preferably chocolate, is all too familiar. But as naturopath Lyn Craven suggests kicking the sugar habit is essential - and possible with a healthy fresh food diet.People who crave sugar and consume daily quantities of sugar or sugar-laden confectionary of any type will eventually create for themselves a number of health disorders. Aside from obesity, sugar can trigger headaches/migraines, acne, bowel problems and candida/thrush overgrowth. In addition, hypoglycemia can often result, which, if allowed to continue without treatment or change of diet, can manifest as late onset diabetes.

Here are some symptoms of reactive hypoglycemia known as low blood sugar:

* hunger
* shakiness
* nervousness
* sweating
* dizziness or light-headedness
* sleepiness
* confusion
* difficulty speaking
* anxiety
* weakness

What is reactive hypoglycaemia?

Reactive hypoglycaemia (RH) occurs when blood glucose drops below normal levels. Glucose is an important source of energy for the body, which we obtain from food. Carbohydrates are the main dietary source of glucose and they include rice, potatoes, bread, tortillas, cereal, milk, fruit, and sweets, all carbohydrate-rich foods. However, it is important to select high complex carbohydrates and avoid all refined processed foods, which contain chemicals, as these will trigger another attack.

After a meal, glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream and carried to the body's cells. The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, which helps the cells use glucose for energy. When you take in more glucose than your body needs, it stores the extra glucose in the liver and muscles in a form called glycogen. The glycogen is used for energy between meals and extra glucose can also be changed to fat and stored in fat cells. Fat can also be used for energy.

When blood glucose begins to fall, glucagon - another hormone made by the pancreas - signals the liver to break down glycogen and release glucose into the bloodstream. Blood glucose will then rise toward a normal level.In some people with diabetes, this glucagon response to hypoglycaemia is impaired and other hormones such as epinephrine, also called adrenaline, may raise the blood glucose level. However, when diabetes (hyperglycemia - high blood sugar), is treated with insulin or medication that increases insulin production, glucose levels can easily return to the normal range.

Some people have deficiencies in certain digestive enzymes and hormones, in particular, those associated with the pancreas, stomach, liver and duodenum.I have observed with some cases that the craving and hunger often appears worse from noon to approximately 3.30pm. Interestingly, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine the small intestine is most active and stimulated energetically and physically between 1pm and 3pm. In situations like this it could be an underlying genetic weakness or inadequacy whereby the person may not assimilate nutrients efficiently and can present with symptoms of RH.

How to manage reactive hypoglycaemia:

RH can happen suddenly with many people and the healthy way to manage it would be to consume some of the following:

* Protein such as fish, eggs, poultry, legumes, tofu
* Brown rice
* Yogurt - plain with no sugar or fruit added
* Avocados
* Generous helpings of steamed or stir fried vegetables - at least 5-6 per meal
* Plenty of raw salad which stimulates digestive enzymes
* Use olive oil with salads and vegetables

Eating up to six times a day, grazing over two to three hour intervals is ideal for stabilising low blood sugar. When you go too long without eating you will experience a plummet in blood sugar levels instigating sweet cravings and hunger, along with some of the symptoms quoted.

Often people think the term "low blood sugar" requires someone to ingest sugar - this is wrong.
Doing this will increase your blood sugar level quickly, but you'll feel a rapid plummet within the hour together with a feeling of brain fatigue and - of course, more sweet cravings! And so the cycle goes on and on leading to that all too familiar pattern of one chocolate biscuit after another.

If left untreated, RH can get worse and cause confusion, clumsiness, or fainting. Severe hypoglycaemia can lead to seizures, coma, and even death. Managing RH with diet and regular exercise can prevent someone contracting late onset diabetes.

Some people may not have the sweet craving yet still present with all the other symptoms. They may have curbed the need for sweet confectionery and chocolates, for instance, but the metabolism is still failing. Insulin resistance (now known as metabolic syndrome or syndrome X) can still be present so that the body can't use insulin effectively. Insulin is needed to help control the amount of sugar (glucose) in the body. If you have insulin resistance, your body doesn't respond to insulin, and blood sugar cannot get into cells. As a result, your body produces more and more insulin. Insulin and blood sugar levels rise, affecting kidney function and raising the level of blood fats, such as triglycerides.

Sweet Craving (RH) Treatment

Herbal remedies and homeopathics are used successfully in balancing blood sugar levels and diminishing the craving for something sweet. Often there is a lack of chromium and possibly other mineral deficiencies. B Complex is an essential nutrient to bring on board while all foods containing cane sugar and glucose should be eliminated - and that includes drinks.

A woman will often experience a sweet craving during her menstrual cycle, since the hormonal fluctuations will affect the pancreatic hormones. If she is low in vital nutrients the craving becomes quite intense, often normalising once the period commences or after bleeding stops.

It is easy to manage RH if you are dedicated to a healthy fresh food diet and take appropriate natural remedies to counterbalance any underlying imbalances in your metabolism.

Alcohol is the quickest way to get sugar to the brain as it crosses the blood brain barrier - we often see alcoholics experiencing sugar craving. The amino acid glutamine is helpful here, but in all cases, the underlying reason for craving confectionary and sugar must be addressed along with the alcoholic addiction.

Chocolate is a favourite source for a sweet "kick" but you need to be very careful which sort of chocolate you choose. Organic cocoa is rich in minerals including chromium, but non organic cocoa crops that are sprayed with pesticide are bitter in taste and often packaged with cane sugar to sweeten them - this then affects mineral content. So look out for unsweetened dark bitter chocolate with no preservatives or artificial sweeteners.

Or if you must have something sweeter, choose chocolate that contains fructose (from fruit), as this is a healthier alternative. However, I stress to limit chocolate if you suffer from RH since the smallest piece could trigger an attack again.

We can obtain sufficient sugars in fruits and some vegetables - we don't need to at cane sugar. Many packaged foods being sold in the supermarket contain sugar when there is no need to, including such staples as soups, baked beans and white bread.

To continually "feed" your taste buds with sugar is not only creating an addiction but also adulterating the true taste of the food you are eating. Once you become acquainted with the natural taste of the food you eat without added cane sugar your taste buds will normalise and you will no longer crave the processed cane sugars. Honey can be used in place of sugar, but you don't need too much of that either.

Since the liver is responsible for metabolising everything we eat is it any wonder that it becomes tired and inefficient when we consume chemicalised sugar in our food?

People with IBS will experience looser bowel action when they consume cane sugar, so they need to eliminate it completely. Similarly, anyone suffering thrush, candida, or fungal infections as these all thrive on sugar.

The sugarcane straight from the field is perfect to chew on and suck out the juice. The natives in Central America used to do this and clean their teeth with the sugarcane. They had strong healthy white teeth.Explorers from the West encountered this sweet sugarcane and took it back to their homelands. Over time, Europeans experimented with the sugar and it has since been refined many times, so that it now contains chemicals to make it white.

The molasses that comes from the sugar initially is probably the only thing I would recommend. It is rich in minerals and vitamin B, but once the processing and refining takes place and you gravitate from dark brown sugar, to brown sugar, to "raw" sugar, to white sugar, you have lost more and more nutritional value. In fact, sugar will leach Vitamin B and minerals, especially zinc, from your body. So why include it in your daily diet? You don't need it!

When sugar is metabolised, it bypasses many parts of the digestive process, and is absorbed directly into the bloodstream, raising the blood sugar level. It also produces a sharp rise in insulin, which is used by cells to absorb the sugar. Not only this, but sugar also causes the brain to release the chemical serotonin, boosting a person's mood, and causing a mild feeling of happiness. Any wonder that people feel happy and comforted when they eat chocolate! As humans, we have been seduced by sugar; initially by behaviour - receiving it as a reward - and secondly, that it actually produces some physical feelings of euphoria. Our bodies know that when we taste the sugar, that feeling of contentment and rush of energy is about to happen.

If mood swings and depression affect you, then these issues need to be addressed and treated since sugar will make you worse after your quick "lift". Herbal and homeopathic remedies can stabilise mood swings by resolving the underlying cause. If serotonin levels are low then amino acids or SAD powder supplements that contain L-tryptophan are administered.

But I must advise you to consult a professional naturopath/therapist otherwise you could make matters worse.

Recommended reading: Sugar Blues by William Dufty.

Sydney-based Lyn Craven is a practitioner of naturopathy, nutrition, medical herbalism, Bowen therapy, Reiki energy healing, meditation, and is a corporate health presenter/consultant with 16 years experience in natural therapies

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