Need a Sugar Fix? Thoughts on Overcoming a Sugar Addiction
Think sugar isn’t addictive? Think again. A study conducted at Princeton University found that rats could indeed become addicted to sugar, and would display symptoms of withdrawal after a period of time without their “sugar fix”. And more concerning is that the researchers found that sugar acted as a gateway drug for the rats.
What does this mean for our kids, who have more sugar in their diet than any other generation?
Sugar stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain, just like other well known addictive substances such as cocaine and heroine. It really IS an addiction for some people.
But, isn’t sugar naturally found in foods? How can it be so bad for us?
Fruit contains naturally occurring fructose, which is very different than sucrose (table sugar) or even fructose added to foods during manufacturing. And, fructose from fruit (sometimes called levulose) is balanced out by the vitamins, minerals, fiber and enzymes naturally present in the fruit. When sucrose or fructose is added to foods, it’s often paired with refined white flours, colourings and flavourings. Not such a great combo. So, the two can’t really be compared.
If sugar is so bad, can I use sugar substitutes?
Artificial sweeteners are definitely out, as they still raise the threshold for sweetness which can trigger sugar cravings. And, they’re chemicals. Natural sweeteners like honey, coconut sugar and maple syrup are better, but still contain sugar. And agave nectar, which many people believe to be healthier, isn’t – it’s actually high in fructose and is heavily processed. So, while natural sweeteners are better than white table sugar, they still have the potential to cause harm. In other words, moderation is key.
Ok, I’m an addict – what do I do?
- Start the day with a low-glycemic, protein rich breakfast. Resist the urge to have toast in the morning as high carbohydrate meals can trigger mid-morning slumps in blood sugar, resulting in the need for a “quick fix”
- Avoid anything “white” – no white bread, rice, potatoes or crackers.
- Protein at every meal. Protein, along with fat and fiber help to reduce the glycemic load of a meal, resulting in a more stable rise and fall of blood sugar levels.
While the above measures can help some people stave off their sugar cravings (or at least help get them under control), many others need to go cold turkey. In that case, a visit to an ND can help you formulate a plan. There are also a few key nutrients involved in blood sugar metabolism that can help. And, since dopamine receptors are involved in sugar addiction, some people need a lot of support, which an ND can provide.
Dr. Jennifer Salib-Huber, ND practices in Dartmouth NS. For more information on Jennifer check her website www.pillarsofhealth.ca