It is not just the sugar in your drinks but that in chocolate, biscuits, sweets and on cereal. Often, if you are eating excess sugar you will also suffer from hyperactivity, impulsive behaviour and poor concentration. Too much sugar leads to blood sugar peaks and troughs. The troughs make you tired, so if you have a sugar habit you will probably also go for caffeinated drinks and other stimulants to counter the sugar blues. Sugar, just like cocaine and heroin, stimulates dopamine and endorphins, leading to reward deficiency.
Dr Candace Pert, Research Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington DC, says: ‘I consider sugar to be a drug, a highly purified plant product that can become addictive. Relying on an artificial form of glucose – sugar – to give us a quick pick-me-up is analogous to, if not as dangerous as, shooting heroin.
What is more, whether you have a serious sugar problem or mild one, just substituting foods or dinks with artificial sweeteners doesn’t reset your sweet tooth. As with any addiction it takes time and good nutrition to get your brain’s chemistry back into balance.
What sugar does
Of course, with too much sugar comes other problems such as weight gain, depression, craving for alcohol and drugs, diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems or just because you recognize that you have become addicted. If you just quit all sugar and sweet foods completely, with none of the nutritional support we recommend, you will simply crave it. You may feel more tired and low, lacking in motivation. It takes about a week for these symptoms to recede to an extent. It takes about a week for your blood sugar levels to adjust to the lack of a constant, daily fix.
How supplements will help
On the other hand, if you also take supplements that we recommend, the results are very different. This is because a lot of people crave sugar due to an underlying serotonin deficiency. By supplementing the right amino acids to correct this (mainly tryptophan and/or 5-HTP) sugar cravings often reduce substantially and, with that, excessive weight gain. This also applies to progesterone as this helps both elevate mood and reduce weight as it acts as a diuretic.
Richard Wurtman, a professor of brain and cognitive science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, believes that some people will crave carbohydrates not because they lack willpower but because of an imbalance in serotonin levels than do lean people or people who prefer protein-rich snacks. Their extra-low serotonin levels leave them feeling anxious, irritable and craving a serotonin ‘fix’. The reason why sugar works is that sugar causes a release of insulin, and insulin carries tryptophan in the blood into the brain, where it can be converted into serotonin. This is probably why you crave sugar when you’re feeling low, and feel better for it, and why we give upset children something sweet and they perk up.
Chromium, which helps insulin to work, also substantially reduces craving, as well as improving mood. It halves cravings in eight weeks and improves mood in people prone to depression in two out of three who supplement 600mcg a day.
Do you need to quit completely?
Sugar itself is not bad – it just becomes so when you have too much. It is refined and thus devoid of the nutrients, especially B vitamins, vitamin C and chromium, need to turn it into energy. Having said that, to break the habit, it is best to set yourself a clear line: nothing with added sugar. There are many names for sugar, including:
* Glucose (syrup) * Dextrose * Malt * Honey * Sucrose *Fructose
These are best avoided, although fructose has half the effect on your blood sugar as sucrose, which has almost half of the effect of glucose. So fructose is the lesser of the evils.
This also means avoiding chocolate, which is high in sugar. However, the occasional bit of dark chocolate (with 70 per cent cocoa solids and low in sugar) is no big deal – as long as you don’t eat a bar a day.
Instead eat whole fruits, which provide fructose and nutrients. The best fruits are apples, pears, berries, cherries, plums and peaches. Oranges aren’t bad, but what out for guzzling loads of juice. As a rule of thumb, don’t have more than the juice of one orange per day or an equivalent amount of apple juice. Dilute this with one-third water. Then, after the first week, start diluting half and half with water. Have a maximum of two such juices a day.
One of the best natural sugars is xylose, also called xylitol. About two-thirds of the natural sugar in berries, cherries and plums is xylose, which tastes sweet but doesn’t raise your blood sugar level. Nine teaspoons of xylitol has the same effect on your blood sugar level as one teaspoon of sugar or honey. Nowadays, you can buy it easily in supermarkets, health-food shops and by mail order. It tastes like sugar and the only thing it won’t do is caramelize so you won’t be able to make crème brulee with it.
Extracted from How To Quit Without Feeling Sh**t by Patrick Holford a fast highly effective way to end addiction to caffeine, sugar and cigarettes.
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