Most of us know that sugar is not really good for us….so why can’t we resist it? IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT!
Sugar is highly addictive…even more so than opioids such as Heroin! Common sugars have opiate-like properties, and can elicit addictive behaviors through modulating opioid pathways in the brain. We are not talking just pure sugar, we are talking carbohydrates overall. Worst of all is gluten, which is higher on the glycemic index than white sugar and also contains opioid peptides, called gluten exorphins.
Guess what? Your brain talks to your gut and vice versa…so no wonder why it gets so hard! It keeps the monkey mind or that gremlin telling you that you not only want, but need to keep eating those sugar-laden foods you love.
So why say Peace Out to sugar?
#1 Too much sugar is inflammatory and increases your risk of disease. People with higher levels of blood sugar are at risk for diseases of inflammation, as higher blood sugar correlates with higher levels of inflammation. This is because it supports release of chemical mediators of inflammation. Common names for types of sugar include agave, brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, high fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar, sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose), syrup.
#2 Long-term intake of too much sugar actually shrinks your brain! It can rewire your brain pathways and significantly increase risk of depression. This is the same in opioid or alcohol addiction. It accelerates aging of your organs and you can visibly see the impact of this through wrinkles on your skin. Think of our growing volumes of depression and increasing rates of age-related cognitive decline (ability to think clearly) and Alzheimer’s disease.
#3 Diseases related to inflammation are numerous and include diseases such as auto-immune diseases, Arthritis, Diabetes, Coronary Artery Disease, Cancer, and Neurologic diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, skin problems, kidney damage. High sugar intake releases inflammatory cytokines in your body, causing chronic inflammation and making you more susceptible to disease. Sugar actually inflames the linings of the arteries to the heart, increasing risk of stroke and heart attack. The same is true with arthritis and joint pain, and it can even cause erectile dysfunction in men, or sexual arousal disorder in women.
How do I do it?
#1 Diet: Eat less carbs, less poor-quality oils (corn oil, safflower oil, etc.), more good quality fats (avocado, olive oil), more vegetables, less preservatives Take charge of your health! Eat organic, non- GMO foods, and avoid industrialized food that is designed to make you addicted to snacks that are not good for you. Reduce the amount of sugar in recipes. Take out sugar substitutes which can drive your sweet tooth and substitute a small amount of stevia. Eat whole fruits and eliminate juices. Drink more water! Consider with your functional medicine provider if a gluten-free diet may be indicated for you…and don’t substitute gluten-free substitutes that are high in carbs.
#2 Eat mindfully and intuitively: Eat slowly and intentionally. Eating should be a mindful experience. If you have had a high sugar diet, this can disrupt your ability to sense when you are full, so you may need to intentionally focus on portion control. Pay attention to your body cues and stop eating before you are feeling totally full. Mindful eating can help emotional eaters, who mindlessly eat to “feel better”.
#3 Supplements: Talk to your functional medicine provider about natural supplements and micronutrients that may be indicated that could help reduce cravings (and not those crazy diet pills). Your Functional Medicine provider can also order appropriate tests for vitamin deficiencies or your gut microbiome to see where you may need the support of supplements to help your body/gut heal from the impact of a high carb diet.
#4 Exercise/Movement: Find an exercise program that works for you and excites you. And guess what, it doesn’t need to be the gym. Start small and check with your provider to make sure your current health status supports your intent and ability to start the exercise program.
#5 Sleep: Not getting enough sleep contributes to insulin resistance and weight gain. Getting enough sleep can help reduce those cravings for sugar.
#6 Manage your stress: Do you find when you are more stressed, that you turn to sugar-laden foods or drinks (alcohol)? Chronic stress can actually promote weight gain. You can take all the prior steps and still find it hard to see progress if you are trying to lose weight. Stress releases cortisol, which promotes insulin release, inflammation, and drives fat storage. Meditation and breathing techniques are just a couple of tools to help manage stress, and reduce cortisol release.
#7 Relationships/Community: Carbs seem to be a favorite of many families and are often the vast proportion of foods at social events. Taking healthier non-carb loaded recipes to social events can help support your eating choices. It may take some strategizing and work to figure out how to reduce carbs in family meals, especially if all the family members are physically-dependent on high carb meals. Support groups or engaging family members in learning new low carb recipes and sharing meal planning/participation may help.
#8 Spirit: Prayer, faith and positive thinking are important factors in supporting your goals to achieve a lower carb food plan. The Bible, for example, references multiple ways for us to support our health and healing and the importance of treating our body as a holy temple.
#9 Your internal character strengths: Leverage your top strengths in supporting your goals to reduce carb intake. For example, if kindness is one of your strengths, how can you use kindness toward yourself to improve your ability to achieve goals.
#10 Sign up for health coaching sessions! You know how many fad diets and attempts to cut sugar/carbs that just have never worked for you. You may even suspect or know that your long-term high intake of carbs may be contributing to a disease you are experiencing.
Here’s where as a health coach, I come in and can support you in the process. You need to bring the desire and willingness to make change and know why you want to change. I can help you with your goal planning, tools & resources, and help you identify and utilize your strengths. This is a journey and it takes working on it in manageable pieces to achieve your wellness peace!